Tag Archive for Truth

DN=: Part 14–Equal Opportunity

 

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal . . .

(Declaration of Independence)

 

All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others. 

(George Orwell—Animal Farm)

 

“Equal opportunity” is another way of saying that everyone has the same chance to succeed or fail.

 

However, instead of designating an equal chance at success or failure, “equal opportunity” has become synonymous in our culture with entitlement.  Success is now assumed, and if a person does not succeed, well then that person has been denied “equal opportunity.”

 

But if equal opportunity in the true sense means the same as fair play and justice, then it would make sense that everyone already HAS equal opportunity.  If justice is universal, then so is opportunity.

 

Oh, but wait a minute.  Justice also means getting what we deserve.  So we have equal opportunity to make our own choices, but we also have equal responsibility to own the consequences of those choices.  Sometimes, those consequences are not favorable.

 

EQUAL OPPORTUNITY DN= EQUAL RESULTS

 

 

So it should be plain by now that the “=”movement is not really about equal opportunity at all.  What the “=” community is really after is a life and a world that is free from consequences.

 

The irony is that if the “=” community actually got what it wanted, then it would be UN-equal, since having freedom from consequences would set it apart from the justice that everyone else would receive from making the wrong choice.

 

“=” DN= EQUAL

 

Let me pause for a moment here, because I know a lot of you are wondering: “Why does he keep saying ‘the “=” community,’ when he’s obviously talking about the LGBT community?”

 

The answer is that gay marriage isn’t the real issue here.  Sure, the media and our politicians would like to make it the issue, but in the big picture, it all comes back to a problem that plagues everyone, gay or straight—self-righteousness.

 

Paul makes it clear in his letter to the Romans that homosexuality is not the disease, but merely one of many symptoms:

 

What happened was this: People knew God perfectly well, but when they didn’t treat him like God, refusing to worship him, they trivialized themselves into silliness and confusion so that there was neither sense nor direction left in their lives.  They pretended to know it all, but were illiterate regarding life.

Worse followed.  Refusing to know God, they soon didn’t know how to be human either—women didn’t know how to be women, men didn’t know how to be men.  Sexually confused, they abused and defiled one another, women with women, men with men—all lust, no love.  And then they paid for it, oh, how they paid for it—emptied of God and love, godless and loveless wretches.

Since they didn’t bother to acknowledge God, God quit bothering them and let them run loose.  And then all hell broke loose: rampant evil, grabbing and grasping, vicious backstabbing.  They made life hell on earth with their envy, wanton killing, bickering, and cheating.  Look at them: mean-spirited, venomous, fork-tongued God-bashers.  Bullies, swaggerers, insufferable windbags!  They keep inventing new ways of wrecking lives.  They ditch their parents when they get in the way.  Stupid, slimy, cruel, cold-blooded.  And it’s not as if they don’t know better.  They know perfectly well they’re spitting in God’s face.  And they don’t care—worse, they hand out prizes to those who do the worst things best!  (Romans 1:21-22, 26-32 The Message)

 

Now that sounds awfully harsh, particularly in the Message paraphrase, but can you deny the reality of that in 21st-century America?

 

One of the saddest things that I have yet seen is when churches water down or discard this message.  It is not a church’s job to provide a safe place for sinners of any kind to come together and “be who they are.”  A church’s function is to bring people together to find out who they are in Christ.

 

Faith in Christ Jesus is what makes each of you equal with each other, whether you are a Jew or a Greek, a slave or a free person, a man or a woman.  (Galatians 3:28 CEV)

 

That’s right.  The Truth is that we all have an equal opportunity to be equal in Christ.  We have always had it and always will.

 

Sounds simple enough, but ah, there’s that pride thing getting in the way again.  The problem with this simple solution is that it involves surrendering your will, and it is not in our nature to want to do that.

 

So what is left then for those whose pride prevents them from humbling themselves before God and admitting their failure?

 

They find someone else to attack.

 

Christians.

 

Since there is no Truth or common sense in their argument, based as it is upon their own self-righteousness, then the only avenue left to them is to tear down Truthseekers in order to maintain their perception of superiority.

 

And since PC code words are their forte, they have come up with the ultimate man-made nonsense word.

 

(And for that, you’ll have to come back for Part 15)

 

DN=: Part 13–Fair Play

 

“It’s not fair!”

 

Every child ever

 

 

Justice, as you’ll recall, is when we get what we deserve.  It’s interesting, though, to note how abruptly our stance on justice and fair play adjusts depending upon which side of the justice we find ourselves.

 

We sure don’t mind dispensing justice; however, receiving it is a different story.

 

As in so many other situations, our pride is the problem.  If we exalt ourselves to think that we are above justice, and that “the rules” don’t apply to us, then it would follow that we wouldn’t expect to partake in the natural consequences of breaking those rules either.

 

JUSTICE DN= GETTING YOUR WAY

 

So although in truth justice is always fair, it only FEELS fair if we have a clear understanding of what it is that we truly deserve:

 

Adam sinned, and that sin brought death into the world. Now everyone has sinned, and so everyone must die.  (Romans 5:12 CEV)

 

However. . .

 

The Lord is compassionate and merciful,
very patient, and full of faithful love.
 God won’t always play the judge;
he won’t be angry forever.
He doesn’t deal with us according to our sin
or repay us according to our wrongdoing,
     because as high as heaven is above the earth,
that’s how large God’s faithful love is for those who honor him.
 As far as east is from west—
that’s how far God has removed our sin from us.
 Like a parent feels compassion for their children—
that’s how the Lord feels compassion for those who honor him.
(Psalm 103: 8-13 CEB)

 

Did you catch the key phrase there?  David repeated it to make sure that you would.  Justice is universal, but God reserves grace for those who honor him.

 

Without this grace, the only thing left for us is justice.  The universal natural consequence of our universal sinful nature is death.  This is the ultimate Truth of our lives, and complete reliance on Jesus for our salvation is the only way out of it.

 

Obviously, many reject this Truth.  Equally obvious is the fact that we all have a choice to accept it or reject it.

 

Nevertheless, for some reason the prevailing mentality in this country has become that one can do whatever one wishes, up to and including a complete rejection of universal Truth, and suffer no consequences whatsoever.

 

We all have desires.  However, a person who is ruled by pride will view the fulfillment of his or her desires as the primary goal.  Those that are successful in fulfilling a few of these desires may quickly begin to regard this fulfillment as an entitlement.

 

Then, in their own minds, they will conceive a bogus sense of fair play, in which they “deserve” to get whatever they want whenever they want, and anyone or anything that would deny them that is guilty of an injustice.

 

However:

 

Many people vie for special treatment from a ruler,
yet genuine justice proceeds from the Eternal.  (Proverbs 29:26 VOICE)

 

Because God alone is righteous, and because God alone determines Truth, it is only by God’s authority that true justice can be dispensed.

 

The eternal, indisputable and universal justice that applies to all humanity is not only manifest in our rights, but also in our consequences.

 

A majority of humans may get laws changed.  A government skilled in social engineering may even be able to get the attitude of a nation changed.  But NOTHING a government or its advocates can do will ever be able to change the natural consequences of a choice.

 

A government can grant or deny privileges.  A government can mandate civil responsibilities.  A government has the authority to set its own civil penalties for breaking its own rules and laws.

 

But a government will NEVER be capable of conferring rights upon any subset of the human race.

 

Yes, this even includes homosexuals.

 

(Yeah, I went there.  Wait till you see where I go next in Part 14–Equal Opportunity)

 

DN=: Part 11–Backwards

 

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

George Santayana—The Life of Reason

 

All that is not eternal is eternally out of date.  C.S. Lewis

 

 

Back in the Empty Glass series, we talked about three ways of learning.  There is experience, or making your own mistakes and learning from them.  Then there is wisdom, which is learning from someone else’s mistakes so as not to repeat them.  And then there is common sense, which is collective wisdom that has taken root in a population.

 

Looking at this progression, it is easy to see that common sense is a product of people building upon what has gone before—the mistakes and the corrections of previous generations.  It would logically follow, then, that to employ common sense in one’s reasoning, one must look backwards to history.

 

Nevertheless, our culture inexplicably does not seem to value this type of reasoning anymore.  The so-called “progressive” ideology dictates that everything that exists must be changed, regardless of whether it was working well or not, in the name of moving “forward.”

 

But common sense declares that if you have made a wrong turn, forward is not your best option.  To get back on the road you want to be on, you’ll have to go backwards until you reach the spot where you made the wrong turn, THEN go forward.

 

Obviously, you can’t go forward and backwards at the same time.  For this reason, by completely ignoring (or worse yet, attempting to modify) history, having a “progressive” mentality completely precludes any potential for common sense to be employed, making failure a virtual certainty.

 

The primary reason that Truth Mission exists is to declare war on this intellectual futility.

 

Truthseekers proclaim God and His Word as the source of all Truth, which is unchanging and applies equally to all people in all situations.  Truth never fails, because God never fails.

 

Understanding this, it then becomes clear why Christians look to the Bible for answers when life poses difficult questions.  The Bible has an example for nearly any situation we can encounter in terms of which strategies work and which ones don’t.  Because the Bible is the ultimate source of correction, it will always improve our situation if we heed that correction.

 

More importantly, however, because God’s Word is eternal and unchanging, the lessons to be learned therein will always have value, regardless of the circumstances of the world or our individual situations.

 

ETERNAL DN= OUT OF DATE

 

As we have already noted, one cannot go backwards and forward at the same time.  Therefore, anyone obsessed with moving forward at all costs misses the opportunity for the course correction that only history and Truth can provide.

 

Since one with such a worldview only sees the Bible as a musty old book, and not God’s eternal Truth, the further “forward” they go, the smaller Truth becomes in their rearview mirror.  Since they consider everything behind them “out-of-date,” then the Truth and all who proclaim it become, in their minds, “backwards.”

 

So forward they go, until inevitably, they find a tree in their path, yielding the all-too-predictable result. Busted face notwithstanding, their pride remains intact, since that was what led them forward in the first place.

 

In the absence of the common sense that has been left behind, this pride initiates the blame game by rationalizing: “I am superior to the backwards thinkers, yet I have a busted face.  Those to whom I am superior do not have busted faces; therefore, it must be their fault that my face is busted.  Indeed, they are likely the ones who planted this tree to prevent me from going forward.  I should have the freedom to walk wherever I choose without having to worry about my face being busted!”

 

(So what’s the problem with freedom of choice?  Come back for Part 12–Civil Liberties)

 

DN=: Part 10–Affirmation

For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit,  for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.  (Luke 6:43-45 ESV)

 

If a person’s words are to be trusted, that person will have an established record of trustworthiness.  You are not going to be led down a successful path by someone who has never succeeded.

 

Likewise, a person who is known for encouraging and lifting others up is not likely to tell you something that will be a stumbling block to you, even if it’s something you didn’t expect, or didn’t WANT, to hear.

 

I think we all come to a day of reckoning in our lives where we realize that the direction we’re going isn’t the one in which we ought to be.  I can’t imagine anyone going through his or her entire lives without making at last one major course correction.  (If you’re reading this and you haven’t yet, don’t worry, you will.)

 

No matter who you are and what your situation is, that situation, and your destiny, will never change without you making some conscious decision to change your way of thinking and go a way you haven’t gone before, whether that means a slight change in direction, or a complete 180.

 

The churchy word for a change of mind, accompanied by a change of direction, is “repentance.”

 

The important thing to understand is that repentance cannot occur without new information entering the cranium.  You can’t change your mind or choose your direction without knowing that you have a choice to make.

 

The trouble is that the right choice is not always the easy one.  In fact, it usually isn’t.  The right choice usually results from your having received information that you needed, but not necessarily that you wanted.

 

Anybody can tell you what you want to hear.  If you want your current belief system to be affirmed, the internet is more than happy to oblige.  All you have to do is type what you already believe into your favorite search engine, and you will find thousands, maybe even millions of people, to affirm your point of view.

 

There’s just one problem with this.  Belief DN= Truth.  As such, a quest for affirmation will never lead to intellectual or spiritual growth.

 

AFFIRMATION DN= INFORMATION

 

 

Now don’t get me wrong; I am speaking of affirmation in the sense of affirming a point of view, not one’s own self-worth.  The latter is healthy affirmation, and I will tell you plainly that I crave that kind of affirmation nearly as much as I crave oxygen.

 

However, a quick perusal of the Truthseeker Manifesto will illuminate everything that is detrimental about a quest for affirmation of one’s worldview.

 

You can’t end an argument by attempting to bolster your own position.  You can’t establish common ground without leaving your own ground.  Seeking to affirm your beliefs does not afford you the opportunity to test them.  Also, it is very difficult to explain your own reasoning when all it consists of is quote mining from other people’s reasoning.

 

Essentially, the quest for affirmation is a rejection of Truthseeking.  The desire for affirmation is a symptom of insecurity.  Specifically, it is the fear of losing everything that is familiar to you on the off chance that whatever, or whoever, is challenging your belief pattern might have some information that you would have to accept.

 

The only way to overcome this fear is to have a burning desire to be informed, not just to believe, but to KNOW!  But knowledge only comes when you take the lid off the glass.

 

In a culture that values affirmation, however, this is easier said than done.  If we are serious about obtaining information that is worth knowing and passing on, we may have to look to history.

 

(For a different kind of history lesson, come back for Part 11—Backwards)

 

DN=: Part 9–Brainwashing

Brainwashing (n.)

1: a forcible indoctrination to induce someone to give up basic political, social, or religious beliefs and attitudes and to accept contrasting regimented ideas

2: persuasion by propaganda or salesmanship

 (Merriam Webster dictionary)

 

 Listen, dear friends, to God’s truth,
    bend your ears to what I tell you.
I’m chewing on the morsel of a proverb;
    I’ll let you in on the sweet old truths,
Stories we heard from our fathers,
    counsel we learned at our mother’s knee.
We’re not keeping this to ourselves,
    we’re passing it along to the next generation—
God’s fame and fortune,
    the marvelous things he has done.

 He planted a witness in Jacob,
    set his Word firmly in Israel,
Then commanded our parents
    to teach it to their children
So the next generation would know,
    and all the generations to come—
Know the truth and tell the stories
    so their children can trust in God,
Never forget the works of God
    but keep his commands to the letter.
Heaven forbid they should be like their parents,
    bullheaded and bad,
A fickle and faithless bunch
    who never stayed true to God.

(Psalm 78: 1-8 The Message)

 

 

When you see a child who behaves well in public, what is it you always say?  “The public school system sure has made a great citizen out of that boy?”  Or, “Our governmental programs have certainly taught this young lady how to be a good American?”

 

No, you say, “Their parents must have taught them well.”  If the parents are present, you might thank them directly for being such good parents.  Lord knows if the kids AREN’T behaving, it’s the parents you’re going to blame, right?

 

So if it is this obvious that everything a child is and does is shaped by the examples set by his or her parents, then why does our culture get so bent about Christian parents setting a Christian example for their kids?

 

I don’t want to get to deeply into the issue of homeschooling here, because I have no personal experience with it, either as a student or as a parent.  I’m just talking about the natural education every child receives from daily observation.

 

Education, of course, is a good thing.  If we never learned anything, then we wouldn’t know anything (duh).  And common sense, that is, the collective wisdom of all the I told you so’s from all the parents ever, tells us that the primary source of any child’s education is at home.

 

Face it; we’re all home-schooled, no matter what our diplomas say.

 

Our parents have us from day one, when we are completely empty glasses.  From them we learn to walk, talk, eat, pee and poo where we’re supposed to.  Sometimes they even teach us to read, write and count before we start school.

 

Most importantly our parents, and specifically our fathers, are the primary shapers of our value system, our moral compasses, our sense of right and wrong.

 

So is this education or brainwashing?

 

EDUCATION DN= BRAINWASHING

 

Look back up to the top at the dictionary definition of brainwashing.  It’s not just indoctrination, or even FORCED indoctrination; it is forced indoctrination designed to replace one way of thinking with another. 

 

Parents are teachers, not indoctrinators.  They are filling empty glasses.  A child does not yet have a way of thinking or a value system to replace.

 

Therefore nothing, let me say that once more for emphasis, NOTHING that a parent teaches his or her own children can possibly constitute brainwashing.  This includes the passing on of Christian faith, the bedrock upon which the family has been established generation after generation.

 

So if giving your own children a Christian education is akin to pouring the Water of Life into their empty glasses, then by contrast, cultural brainwashing is coercing an educated person of any age to pour out their water, smash their glass, and take a deep drink from this brand new glass of fruit juice.

 

What do you mean it tastes like Kool-Aid?

 

(For an alternate beverage choice, come back for Part 10: Affirmation)

 

DN=: Part 8–Hate Speech

 

 

Be clearheaded. Keep alert. Your accuser, the devil, is on the prowl like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.  (1 Peter 5:8 CEB)

 

All of humanity has a common enemy—Satan, the accuser.  The enemy’s primary goal has always been our destruction, but he has been busy developing some new tactics.

 

First to review, you’ll remember that in Part 3, we identified “righteousness” as being a right standing with God the Father, which is made possible only through a trusting relationship with His Son, Jesus.  Those with whom the enemy succeeds in denying this opportunity for righteousness will nevertheless still crave it.

 

However, since they have allowed themselves to be cut off from God’s saving grace, they are only able to manufacture a false perception of righteousness.  In their desperate attempt to elevate themselves in their own minds, they find themselves compelled to disparage others in order to make that possible.

 

The enemy facilitates this process by helping those under his influence categorize people into groups and label them.  Then he directs his unwitting followers to abuse the people in those groups by treating them unequally and criticizing them based on their differences.

 

Over time, these blanket condemnations become a habit, and hatred develops.  If left unchecked by correction, it is possible for this hatred to swell into an epidemic of ignorant bigotry.  This bigotry will then be projected toward the groups of people to whom they are trying to maintain their sense of superiority.

 

Combating this is a struggle we all share.  And it is indeed a daily struggle.  Seeing other people as individual human beings, instead of part of a labeled subset of humanity, requires a generous helping of both humility and critical thinking.

 

Knowing this, our enemy imparts his unwary abettors with a liberal dose of arrogance, which suppresses all traces of humility and artificially inflates their perception of their own intellect, eliminating the prospect of any critical thought taking place.

 

This is where the enemy plays to his greatest strength.  He advises his impressionable followers, “If you can’t convince ‘em, accuse ‘em!”

 

And this is how it plays out.

 

When one of these people attempts to engage a Truthseeker in debate, he quickly discovers the futility of this venture, since the primary objective for Truthseekers is to end arguments, not win them.  Since the arguer finds that he cannot claim the logical high ground, he will then attempt to lower the ground beneath his opponent by attacking his character.

 

But here is the twist!  Since unwarranted character assassination would make him guilty of judgmentalism, he must first deflect his own guilt by accusing the Truthseeker of being judgmental himself, thereby forcing him into a defensive position.  With any luck, the Truthseeker will take the bait, lower himself into the argument, and thus become that which he has already been accused of being.

 

On the other hand, a mature Truthseeker will not take the bait, but will simply hold fast to the Truth, and not change course.

 

When the arguer sees that his attempts at both logic and character assassination have failed, he plays the only card left in his deck by attacking Truth itself.

 

He does this by labeling the Truth “hate speech.”

 

DEFENSE OF TRUTH DN= HATE SPEECH

 

 

The irony of this concept of “hate speech” is that the people most commonly accused of hate speech are in actuality the ones most commonly on the receiving end of it.

 

For centuries upon centuries, Christians have put their trust in the eternal God, in his indisputable and unchanging Word in which He is revealed, and in His universal promises and plan for all of mankind.  In a world where people follow after every wind of change, no matter how ludicrous, we build our lives on the solid rock of eternal unchanging Truth, passing it down from generation to generation.

 

But instead of a fixed and eternal rock, our faith is now portrayed by our degenerate culture as an ignorant and hateful tradition.  We are even demonized for faithfully carrying out our most important responsibility as parents, the passing on of our faith to future generations, with the charge of “indoctrinating” our own children!

 

If parents should not be the ones most responsible for helping to frame the basic worldview and shaping the character of their own children, then who should?  The enemy has some ideas about that.

 

(And you’ll hear all about them if you come back for Part 9—Brainwashing.)

 

DN=: Part 5–Discrimination

 

 

Discernment is the divine enablement to distinguish between truth and error, good and evil, right and wrong.  A person with this gift can differentiate pure from impure motives, identify deception in others, determine authenticity of messages from God, recognize false teaching and sense the presence of evil.  (Paraphrased from “Network” by Bruce Bugbee and Don Cousins.)

 

In other words, discernment is God’s B.S. detector.

 

Have you ever known someone who saw something fake or sinister in a person’s character before anyone else did, and was later proven right?  Have you ever had a friend who told you what you were thinking when you couldn’t even explain it yourself?  This is discernment at work.

(Remember back at the beginning of this series when I talked about people talking in code?  I didn’t forget about that.  From here on out, we’re going to defuse political correctness one code-bomb at a time.)

 

Another word with a meaning similar to discernment, in the literal sense of having the ability to distinguish differences, is discrimination.

 

While discernment is a spiritual gift, given by God to whomever He chooses, discrimination is a natural skill that can be learned and developed by anybody through careful observation and judicious contemplation.

 

It would seem, then, that discrimination should actually be a positive thing, since being UN-able to recognize differences would be a sign of a lack of intelligence or observance.

 

Nevertheless, this word has gradually become associated with “bigotry,” even though those two words really aren’t connected.

 

 DISCRIMINATION DN= BIGOTRY

 

There’s a big difference between distinguishing the differences in people and treating people differently.  Paul wrote:

 

In Christ’s family there can be no division into Jew and non-Jew, slave and free, male and female. Among us you are all equal. That is, we are all in a common relationship with Jesus Christ. (Galatians 3:28 The Message)

 

And also:


[In this new creation all distinctions vanish.] There is no room for and there can be neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, [nor difference between nations whether alien] barbarians or Scythians [who are the most savage of all], nor slave or free man; but Christ is all and in all, everything and everywhere, to all men, without distinction of person]. (Colossians 3:11 Amplified)

 

In making these statements, Paul is instructing these early churches that although the Church is made up of all kinds of different people from different backgrounds, it is much more significant that Christ is our common ground.  Being the original Truthseeker, Paul discriminates by noting the differences, but does not show favoritism, because Christ does not show favoritism.

 

Looking at it this way, we can clearly see that bigotry is defined by emphasizing differences with the motive of boosting one’s own status over that of another based solely upon those differences.  Bigotry may START with discrimination, but it ends somewhere else entirely.

 

So how do you know when you’ve crossed the line?  In a word—labels.

 

Whenever you refer to another person with a label instead of their name, that’s a pretty clear sign that you are crossing over to the dark side of discrimination, because you are now seeing that person not as an individual, but as part of a subset of humanity, most likely one to which you do not belong yourself.

 

Once you have identified the difference and affixed a label to it, the emphasis of that difference comes naturally.  From there, it’s a very short walk to bigotry, simply because our human nature is to justify ourselves, and the easiest way to do that is to lower our view of others.  Labels just streamline that process.

 

So how does discernment fit into this?

 

From the definitions we have already discussed, discernment is essentially God-level discrimination.  But since we have already seen that God sees all of His followers as equal in Christ, then it should be obvious that the purpose of discernment is not to enable bigotry by labeling humans and dividing them into groups.

 

Discernment is not about judging character or outward appearances, but rather motives and the behavior that arises from them.  Which leads me to my next DN=.

 

(After vacation, I will return with Part 6–Judgment)

 

DN=: Part 4–Holy

Another troublesome churchy word is “holy.”  Like “righteous,” the word “holy” also has some unnecessary baggage attached to it.  What I mean is that just as some people see the word “righteous” and think “self-righteous,” some people see the word “holy” and think “holier-than-thou.”

 

If you’re not familiar with the term, “holier-than-thou” is used to describe the attitude of a Christian condescending to non-Christians based solely on church affiliation or some other man-made construct (such as denominations) apart from the grace of God.

 

Naturally, this attitude is very off-putting.

 

HOLY DN= HOLIER-THAN-THOU

 

The word “holy” simply means “set apart for God’s purpose.”  It can refer to a day, a place, a nation or an individual.  Mostly, however, it refers to God Himself.  As Isaiah wrote:

 

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

(Isaiah 55: 8-9 NIV)

God is holy, or set apart, simply because He’s God, and we’re not.  When people put their faith in Jesus Christ, trust in His saving work on the cross to make them righteous, and make Him the Lord of their lives, then they also become holy.  They are still human beings, but now they have been set apart from the rest of the world to do God’s work.

 

It is critical to understand the progression here.  God makes us righteous through JESUS’ work, not ours.  In the same way, God makes us holy only when we realize that we AREN’T made righteous by the good that we do.

 

If a person claims to have faith in Jesus, but still lives as he did before being saved, then how has that person been set apart?

 

He hasn’t.

 

Christians are SUPPOSED to stand out.  We are SUPPOSED to be different from everybody else.  Otherwise, what would be the point of being one?

 

The irony of holiness is that just as we were set free in order to become servants, we were also set apart to become unified—not to the world, but to each other.  As Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus about Jesus:

The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers,to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming.  But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.  (Ephesians 4: 11-16 NRSV)

 

When Paul refers to “saints” in this context, he is referring to all believers, not people (such as himself) who are referred to with a St. in front of their name.  The “work of ministry” for which said saints are being equipped is the service to which we are called upon having been made free.  Still with me so far?

 

In addition to the teaching, preaching and shepherding gifts Paul mentions above, there are many other spiritual gifts that believers receive when they are made holy.  I’m not going to go into all of them here, but in light of the sudden aggressive turn our culture is taking lately, I feel it necessary to expound upon one of them—discernment.

 

(And I will do that in Part 5–Discrimination)

 

Breaking Catholic: Part 9–Spirit and Truth

 

God is Spirit, and those who worship God must be led by the Spirit to worship him according to the truth.  (John 4:24 CEV)

I distinctly remember the occasion when a lady joining the Catholic church met our bishop for the first time.  This particular bishop was one of the most down-to earth bishops I had ever met, yet this lady still said after meeting him, “I have never felt so holy.”  Just because he was a bishop, she regarded him as being above regular humans.

 

But what example does this set?  Even if a bishop, when addressing God, calls himself “your lowly servant” (as this particular bishop was known to do), he still has the fancy robe, wears a mitre (the tall pointy crown-thing) and sits on the big fancy chair, which looks rather like a throne.  He is royalty because he is perceived as royalty, regardless of what comes out of his mouth.

 

By contrast, consider Jesus, the King of Kings, God in human flesh.

 

The Greatest became the least, born in a manger in the home of a carpenter, living as a peasant instead of as a king, and suffering the most horrible and humiliating death imaginable—execution by crucifixion:

 

The soldiers assigned to the governor took Jesus into the governor’s palace and got the entire brigade together for some fun.  They stripped him and dressed him in a red toga.  They plaited a crown from branches of a thorn bush and set it on his head.  They put a stick in his right hand for a scepter.  Then they knelt before him in mocking reverence: “Bravo, King of the Jews!” they said.  “Bravo!”  Then they spit on him and hit him on the head with the stick.  When they had had their fun, they took off the toga and put his own clothes back on him.  Then they proceeded out to the crucifixion.  (Matthew 27:27-31 The Message)

The soldiers brought Jesus to Golgotha, meaning “Skull Hill.”  They offered him a mild painkiller (wine mixed with myrrh), but he wouldn’t take it.  And they nailed him to the cross.  They divided up his clothes and threw dice to see who would get them.  (Mark 15:22-24 The Message)

 

 It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining.  And the curtain of the temple was torn in two.  Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.  (Luke 23:44-46 NIV)

 

So the soldiers went and broke the legs of the first man and then of the other man who had been crucified with Jesus.  But when they came to Jesus, they saw that he was already dead, so they did not break his legs.  One of the soldiers, however, plunged his spear into Jesus’ side, and at once blood and water poured out. (John 19:32-34 GNT)

 

To save our souls from sin, the Creator of the universe sent his One and Only son to be flogged, beaten, publicly humiliated and finally killed, naked, on a cross.

 

The Catholic church, on the other hand, claims that “the work of our redemption is accomplished”[1] only when we attend their masses, go through their rituals, receive their sacraments and submit to their man-made laws and traditions, else we be excommunicated, as the Jews in Jesus’ day were put out of the synagogue for not conforming to the legalism of the Pharisees.

 

Nevertheless, Paul was clear when he wrote to the early church at Ephesus:

 

For it is by free grace (God’s unmerited favor) that you are saved (delivered from judgment and made partakers of Christ’s salvation) through [your] faith.  And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [of your own doing, it came not through your own striving], but it is the gift of God;

 Not because of works [not the fulfillment of the Law’s demands], lest any man should boast.  [It is not the result of what anyone can possibly do, so no one can pride himself in it or take glory to himself.] (Ephesians 2:8-9 Amplified)

 

Although the Scriptures were written thousands of years ago, they are still fresh today in the lives of every believer.  Through the power and illumination of the Holy Spirit, God’s Truth leaps off the page to convict us individually of our sin and lead us on the straight and narrow path of our sanctification, that is, our journey of being gradually transformed into the image of Christ.

 

Indeed, many people in the Catholic church are on this journey.  However, if they are, it is likely in spite of the Catholic church’s teachings, not because of them.

 

Again, as I said at the beginning, nothing in this series was meant to offend.  I have simply told my own story and presented a few facts to explain it.  Everyone’s story and perspective are different.

 

But Truth, as well as being eternal, is universal.  This means that the Truth behind what I say will apply to anyone who reads these words regardless of their background.  Be you Catholic, Protestant, atheist or any other ideology, I pray that you have found something here that has led you back toward the Father.

 

Amen.



[1] http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19631204_sacrosanctum-concilium_en.html#_ftnref1

 

Breaking Catholic: Part 4–First Hand

 

 

I received a Bible, probably at about age 9 or so, in Catholic Sunday School, or CCD as we called it.  (This has now been changed to PSR, most likely because “Parish School of Religion” is much easier for a grade-schooler to say than “Confraternity of Christian Doctrine.”)  By then, it was already too late for me.  But it wouldn’t have mattered anyway.  The Bible was something we carried to CCD, not something we actually used.

 

Without studying the Bible first hand, you don’t really know anything about the real Jesus, his inner circle of disciples, and how they gave birth to what is now known as Christianity.  It wasn’t until I actually started to read the Bible that I realized that most of what I thought I knew about had been shaped not by the Church, but by popular culture.  What faith I had was based not on the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, but on that of Cecil B. Demille and Andrew Lloyd Webber.

 

As our pastors at Cherry Hills say, “You can’t be deeply influenced by something you don’t know.”  The significance is that you can’t live out Jesus’ teachings without having read them yourself.  And even reading about the teachings isn’t enough, because that’s just head knowledge.

 

But the Catholic Church doesn’t even allow for the head knowledge!  If you can’t even go that far, then you are NEVER going to get to the place where head knowledge becomes heart-changing, life altering Truth.

 

And here is where Catholicism begins to break down completely.  Catholics, historically, have not been encouraged to read the Bible.  According to Monsignor Daniel Kutys:

Until the twentieth Century, it was only Protestants who actively embraced Scripture study.  That changed after 1943 when Pope Pius XII issued the encyclical Divino Afflante Spiritu.  This not only allowed Catholics to study Scripture, it encouraged them to do so.[i] 

 

Although the pope issued this encyclical 70 years ago, there has not been much trickle-down to the laity (i.e. the folks in the pews).  According to a 2012 survey commissioned by the Bible Society, in partnership with the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, 57% of churchgoing Catholics don’t read the Bible week-by-week outside of a Church setting.[ii]

 

Since the Second Vatican Council in the 1960’s (known as Vatican II), the Catholic church has been on a mechanical three-year cycle of readings, called the Lectionary, in which they tell their followers that at the end of the three-year cycle, they will have covered all of scripture.  Therefore, a faithful Catholic who attends mass every Sunday is under the impression that after three years, they have had the entire Bible read to them.

 

This is dangerously false.  According to the Catholic Lectionary Website, only 27.5 % of the verses in the Bible are covered by the Lectionary.  And that’s if you go to mass EVERY DAY!  If you’re only meeting your minimum obligation of every Sunday and Feast day, that figure drops to 12.7%.

 

Understand, this is only since Vatican II, when the Magisterium began openly encouraging Bible study.  Before that, when the mass was in Latin and only had two readings instead of three, the figures are even more shocking.  Only 4.7% of the Bible was covered.  Forty-five of the 73 books in the Catholic Bible were ignored completely, including all of the Historical and Wisdom books of the Old Testament and the book of Revelation.  [iii]

 

But even if the Bible were being covered completely in the 3-year span, it wouldn’t matter to the congregation, because how is the Bible going to sink in if you’re having it read TO you?

 

Actually, that is possible in certain situations.  For example, back in the Middle Ages, when most people were illiterate, the only way they could obtain knowledge from the Bible or any other book was to have someone read it to them.  Indeed the worldwide literacy rate today is not much above 40%, with the exceptions of course being in developed nations such as our own.

 

If you were one of those people who could not read, then you would be ready to receive whatever was read to you, because you would know it was the only way you were going to learn.  Your receptiveness would be even more acute if you were prepared specifically to hear what was in the Bible.

 

But this is overwhelmingly not the case in 21st-century America.  I don’t know ANY Catholic who goes to church to hear what is in the Bible (there may be some, but I haven’t met them).  They go because it’s what you do on Sunday (or Saturday night).  It is all part of the tradition (more on this in Part 6).

 

Bible study simply isn’t part of the Catholic culture.  It never has been.

 

The Word of God is proclaimed during the mass, but the people in the pews don’t have their own Bibles to follow along.  At best, there might be a worship aid in the pew.

 

Without the opportunity or active encouragement to be in the Word first hand, Catholics disconnect from the readings.  They are just waiting to hear “This is the word of the Lord,” so they can wake up and robotically respond “Thanks be to God.”

 

How rare is the priest who actually TEACHES practical application of the Bible readings in their homily (a commentary that is the ancient predecessor of the modern-day “sermon”).

 

(I did meet one priest that got it though.  For a more uplifting story, come back for Part 5—Confession)



[i] http://www.usccb.org/bible/understanding-the-bible/study-materials/articles/changes-in-catholic-attitudes-toward-bible-readings.cfm

[ii] http://www.catholic-ew.org.uk/Home/News-Releases/2012/Catholic-Bible-Engagement

[iii] http://catholic-resources.org/Lectionary/Statistics.htm