Monthly Archives: December 2018

God is Not a Judge!

One gentleman I have had some great discussions with, both face-to-face and on the Internet, is my friend Martin Fell. Martin lives hundreds of miles away from me (I do sometimes go up to see him in Yorkshire where he lives) and yet we agree on so much that the Spirit is doing in these days. Martin is a passionate man, with a huge love for Jesus and a vast revelation of the Father’s Love for him and for others. It’s no surprise, then, that Martin writes passionately to defend the reputation of God the Father, in the light of how Jesus revealed Him to us. Not that God needs us to ‘stick up for Him’, of course, but most people have not heard the GREAT news of just how good He is. In fact, they have heard quite the opposite from those (the church) who really should know better. Here, Martin writes about how the idea of God being a nasty judge is actually a flawed concept, and in so doing, he reveals the loving nature of the God he knows so well. Over to Martin:

Jesus spent the whole of His ministry telling us and showing us that God was not a judge but a Father, why oh why are you trying to make Him a judge again! As soon as you put salvation and God in judicial terms you miss what Jesus taught and the heart of the gospel.We are children lost in our false beliefs about our Father and ourselves who need showing our true identity and worth. We are NOT criminals who need acquitting!

Jesus was clear ‘the Father judges no one’ that doesn’t mean that God judged in the Old Testament, is taking a break, and will judge again in the future. It’s a stand alone statement. It means God has never judged anyone in the past, doesn’t now, and never will in the future. Lovingly corrects, yes; judges, no; not even once has God judged a person.

That means God didn’t judge mankind with a flood, didn’t judge Israel by letting armies defeat them and exile them, didn’t use Israel to judge other nations, didn’t order genocide, didn’t rain fire down on cities, didn’t send a death angel to kill the firstborn, didn’t drown thousands in the Red Sea, didn’t open up a sink hole, didn’t send snakes to bite people , didn’t kill a guy for touching the Ark of the Covenant. He won’t judge anyone in the future either by sending them or ‘allowing’ them to go to Eternal Conscious Torment in ‘Hell’.

Judges false beliefs and identities yes; judges people never, not once in the whole of human history or in the future. ‘The Father judges no one’, period, full stop.

It really is about time you guys starting believing Jesus. 😃


Here’s the link to Martin’s original post


Hehe, I love how he opens his essay by hinting at the tendency of Christians to take the Good News (God actually likes you!) and turn it into bad (…ah but He’s also a stern Judge!) Sadly, that’s what Religion does…

I have deliberately placed this piece directly after the one with Don Francisco’s essay on the modification of belief, because here, once again, is another clear example of how our beliefs about God can be modified, yet without going ‘against’ the Scripture, or at least only going against certain people’s interpretation of Scripture.

Anyway, in closing, let me remind you that the ‘Judgement of God’ that the Bible speaks of is actually a Heavenly judgement of restoration and relationship, not one of wrath and punishment. God is into true Heavenly justice, not a justice that’s a poor reflection of our own, flawed, earthly justice. Martin and I have a good handle on that concept, and it is also deeply rooted in our own personal revelations of who God is to us, and who we are to Him. Can I encourage you to look again at ‘divine judgement’ in that light, and see what a marvellous and reassuring concept it really is 🙂

Be blessed!

00

How Beliefs are Modified

This entry is part 10 of 10 in the series The Stages of Spiritual Growth

…and what it looks like in practice

It’s quite funny, really. I know I said that the previous piece in this series on Spiritual Growth was to be the last one. But I’ve been wrong before 😉

And since examples are an excellent form of teaching aid, I figured, ‘What the heck’ and I have indeed added it to the series.

Probably the most important underlying question I have been tackling repeatedly in my earlier articles is this: ‘What does spiritual growth look like?’ And so, today, I would like to give you an actual visual instance of this from real life. This is a great example of what the reappraisal of one’s personal beliefs actually looks like in practice. This is a very relevant piece, from the legendary Christian musician Don Francisco, and I just had to include it precisely because it is such a good illustration. Here we go:


I’ve had several supernatural revelations in my seventy-plus years. They first showed me, and then re-confirmed, the reality of Jesus/God and His love; they have become the foundations of my life.

Making an all-too-common error, however, I interpreted those undeniable experiences with God according to modern evangelical dogma, having no other context. It didn’t take long for those interpretations to mix with the revelations themselves, and together they hardened into intellectual barriers… I began to confuse defending those composite walls with defending the revelations themselves– which needed no defense. It took years for me to realize this had occurred…

Religious dogma would assert that such a realization is actually a spiritual attack that requires resistance – and the building of a higher, more extensive, and more impenetrable mental wall. Experience is deemed invalid (being identified with “the sinful flesh”), and doctrine is elevated to the place of prime importance.

Recently, I found myself surveying the damage after the wrecking ball of reason had swung full-force into those dogmatic walls. To continue the metaphor: All that I knew experientially of God was now buried under tons of intellectual rubble. (This is a place people find themselves after escaping from religious cults– doubting everything they’ve believed, not just the cults’ lies and half-truths.)

Removing the rubble and reclaiming my violated experiences was the task before me– all the more difficult because I still lacked a context: Evangelical doctrine was the only one I’d ever known for interpreting those revelations, and I needed a fresh perspective. I eventually found one that works for me; I realize it’s sort of cobbled together…

My interpretive wall had been built of the following common evangelical principles. (The list is not exhaustive, but nearly so…)

1) At the Fall in the Garden of Eden, the human race became evil at its core, and every child born since contains and is predisposed to express that evil. All of us were born separated from God by this misdeed of our ancestors.

2) God could not associate with humanity after the Fall because of His holiness and righteous anger toward our sins and sinful nature. His anger had to be satisfied, and our nature needed to be changed.

3) In the evangelical view, the Old Testament [OT] describes how God made a covenant with the nation of Israel via Moses; Israel continually failed to keep their part of the bargain, incurring God’s wrath and judgment. It’s presented as a model of God’s dealings with humanity outside of Jesus…

4) God sent His only, beloved, and perfect Son to become the human known as Jesus on earth so that He could die to pay the debt for our sins and to change our inner nature– if we ask him. When we do, we are included in the New Covenant, living forever in harmony with God.

5) Three days after His crucifixion and death, Jesus rose bodily from the dead, ascending back to God some time later. Pentecost occurred, followed by centuries of arguments about what it means…

6) Everyone who does not believe in Jesus’ deity and resurrection, repenting of their sins and asking Him to be their Lord and Savior, will be consigned by God to an eternal fiery torment.

7) All believers therefore have a duty to convince non-believers of the above, so that they, too, will receive natures acceptable to God and no longer be destined for hell-fire.

8) The Bible is the Word of God, a God-breathed, inerrant and infallible guide to understanding all these things. It is the sole authority in spiritual matters.

 

I can no longer believe that most of these things are true. Here are my beliefs today; you should work out your own, but feel free to cherry-pick from mine…

1) The Genesis story of the Fall was not intended by its writer(s) as a factual account of the first man and woman. It’s a metaphor meant to describe humanity when we decide that we know how to live without God. We are not born evil, but in the image of God– we’re like him. Some of us choose evil, but most just blunder through life on our own…

2) God never stopped associating with us– because of our ‘sins’ or for any other reason. Jesus, for one, proved it, preferring the company of practically anyone over that of religious leaders. (The Israelites’ idea of an angry god who needed appeasement by blood had been assimilated from neighboring cultures; to their credit, they usually used animal rather than human sacrifices.)

3) The Old Covenant scriptures are a human record of a nation groping after God but ultimately failing to understand Him. Some of the OT writers heard Him better than others, but it’s a mixed bag. Trying to build a theology from the OT won’t work.

4) Jesus did come because of God’s great love for us; he didn’t come to die as payment for our sins. He came to show us what God is really like because we had it all wrong: He’s not angry– He is Love, a love that understands and forgives, even when we murder Him; His love is also independent of our response to it. The Spirit of God is real, has always been present and has never turned from anyone. He would dearly love for you to welcome him into your life; he’s always felt that way… Jesus also came to show us what it looks like to be truly and fully human…

5) I believe Jesus rose bodily from the dead, proving his deity, his love for us, and God’s eternal identification with the human race. When He said, “It is finished” on the cross, He meant it: There is nothing left for us to do but live in the reality of His accomplishment. (The Spirit of God helps us to do that, but the assertion in Acts that he had not yet been “given” makes little sense to me; he is, and always has been omnipresent. Perhaps humanity’s previous lack of comprehension kept him out…) My own initial experience of being filled with him occurred without any “laying on of hands”. What is described as Jesus’ “ascension” was simply a dimensional relocation…

6) For various reasons, the idea of eternal conscious torment for unbelievers has been inserted into Jesus’ teachings and other places in the New Testament [NT]. Assigning anyone to such a place is completely incompatible with Jesus’/God’s character– even the OT writers didn’t threaten people with it… and there really is no such thing as “hell” in the NT.

7) Most of humanity’s hurtful, destructive, and evil actions are motivated by fear. By telling others of God’s love in Jesus– and demonstrating it by how we live– we can introduce them to Him and to reality– a universe governed by love. We can show them that God has always loved them, never condemned them, and not to fear death: It’s not the end, and there is no hell to be avoided by kissing up to an angry god.

8) Idolizing the Bible is foundational to the cult of evangelicalism; human interpretations of a book are thereby elevated to a place of authority above even the audible voice of God Himself. For me, what God says to me in my heart is always held above everything written or spoken by another human.

The Bible exists to lead us to Jesus: He is the Word of God. Hear Him.

This last point (#8), of necessity, affects all the others. If all you know of God is from
books, you are walking in deep darkness…


Here is the link to Don’s original piece on his Facebook page. It might well be worth your looking at some of the comments on there too; there are many people testifying to how the Spirit has been prompting them in the same way. As I’ve said before, I find this fascinating!


There are quite a few pieces planned for my blog in the near future, in which I will be featuring Don’s writings. Keep a good lookout for them! 😀

20

Facing into Bereavement, Part II

This entry is part 34 of 37 in the series Fiona

I know that it can be very hard at Christmas time for people who have suffered bereavement. At this highly traditional, cosy family time which is always known for its joy and ‘good cheer’ (has anyone ever explained what that actually means? 😉 ), the absence of our loved ones is always more poignant.

It’s similar for me, as the 25th of each and every month is always harder for me because my wonderful wife Fiona died on a 25th; the 25th October. That’s why I do a ‘Fiona post’ every 25th or thereabouts.

But as I wrote a few months back, although for me, my faith helps me through it, I do appreciate that not everyone has that faith. And that’s why I wrote that article, to try to help others, without such a faith, to cope.

But what I want to write about today touches not so much on matters of faith, but rather on those of heartlessness and what amounts to spiritual terrorism, especially when directed towards those who do not share a ‘faith’.

Whatever your beliefs, you will have heard religious people – usually Christians, and to a lesser extent Muslims (these are the only two faith groups, apparently, that believe in it) banging on about Hell. About a terrible place where bad people go when they die, to be tormented for ever. Or, indeed, you might even have heard someone say that everyone goes there, apart from, of course, the people who adhere to the ideas of the group making that claim.

So, I’m going to be talking a little bit about God today, but only in the context of trying to help you past any of these fears you might have. either for you or for your departed loved ones (or both!). If God doesn’t exist, then you don’t need to fear any afterlife of eternal torment in Hell. If God does exist, I would say you also don’t need to fear such an afterlife either, because, I believe, God is good and loving. Bear with me as I explain.

To my dismay, I have even heard of religious preachers at funerals perpetrating their despicable claims about Hell, at grieving relatives, destroying them in the process. Well, I am here to tell you today that, no matter what your beliefs in God, afterlife, whatever, Hell, as depicted by these nasty Religious people, does not exist.

Think back to those preachers I mentioned, who destroy grieving relatives at a funeral by claiming that the person they are mourning has gone to Hell. I can’t even imagine how someone like that can claim to be a follower of Jesus, the one about whom the Bible says that he will not crush those who are grieving; instead, he will gently lift them up. How do I know I am right, and these preachers are wrong? Well, you can tell by the effects – Christians would call it the ‘fruit’ – of what they say. If their words bring grief, destruction and sadness, they are not speaking the words of God. If, on the other hand, their words bring comfort, reassurance, even joy, then this is from God and is therefore true.

There are those who seem to really want to believe everything bad about God that they can. If there’s two Bible verses that contradict each other (and despite the contrary claims of certain religious people, the Bible does indeed contradict itself, regularly, blatantly, and often [1]) then why do they always go with the verse that means the most grief for the greatest number of people? I really don’t know the answer to that. But what I do know is that we need to remember Jesus. If you are afraid that God might not forgive you (for whatever), look at what Jesus did. He forgave people who were actually in the process of driving huge iron spikes through his wrists and his feet. If you are afraid that God is a grumpy old radge just waiting for someone to throw thunderbolts at, then tell me, did you ever hear any stories of Jesus doing anything like that? (Hint: Luke 9:54 where Jesus actually refuses to do just that) If you are afraid of Hell, be aware that Jesus did not speak once about such a place. Jesus actually shows God as a nice guy.

No, Hell is what happens here on earth when people are horrible to each other. Hell is the tragedy of lives wasted; lives lost to alcoholism or other addiction, or to religious fundamentalism, or whatever: anything where people are prevented from living to their full potential. Hell is nasty religious preachers telling people at funerals that, even as they speak, their loved one is burning in some terrible fire and being prodded by devils with pitchforks. That’s hell.

And Jesus came to set us free from that; both from its effects here in this world, and from the fear of its happening in the next. The afterlife – including for your loved ones, dear heart reading this – will be glorious, joyful; full of amazing colours and light and scenery and full also of the presence and love of God. Tell you what, since it’s Christmas Day today, let’s remember what the angels said to the shepherds:

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men, on whom His favour rests! (Luke 2:14)

It doesn’t mention only certain ‘chosen’ people; it says that there is peace to men (meaning all mankind) on whom His favour rests. This means that actually God likes humans. He’s not mad with us; no, He loves us and in fact likes us! This is a million miles away from the story told by those who would call everyone miserable sinners. Jesus never once did that. He just loved people, and demonstrated practically the claim of the angels; that God’s favour rests on humanity. God likes us!

And so, please be assured. Your loved one is not in a Hell of any kind. They have gone on to be with the One Who loves them – present tense – both in this life and in the next.

Don’t listen to anyone who would have the gall to tell you otherwise!

Be encouraged, dear heart.


[1] For example, the adjacent Bible verses Proverbs 26:4, and Proverbs 26:5. They go like this:

v.4: Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you yourself will be just like him

v.5: Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes.

So, which is it? Do you answer the fool, or don’t you? That’s a contradiction, plain as day. Oh sure, people will try to explain it away, and as a Bible college graduate, I do understand what it means. But it contradicts, and there’s no getting away from it.

00

This…

Here is a wonderful Christmas story from author Matt Miles. Never mind the glitz, the lights and the frantic spending – this is what Christmas is all about. Shades of Good King Wenceslas and all that…


It was Christmas Eve 1942. I was fifteen years old and feeling like the world had caved in on me because there just hadn’t been enough money to buy me the rifle that I’d wanted for Christmas.

We did the chores early that night for some reason. I just figured Daddy wanted a little extra time so we could read in the Bible. After supper was over I took my boots off and stretched out in front of the fireplace and waited for Daddy to get down the old Bible.

I was still feeling sorry for myself and, to be honest, I wasn’t in much of a mood to read Scriptures. But Daddy didn’t get the Bible instead he bundled up again and went outside. I couldn’t figure it out because we had already done all the chores. I didn’t worry about it long though I was too busy wallowing in self-pity.

Soon he came back in. It was a cold clear night out and there was ice in his beard. “Come on, Matt,” he said. “Bundle up good, it’s cold out tonight.” I was really upset then. Not only wasn’t I getting the rifle for Christmas, now he was dragging me out in the cold, and for no earthly reason that I could see. We’d already done all the chores, and I couldn’t think of anything else that needed doing, especially not on a night like this. But I knew he was not very patient at one dragging one’s feet when he’d told them to do something, so I got up and put my boots back on and got my coat. Mommy gave me a mysterious smile as I opened the door to leave the house. Something was up, but I didn’t know what..

Outside, I became even more dismayed. There in front of the house was the work team, already hitched to the big sled. Whatever it was we were going to do wasn’t going to be a short, quick, little job. I could tell. We never hitched up this sled unless we were going to haul a big load. Daddy was already up on the seat, reins in hand. I reluctantly climbed up beside him. The cold was already biting at me. I wasn’t happy. When I was on, Daddy pulled the sled around the house and stopped in front of the woodshed. He got off and I followed.

“I think we’ll put on the high sideboards,” he said. “Here, help me.” The high sideboards! It had been a bigger job than I wanted to do with just the low sideboards on, but whatever it was we were going to do would be a lot bigger with the high side boards on.

Then Daddy went into the woodshed and came out with an armload of wood – the wood I’d spent all summer hauling down from the mountain, and then all Fall sawing into blocks and splitting. What was he doing? Finally I said something. I asked, “what are you doing?” You been by the Widow Jensen’s lately?” he asked. Mrs.Jensen lived about two miles down the road. Her husband had died a year or so before and left her with three children, the oldest being eight. Sure, I’d been by, but so what?

Yeah,” I said, “Why?”

“I rode by just today,” he said. “Little Jakey was out digging around in the woodpile trying to find a few chips. They’re out of wood, Matt.” That was all he said and then he turned and went back into the woodshed for another armload of wood. I followed him. We loaded the sled so high that I began to wonder if the horses would be able to pull it. Finally, he called a halt to our loading then we went to the smoke house and he took down a big ham and a side of bacon. He handed them to me and told me to put them in the sled and wait. When he returned he was carrying a sack of flour over his right shoulder and a smaller sack of something in his left hand.

“What’s in the little sack?” I asked. Shoes, they’re out of shoes. Little Jakey just had gunny sacks wrapped around his feet when he was out in the woodpile this morning. I got the children a little candy too. It just wouldn’t be Christmas without a little candy.”

We rode the two miles to Mrs.Jensen’s pretty much in silence. I tried to think through what Daddy was doing. We didn’t have much by worldly standards. Of course, we did have a big woodpile, though most of what was left now was still in the form of logs that I would have to saw into blocks and split before we could use it. We also had meat and flour, so we could spare that, but I knew we didn’t have any money, so why was he buying them shoes and candy? Really, why was he doing any of this? Widow Jensen had closer neighbors than us; it shouldn’t have been our concern.

We came in from the blind side of the Jensen house and unloaded the wood as quietly as possible then we took the meat and flour and shoes to the door. We knocked. The door opened a crack and a timid voice said, “Who is it?” “Lucas Miles, Ma’am, and my son, Matt, could we come in for a bit?”

Mrs.Jensen opened the door and let us in. She had a blanket wrapped around her shoulders. The children were wrapped in another and were sitting in front of the fireplace by a very small fire that hardly gave off any heat at all. Mrs.Jensen fumbled with a match and finally lit the lamp.

“We brought you a few things, Ma’am,” Daddy said and set down the sack of flour. I put the meat on the table. Then he handed her the sack that had the shoes in it. She opened it hesitantly and took the shoes out one pair at a time. There was a pair for her and one for each of the children – sturdy shoes, the best, shoes that would last. I watched her carefully. She bit her lower lip to keep it from trembling and then tears filled her eyes and started running down her cheeks. She looked up at my Daddy like she wanted to say something, but it wouldn’t come out.

“We brought a load of wood too, Ma’am,” he said. Then turned to me and said, “Matt, go bring in enough to last awhile. Let’s get that fire up to size and heat this place up.” I wasn’t the same person when I went back out to bring in the wood. I had a big lump in my throat and as much as I hate to admit it, there were tears in my eyes too. In my mind I kept seeing those three kids huddled around the fireplace and their mother standing there with tears running down her cheeks with so much gratitude in her heart that she couldn’t speak.

My heart swelled within me and a joy that I’d never known before filled my soul. I had given at Christmas many times before, but never when it had made so much difference. I could see we were literally saving the lives of these people.

I soon had the fire blazing and everyone’s spirits soared. The kids started giggling when Daddy handed them each a piece of candy and Mrs.Jensen looked on with a smile that probably hadn’t crossed her face for a long time. She finally turned to us. “God bless you,” she said. “I know the Lord has sent you. The children and I have been praying that he would send one of his angels to spare us.”

In spite of myself, the lump returned to my throat and the tears welled up in my eyes again. I’d never thought of my Daddy in those exact terms before, but after Widow Jensen mentioned it I could see that it was probably true. I was sure that a better man than Daddy had never walked the earth. I started remembering all the times he had gone out of his way for Mommy and me, and many others. The list seemed endless as I thought on it.

Daddy insisted that everyone try on the shoes before we left. I was amazed when they all fit and I wondered how he had known what sizes to get. Then I guessed that if he was on an errand for the Lord that the Lord would make sure he got the right sizes.

Tears were running down Widow Jensen’s face again when we stood up to leave. My Daddy took each of the kids in his big arms and gave them a hug. They clung to him and didn’t want us to go. I could see that they missed their Daddy and I was glad that I still had mine.

At the door he turned to Widow Jensen and said, “The Mrs. wanted me to invite you and the children over for Christmas dinner tomorrow. The turkey will be more than the three of us can eat, and a man can get cantankerous if he has to eat turkey for too many meals. We’ll be by to get you about eleven. It’ll be nice to have some little ones around again. Matt, here, hasn’t been little for quite a spell.” I was the youngest. My two brothers and two sisters had all married and had moved away.

Mrs.Jensen nodded and said, “Thank you, Brother Miles. I don’t have to say, May the Lord bless you, I know for certain that He will.”

Out on the sled I felt a warmth that came from deep within and I didn’t even notice the cold. When we had gone a ways, Daddy turned to me and said, “Matt, I want you to know something. Your Mother and me have been tucking a little money away here and there all year so we could buy that rifle for you, but we didn’t have quite enough.

Then yesterday a man who owed me a little money from years back came by to make things square. Your Mom and me were real excited, thinking that now we could get you that rifle, and I started into town this morning to do just that, but on the way I saw little Jakey out scratching in the woodpile with his feet wrapped in those gunny sacks and I knew what I had to do. Son, I spent the money for shoes and a little candy for those children. I hope you understand.”

I understood, and my eyes became wet with tears again. I understood very well, and I was so glad Daddy had done it. Now the rifle seemed very low on my list of priorities. He had given me a lot more. He had given me the look on Mrs. Jensen’s face and the radiant smiles of her three children. For the rest of my life, Whenever I saw any of the Jensens, or split a block of wood, I remembered, and remembering brought back that same joy I felt riding home beside of my Daddy that night. He had given me much more than a rifle that night, he had given me the best Christmas of my life..
– Matt Miles

00

What Makes God God?

More from Phil Drysdale

Here’s a really interesting and profound set of ideas from the brilliant Phil Drysdale.


Do you ever stop to ponder the fact that God became a man?

We all know that when Jesus became a man He was still “fully God.”

But that makes me think…

Was Jesus in all places at once?
(No, He had to travel around and was limited to one body.)

Was Jesus all knowing?
(No: “Who touched Me?” “Only My Father knows the day”)

Was Jesus able to do all things?
(No: “He could only do a few miracles because of their unbelief” “Not My will but Yours, Father”)

The simple fact is Jesus gave up some huge things in becoming a man.

Now I’m not saying that God is not everywhere or He’s not all knowing or that He can’t do all things.

What I am saying is that if Jesus was fully God while on Earth then these things are not what make Him God.

Does God know all things? Sure. But apparently it is not required for Him to be God.

In the same way being all powerful and present everywhere are things God is capable of. But they are apparently not required for Him to be God.

It’s a huge thought. (And you are free to disagree as I’m sure many will. )

If Jesus was still fully God then you have to ask what attributes does God truly care about? What are the non-negotiable God-like qualities that He considers makes Him God?

I think we see them in the fruit of the Spirit.

Jesus doesn’t compromise on any of these attributes when He becomes man.

God is love. God is joyful. God is peaceful. God is patient. God is kind. God is good. God is faithful. God is gentle and God is self-control.

Why do we worship God?

Is it because He knows all things? Or because He is good?

Is it because He is all powerful? Or because He is love?

Is it because He everywhere? Or because He is faithful?

Again I’m not saying God doesn’t have these incredible “omni-” qualities. I’m merely saying they are apparently things that He does not consider essential like He does love, joy, goodness, faithfulness etc.

Can you imagine being Jesus and giving up certain God-like qualities so that you could be in human flesh and do all that He did for us. Talk about humility. Talk about love! (This makes us think of Philippians 2 doesn’t it!)

So today when we consider the God who resides in us… sure we will think about him being everywhere and all powerful. But hopefully we will remember that He values something much more than those things.

They are things that we too are fully able to walk in. Love, peace, joy, patience etc.

Perhaps we are made in His image more than we know.


Now that really is excellent. Ponder it; soak in it; build it in to your ways of thinking if it jives with you.

Be blessed!

20

On Boasting

I was always told, as a youngster, that it is wrong (or, at least, bad form) to boast. And of course, as a Christian, it was hammered into me that you MUST be humble, the reason given was purportedly because God gives grace to the humble, but resists the proud (Prov 3:34, Jas 4:6, 1Pet 5:5). But in my view, those who didn’t like people boasting were usually those who didn’t feel like they had anything to boast about themselves and were therefore threatened by it.

Anyhow, I no longer agree. If something is worth telling, boast away!

Don’t get me wrong; no-one likes a braggart; a proud and arrogant person who is so conceited that all he can talk about is himself. That’s not what I’m talking about here.

In fact I would go as far as to say that humility and boasting are actually unrelated. You can have a conceited person (someone who is really full of themselves) who doesn’t boast, and a humble person who does boast.

Here’s a post from an online friend of mine:

“I’m seeing a lot of posts about humility. And to be honest I’m feeling kinda pissed off about them. What is so awful about owning your strengths and talents? What is so unforgivable about going bold or being loud? The worst thing I could be is unteachable. So I’m going to laugh too loud and be too much! I’m going to think I’m pretty  ******* amazing because I’ve paid a hell of a price to be here! No more apologizing for who I am or what I can do or what I know. This is me! If that’s conceited I don’t give a ****.”

I replied thus:

I don’t really think humility is about not being open about our strengths and our gifts. I’m humble, yes, but I’m also brilliant at loads of things, and yes I do mean loads. But I am fully cognizant that it is God has gifted me with all this, and I think that to deny our gifts is to deny how brilliant God is at making us the way we are. Boasting in the Lord (as the Scripture apparently allows!) includes boasting about how God has made us, like David does in Psalm 139. The only people who have any right to feel bad about those who are gifted, are those people who haven’t yet discovered their own gifts. A proper perspective on God being the Giver of all that is Good takes away all jealousy, covetousness and envy of another’s gifts, and instead allows us to rejoice with those who rejoice (Rom 12:15) and also enjoy our own gifts at the same time. That’s why covetousness is so painful: because it blocks us from rejoicing in our own blessings including our gifts.”

As for what humility actually looks like,  consider what C. S. Lewis had to say about it in ‘Mere Chistianity’:

“Do not imagine that if you meet a really humble man he will be what most people call ‘humble’ nowadays: he will not be a sort of greasy, smarmy person, who is always telling you that, of course, he is nobody.

“Probably all you will think about him is that he seemed a cheerful, intelligent chap who took a real interest in what you said to him.

“If you do dislike him it will be because you feel a little envious of anyone who seems to enjoy life so easily. He will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all.”

– C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

I like this quote and I think it’s spot on!

So, don’t be afraid to tell of the things God has done. Just remember to be sensitive to those who haven’t yet found their own giftings and, if you can at all do so, maybe help them to find such giftings!

Finally, here’s another thought. So many people these days, ‘believers’ and ‘unbelievers’ alike, believe either consciously or subconsciously that God is somehow a mixture of good and evil. He’s not. In God, there is no balance. His mercy is not balanced by His judgement, and His love is not balanced by His ‘holiness’ (as some Christians understand it, as meaning stand-offishness). No, He’s all good, and in Him there is no darkness.

Jeremiah 9:23-24 says this:

“Let not the wise boast of their wisdom
    or the strong boast of their strength
    or the rich boast of their riches,

but let the one who boasts boast about this:
    that they have the understanding to know me,
that I am the Lord, who practises steadfast love,
    justice and righteousness in the earth,
    for in these I delight,”
declares the Lord.

Now that’s something else worth boasting about!

Peace and Grace to you 🙂


Note: Some swear-words have been redacted in this piece for the sole reason that some people (not including myself) find them offensive, and I don’t want to distract such sensitive people from the message I am trying to communicate. Some people have the incredible capacity to become more focused on the swear-words than they do on the point of the article, and that’s why I am leaving the words out. I do not believe in censorship, because I know that most sensible people are perfectly capable of making their own decisions without being told what to think or what not to look at! For more information on this kind of consideration, take a look at this article.

00

And I’ll Give You Rest

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Mt 11:28-30 (Message)

The way some Christians live their lives is a far cry from the peace and rest that Jesus talks about. Of course, if they really believe in Hell, then this should really be the consequence of that belief: a frantic, endless struggle to get those people ‘saved’ who would otherwise be candidates for the furnace of Hell.

Here’s a great piece by Jeff Turner, whose work I quote a lot on my blog. In it, he talks about how his struggles in this arena eventually led him to a place of peace and rest like Jesus describes:


I’m halfway to 72 (36).

I was a Pastor for 12 of those 36 years, and have been seriously attempting Christianity for about 23 of those 36 years.

For right around three years, I prayed 8-12 hours a day, and began and failed more forty day fasts than probably anyone else on the planet. I preached hellfire, brimstone, and, due to the strictness of God and extreme lostness of man, a mostly empty heaven. I “prophesied” until my face was covered in perspiration and my neck veins resembled tree roots. For more than a few years, I would toss and turn at night if I had not “preached” to at least one “unbeliever” that day, and would finally succumb to sleep only after being thoroughly exhausted by my guilty conscience. I’ve passed out enough tracts to paper the Great Wall of China, and spent a child’s lifetime awake, “petitioning heaven” at all night prayer vigils.

What I mean to say is, I gave extreme Christianity my best go. Not to sound arrogant, but I would be so bold as to say that I’ve only ever met a handful of people who were as intense as I was, and who actually backed up their intensity with actions.

I failed.

I hit a wall.

I realized that what I was attempting was impossible.

Christianity, that is. None of us can or will ever do it.

And so, more than ten years ago now, I learned that I could not become “like God.” But it was then that it dawned on me that I didn’t need to. God, in Jesus, has become what I am. He has exalted it (what I am) to the highest place, changed the rules of the game, and called the humanity which I was attempting to escape “like Him.” Therefore, when I simply am what I am, I am what he is. Since what I am has been glorified through the incarnation and ascension, to be me is to be like God.

Interestingly enough, once I understood this, all those virtues I tried so hard to attain seemed to appear in my life naturally. The more I knew I did not need to be anyone but myself, the more I naturally rose above some of the not-so-good aspects of my personality.

That’s just the way it works.

Call it Grace, or call it Frank for all I care. It works. When you realize you suck at Christianity, and stop trying to be a Christian, the more the nature of the Christ you adore will be diffused through your life.

In short:

We suck at this. So stop trying, and you’ll succeed.

Peace.

20

Simple Truth

A few weeks ago I went up to a sort of seminar thingy at a friend’s church in Wakefield, West Yorkshire. At the seminar, we were privileged to have Phil Drysdale as the guest speaker/facilitator for a whole day of discussion about the new things God is doing in these days.

Something I heard repeatedly in that session was this: “Once you have seen this, you can’t unsee it”. And that has been true for me these last few years.

The life-changing revelation that actually God is not mega-pissed with you as some people would like you to believe, but, in fact, that He loves you – and indeed likes you! – more than you know, and just as you are. He’s not looking for you to change before He will come and walk by your side.

He doesn’t stand far away from you because of how bad you might feel about yourself, maybe because of what others have told you. He’s not a right radgy miserable old grump up in the clouds clutching a handful of thunderbolts; no, in fact He is just like Jesus. For in Jesus Christ, everything about God lives in a human body, and in Him we too have been given everything we ever needed (Col 2:9-10). This is the completely one-sided, unfair, unearned, shocking, life-changing truth of the Gospel – which really is Good News. All of it.

Here’s the truth: if the god that people have told you about does not look just like Jesus, then it’s not the true God they have told you about. Period.

30

The Sermon You Will Never Hear!

Today I am going to let you into the Church’s big secret on tithing.

I’m going to share with you a Scripture that you will never hear preached on from any pulpit you can think of.

But first, a bit of background.

Like quite a few other doctrines*, the doctrine of ‘Tithing’ is a contentious one. It refers to the practice of giving to the Church, or whatever religious organisation a person is part of, a certain proportion of (or sometimes a set amount of) one’s income. Usually, this proportion is one tenth of one’s income.

It’s not only contentious within a group; it’s usually contentious outside the group as well, in that one of the big turn-offs for non-churchgoers is the idea that giving money to some random (and usually non-accountable) organisation is not something that sane people would do. They just can’t believe that anyone would want to do that, and they want no part of it. And I don’t blame them. I can still remember one time before I became a Christian, hearing that the Jehovah’s Witnesses** give a tenth of their income to their Organisation. My response was something like, “They do what??!!” And that sentiment is shared by many, both inside and outside the church.

Of course, there are many varied practices involved in this giving model, in fact probably about as many as there are churches. I have shared before on this subject, and it is probably worth reading at least this article before you read this present article, for a bit of background, and my lead-in for this other article for more. However the later part of that last article does go into some pretty heavy Biblical study and is probably best left alone for the time being.

Suffice it to say that many Christian denominations and organisations have of course abused the ideas around tithing and made it a legalistic practice instead of a Grace-filled one. Drawing on predictable bullying, carrot-and-stick, and straightforward prosperity-doctrine tactics, they have set up a whole mythology around tithing, usually promising good returns on one’s tithe by emphasising certain Scriptures and, of course, ripping them brutally out of their proper context to serve their own ends, and ignoring completely Jesus’s teaching on giving being a secret practice between God and Man, and not done for the approval of humans (Mt 6:1-3). I won’t even begin to go in to the convoluted arguments and justifications that money-grabbing religious organisations use to extort money and other things from their people. It’s sickening, though.

You have probably gathered by now what I think about this 😉

But let’s look at the two main Scriptures abused used by some Christian groups to ‘encourage’ (a euphemism, folks!) people to give the whole tithe (meaning the whole ten per cent, although I have never once heard a church moan about anyone giving more).

The first is, naturally, an Old Testament (OT) text; the OT of course being the number-one destination for preachers wanting to find a choice verse to introduce yet another Rule to weigh down their people with. You want Rules? Begin with the OT. This is simply because few people know much about the OT, its background, and the cultural references in there, and in any case it all sounds (and reads) very stern and forbidding, and the god of the OT is a right misery who is pretty pissed at most people for most of the time anyway.

Here’s the main verse used in this way. I’ll leave it in the KJV language to make it sound more authoritative and threatening. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the number one tithing text: Malachi 3 verses 8-12!

(Mal 3:8-12 (KJV))

There is so much wrong with using this Scripture in the typical combination manner it is usually used: the carrot-and-stick approach to tithing – the carrot being the ‘promise’ of blessings, and the stick being the promise of a ‘curse’. I’m afraid I’m not going to give an exegesis of this passage right now, because I’m trying to get to my point!

The second Scripture normally thrown at believers about tithing is in 2Cor 9:6-15, of which I will present just verses 6-11.

Note how the latter part of the preceding verse, verse 5, (2Cor 9:5) is always missed out (so they begin the reading at verse 6), verse 5 being the bit about not giving grudgingly (and this omission is excused because in the most popular translation, the NIV (New International Version) it comes before the ‘heading’ (inserted by the translators) of ‘Generosity Encouraged’).

When hearing this Scripture read out in public, you will also hear verse 7 (about ‘reluctantly or under compulsion’) being skipped over without emphasis, maybe even read in a quieter voice, or maybe faster so you don’t hear it. Or a combination of these tricks. (Yes, these deceptive practices do indeed go on! And it makes outsiders sick and repelled by the whole business). And this is how the context of this verse is destroyed. But again it’s the carrot approach – although this time no stick – but even then some people would in fact take the ‘grudgingly/reluctantly/compulsion’ bit and make it condemnatory: that it is the giver’s fault that they feel like that. But I have ranted enough. And you can believe that you will never, ever, hear or read me preaching on the subject of giving in this manner.

Now at last I want to share with you the Scripture you will never hear read publicly, at least not from someone who is after your money. Nor will you hear anyone preaching a sermon from it.

This is why I have called this post The Sermon You Will Never Hear’.

I’m not going to do any exposition on the passage; I will let you and Holy Spirit together form your own conclusions and applications for it. My purpose here is just to blow the secret wide open! 😀

It’s Deuteronomy 14, verses 22-27:

(Deut 14:22-27)

What do you make of that, then? 😉

Unsurprisingly, I have never ONCE heard anyone preach on that passage (not even the final sentence, because that would mean revealing the existence of the entire passage!), which I discovered more than two decades ago – when I was still a legalistic Christian! And a wise elder a couple of years later told me, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, that he was sure I never would hear such preaching, either! And remember that many, many Christians do not read their Bibles (especially the Old Testament, of which this passage is a part); they only read the parts that their leaders tell them to, so how would they ever discover this for themselves?

But I had indeed discovered it, the cat was out of the bag, so to speak, and I decided to apply the Deut 14 teaching in my own life. This was my first step towards freedom from the onerous doctrine of tithing, and also my first step out from under legalism itself. That it also coincided with a complete loss of confidence in church leadership was simply the icing on the cake. Nobody ever told us that, despite our being a young couple living on the breadline, maybe we didn’t have to give as much as everyone else.

This kind of thing can only go on for so long. Twenty-five years ago, our ‘stewardship’ shifted from trusting others with God’s money, to deciding for ourselves where we wanted to place the money. We stopped ‘tithing’, and started setting aside money ‘for God’s Work’. Bottom line: I didn’t trust my church leadership to manage my giving for me. And I have never looked back. Good stewardship, then, means cutting out the middle man. And it also means being generous!

That’s not to say we didn’t continue to give; of course we did. It’s also not to say that I don’t give nowadays; I do. Naturally I’m not going to go into details except to say that my giving nowadays is done in the way it was always supposed to be done, as described in that 2Cor9 passage. It’s done liberally (that is, with total freedom); cheerfully; it’s done to bless others; it’s honouring to God; it’s done secretly (which I have always done; the idea of having to declare to the church how much we were giving ‘for budgeting purposes’ has always rankled with me!) and it’s done with great joy and motivated by the desire to bless people with the abundance God has given me, and continues to give me. And it’s not just in terms of money either. Work it out for yourself; I don’t want to be a model for anyone else’s giving, except in my attitudes.

And so I am sharing this secret with you today! The cat really is out of the bag, so to speak; ask your leadership about it and don’t let them wriggle off the hook until they have given you a satisfactory response!

Who knows; you may be the first person ever to preach on that Scripture!

Don’t get me wrong: it is far from my intention to use the Bible to set up any Rules for or against tithing or giving. I am neither a Biblical literalist nor a Biblical lawyer; I do not tell people what to do based on a document composed of books some of which are 4,000 years old. I don’t tell people what to do at all, in fact! Especially using Deuteronomy. As always in my blog, though, I am using the Bible as a tool to show that even where there are people who take the Bible literally and consider it inerrant, still there are passages that they use inconsistently and legalistically, and in some cases (like this one) they ignore them altogether.

Giving from a position of freedom is simply so liberating, I cannot imagine it ever being intended to be done in any other way.

Rejoice and be blessed, for the freedom of God’s children (Rom 8:21) is yours to use as you will. Never let anyone take it away from you!


*A ‘doctrine’ is a particular position or idea held to be true (and usually ‘essential belief’) by a religious – or in fact any, not just religious – group. And it’s usually restrictive rather than liberating!

**Not that I am singling out the JWs for special ‘naming and shaming’; just that they were the first organisation I had heard of that practised tithing 🙂

20