All posts by Tony

He is Enough!

As I’m sure you have too, I’ve seen people that might be referred to as ‘thrill surfers’; people who go from one Christian event to another in order to ‘get zapped’ by the power of God, or for some other spiritual thrill. But there’s no need for that; everything we need is ours already, in Jesus (2Pet 1:3; Lk 15:31). Here’s Jamie Engelhart on the topic, ‘He is Enough’.


When I was younger and still not clear on my sonship and identity I ran from meeting to meeting, and conference to conference, and author to author, and prayer meeting to prayer meeting, and revival to revival. Also signing up for one charismatic conference promising freedom and wholeness to another looking for the next great revelation or gift or anointing and miracle, and none of it seemed to satisfy or settle me at rest. I was always still searching for the perfect leader, church, anointing, ministry, power and revelation and never really satisfied or settled in Christ.

Now I know much of that was my immaturity and I love when people have a great hunger for the Kingdom of God, but I realize now that it was not as much a hunger for the kingdom, but a lie that I believed that Jesus was not really my all in all, or my life. I was constantly chasing the carrot dangling in front of me believing the lie that there was something that I was deficient of and that I needed one more “breakthrough”, or I had to constantly strive to get to “the next level” and that there was always MORE especially at the beginning of every new year.

Even though I have been (past tense) blessed with EVERY spiritual blessing in Christ and been given ALL things that pertain to life and godliness, that it was still not enough. The problem with that way of thinking is that you never then become complete or whole in Him because there is always the allure of there has to be MORE than this. We then come up with our cute cliches and rhymes and our “word” for the year that many times just leads to more frustration, because we are still trying to attain what we have which ends up being unbelief and shipwrecks the faith of many.

This was THE LIE that got Adam and Eve removed from the garden. satan planted a lie in their minds that walking with God in the cool of the day in union and relationship as children with a Father was not enough, and that there was MORE, which produced in them a thought that what God had given them was not enough and that they were deficient in some way. It is also important to realize that what the serpent promised them they already had since they were already “LIKE” God, but the craftiness of the lie was to convince them that they had to become what they already were.

How else could he tempt someone who already had all they would ever need. I see wonderful people walking thru this process all the time, they go from church to church, conference to conference, revival to revival, looking for that experience or the “MORE” and it will continually lead them to frustration until they come to the realization that HE IS ENOUGH.

Now I pray that none of you misunderstand me, are there experiences and wonderful encounters and growth and revelation that God has for us along the way? Of course there are, but it is not about us attaining those things but receiving (greek= Lambano, or to take hold of) those things by faith that He has already blessed us with, but even those are not things that satisfy. I mean how many times are you going to fall on the floor, or shake under the power, or receive a healing, or miracle, or receive 50 prophetic words, or see a vision until you are complete and satisfied?

Signs and wonders are to follow us and anytime we follow them it is backwards and not the Kingdom. “The Lie” of the enemy and his strategy has never changed, and it is to get us always looking for more and never realizing what we already have. Jesus said,” if you drink of the water that I give then you will NEVER thirst again”, for now you are to become the source of supply to other thirsty ones for out of your innermost being shall flow rivers of living water.


Brilliant.

Here’s the link to the original article.

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“You Are Here”

“For centuries, there has a lot of ignorance and damage surrounding the interpretation of the Bible.

“Take Galileo’s conviction for heresy, for example. By his invention of the telescope over 400 years ago, Galileo contradicted religion’s doctrine of the earth as the center of the universe.

“With powerful telescopes today we can see so far into deep space that we can see the stars receding from us at nearly the speed of light itself. Our galaxy alone contains around 250 billion stars, and there are somewhere between 200 billion and 2 trillion galaxies in the part of the universe that we can see… (Counting is hard.)

“The Bible was never intended to be used as a scientific textbook, and attempts to make it one almost guarantee ridiculous conclusions. It never “taught” an earth-centered universe– religion did.

“The cosmos has turned out to be far larger and of greater complexity than anyone in ancient times imagined… and, consequently, so has God. When you read your Bible, try to think of such a vastly incomprehensible Creator becoming one of us on our little planet– just because he loves us and knew we desperately needed to know it… Then, allow the encrusted doctrines, curses, and fears that religion has saddled you with to begin to fall away… all those ideas and beliefs that prevent you from being who your heart says you are and enjoying your God-given life… and freely loving him.

“Creation itself is a testament, crafted by God Himself, and observing and learning from it will never be at odds with our faith.”

– Don Francisco

Link to original article on Facebook

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And So It Began

This entry is part 35 of 35 in the series Fiona

Today would have been Fiona’s and my 35th wedding anniversary.

And five years ago today – around our 30th wedding anniversary – was when I really began to be seriously worried about Fiona’s health, and, unbeknownst to me, we were about to enter the hardest time of our lives – the beginnings of the really serious cancer pains and all the meetings and tests and clinics and so on that this entailed.

But I can’t believe it’s five years ago. The memories are so strong that it seems like only yesterday. And the grief has, once more, taken hold of me. I have to say that it goes up and down: for months I will be fine, but then all of a sudden it all hits me again. It all goes to show that there is no easy answer; no set/fixed timescale, no timetable for recovery. Each of us grieves and heals in his own way, and in his own time.

And Jesus has been close to me all this time. I have to say that He has given me the ‘peace that passes all understanding’ (Phil 4:7) and helped me through this last few years. He’s been my faithful Friend and, although it might sound trite, He has been my Rock, my Refuge, my truly present Help in time of my need (Psalm 46:1). The Lord draws near to the broken-hearted, and He saves those who are crushed in spirit (Psalm 34:18). I find it amazing (and yet unsurprising) that the same God that those Psalm writers wrote about, being close to them in their time of need some 3,000 years ago, is present for me in my time of need right now in 2019. That’s pretty awesome when you think about it.

And so, on my third anniversary without her, I am thankful once again for the incredible times we had together: the adventures, the joys, the sorrows and heartaches, the fun, the laughter (and there was lots of that!), the walks, the music, the meals, the kids, the dogs. Our life together was full and fun, and I am so grateful for having had that time with her at my side.

I miss you more than ever, Fiona. You were my companion, my soul mate and my best friend. And your legacy lives on in those who loved you; those for whom you were such a part of their lives that your influence and input still remains even though you are gone. We won’t forget you.


Header picture shows Fiona at our favourite beach, Porthcothan Bay in north Cornwall. When this picture was taken, in September 2013, Fiona had already been feeling the tumour pain for a few months and we were only just beginning to have it investigated.

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Church Recovery Day

It’s funny, but as an Evangelical, Charismatic, Fundamentalist Christian, I believed that the Sabbath (in my ‘denomination’, that was a Sunday) was supposed to be ‘kept holy’  – whatever that’s supposed to mean (nobody ever really explored the concept, after all!) – but at the very least it should be a day of rest, because that’s what God did on the Sabbath day. Whether it was a Friday, Saturday or Sunday didn’t matter, as long as we had one day a week where we rested.

For me, my Sabbath had to be Saturday, because I was working at Church things all Sunday, what with being a Church musician, worship leader and all. And my leadership didn’t like that; I kept my Saturdays clear rigorously, and of course if that clashed with their timetable (if they  wanted something done on a Saturday) they weren’t keen. But I held fast to my principle; after all, as a lead musician, and bloody good at what I did at the keyboard, there was no way they were going to ‘fire’ me (unless I dropped some doctrinal clanger, of course, which I never did).

But I have to be fair to them. My Church’s meetings were usually filled with the Presence of God, and I have seen people break down in tears just by the sheer sense of that Presence. The people were friendly and helpful, and genuinely cared and ministered to each other and to those outside the Church too. Underneath that surface, yes, there were all the harsh doctrines like hell and judgement, and most of the people there felt entitled to challenge complete strangers if they said something out of line*. And remember that just because God graces a church with His Presence, does not mean that He is affirming all their beliefs. Far from it; usually, He actually turns up despite our beliefs. But for the most part (and probably because I kept to all the doctrinal tenets), the church was a pretty safe place for me and my family.

This isn’t always the case, sadly. Some churches can be traumatic places to be, and to be honest I don’t know why people carry on going to them**. Until I read this piece by legendary Christian musician Don Francisco, in which he describes very clearly why he felt he had to be there every week, and to keep going back to the trauma factory. Over to Don:


“Monday… church recovery day. That’s how it used to be for me, except sometimes it was worse: It could take most of the week for me to heal after hearing what was taught in song and sermon on Sunday.

“Why would I keep going back? Because I’d been taught that going to church was necessary to please God; I’d attended since I was born. The Bible commanded it: “Do not forsake the assembling of yourselves together…”

“So, what exactly did I need to heal from? Fear, guilt, and self-hate… just to name the Big Three. Fear of a god who punished in ways that would appall a sociopath; guilt from every real and imagined sin in recent memory; and knowing that my heart was untrustworthy and “desperately wicked”…

“It didn’t really matter what denomination the church was, or if the preacher was a kind person or not; the bottom line was still this: God was angry at sin, and my only hope was to hide my sinful self behind Jesus.

“For those in varying degrees of recovery today, I have some advice for you: Like Paul the apostle did, consider all that religious stuff dung. Yep, that’s right: Bullshit.

“God is not angry with you; He is love. He became a human to prove it, calling us brothers and friends, forgiving us at our worst when we murdered Him. Today, we can each hear the Spirit speak words of love and support if we’ll listen.

” ‘Come to me, all of you who struggle beneath religion’s heavy load, and I will give you rest. Walk with me and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you shall find rest for your souls.’ And freedom from fear, guilt, and self-hate…”

– Don Francisco


Here’s the link to the original post on Don’s Facebook page

Need I add more? If you’re at a church like that, well, my first action would be to get out of there, but that depends on what Father is calling you to do. The loving Heavenly Father, of couse, not the nasty, radgy god that your church may be preaching. But the main thing is to seek Jesus, in whatever way works for you, and find your comfort and acceptance there.

Don’t get me wrong: not all churches are ‘tramua factories’. Far from it. Most of them are places of healing, friendship and, above all, the Presence of God. But the purpose of this blog post is to highlight, for people in such a harmful church, that there are churches out there where good is done, rather than horror. Churches where Jesus is preached, rather than conformity to the leadership’s whims.

Concerning matters of faith, I used to say ‘one size doesn’t fit all’. But in the case of Jesus, it actually does. Jesus does indeed fit all, even if His Chirch doesn’t. He loves you right where you are, right as you are, and does not ask you to change except where you want to change.

I think that’s marvellous, don’t you? Now that’s a God I can love!


*For me, many of the people were complete strangers, except for my group of closer friends. This is the way friendship groups work, of course. But the thing with being at the front is that everyone feels they already actually do ‘know’ you, even if they don’t. And in a church of 300 people, most people fall into that latter category 😉


**Go to YouTube and search for ‘Mark Driscoll God Hates You’. I will not stain my blog with a link to that lethal rubbish. Even thinking about that makes my blood boil, and injures my gentle pastor’s heart.

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Susan Cottrell – Why I Chose My Daughter Over the Evangelical Church

To most people, that’s a no-brainer. But for people inside the Church, believe it or not, sometimes they are forced (by those who really should know better) to make a choice between their church and their kids. It’s more overt in the States, but it happens here in the UK as well. Shame on those people who would make it appear that parents have to choose!

Anyway, here’s the terrific Susan Cottrell, whose work I have featured before on my blog. Here’s her story, here’s her passion, here’s her mission.

Be blessed.

 

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Don’t Ever Look Back

Here’s another excellent piece by my friend Dave Carringer. Like me, Dave has passed beyond the confines of restrictive religion, and walks free in the Kingdom of God.


When I woke up to the truth that my Creator never had any desire to be known as “God” over my life, but a Father, nourisher, provider and intimate friend… my vision of everything in life changed. I learned to love me for who He created me to be, and in turn, I began to love others around me from my heart because I saw His treasure in them as well.

When I found out the One who gave me life didn’t require sacrifice or service from me, but ‘sacrifice’ was merely the twisted perceptions of man that had been telling me who ‘God’ was… and that my purpose in this life was never to ‘serve’ Him as man had told me, but to enjoy intimate fellowship with Him in every detail of my life… my passion for the kingdom multiplied as a family reality nurtured in my heart by my Father… rather than some pressured requirement of institutional membership planted in my head by man.

When I saw my Father clearly revealed in Jesus, how HE was the humble one who came to serve, how HE came to be the sacrifice, how HE came to set man free from the distorted idea that we were ever separated from Him to begin with… my love for Him and everything around me exploded in ways I could have never dreamed or imagined.

When you find out none of the things man told you about ‘God’ were true, and we were ‘domesticated’ to serve man’s idea of a ‘God’ created from a warped mindset… everything changes. The freedom we were created for comes! The true life we were meant to live overflows! Lasting fruit begins to flourish in every area of our life because we’ve learned to simply abide in that which was ours all along in Christ! When we finally turn and see ourselves face to face with heaven, the veils of man’s distortion have to all fall away.

Once you realize you can hear your Father’s Spirit for yourself, speaking in a voice you clearly understand… no man or institution can ever control your life again. Run free and enjoy your Father’s love… and don’t be entangled in the yoke of man’s bondage ever again. Wake up to your genesis. You were born free. Live in that freedom… and don’t ever look back.


If I may also add a short commentary of my own, not so much to improve what Dave says, but also to look at some of the ramifications that I can see.

I wouldn’t quite say so categorically that ‘…none of the things man told [me] about ‘God’ were ever true”. Some of it was. Sadly this is because all the best lies contain a grain of truth, but that truth was twisted by people trying to fake things, people with the best of intentions, people with agendas, and the like.

Oh, most of the things I have grandiosely referred to as ‘lies’ were in fact very, very subtle changes. Like calling the Bible the ‘Word of God’ rather than the ‘words of God’ – a subtle but important distinction which supplants the Giver of Life with a book.

Like describing – and limiting – the Grace [free gift] of God to a trite and misleading acronymn standing for ‘God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense’ and calling it only that, rather than encouraging people to begin to explore the limitless, vast and spacious realm of its full meaning.

Like in one breath saying that God is limited to acting only within the strict confines of a set of rules written by humans over a 4,000-year period, while in the next breath saying that God can do what He likes because, well, He’s God.

Like the need for someone to go into the presence of God on our behalf, once again, just as in the days of Moses, where that someone has to be a highly-theologically-trained human rather than the One Who has already gone into the Holy of Holies on our behalf and has come out with a free pass to allow everyone to go in there.

Like allowing the ‘trained men’ to go in on our behalf and come out wanting to control others like their predecessor on whom they model their methods, who is held up as a greater standard of leadership as the One Whom the rulebook was actually pointing to; the man who came down from the mountains after learning that ‘thou shalt not kill’, only to get his thugs to murder 3,000 people because ‘god told him to do it’.

Like the subtle twisting of writings in that 4,000 year old ‘rulebook’ to make it the sole authority in the lives of those who would choose to follow that particular set of rules, while at the same time labelling every other human who ever lived as being degenerate and wicked and in fact somehow sufficiently ‘untermensch’ to be gassed forever with sulfur dioxide in a supposedly divine Auschwitz clone.

Like ignoring huge parts of the ‘rulebook’, which refer to fearlessness, to love, to mercy, and all by simply giving more weight to the people in that rulebook who got it wrong.

Like being so lazy and in fact unmotivated to going into that Presence, so much as to allow others to tell us what we are and are not allowed to hear for ourselves from the One Who is the Centre of that Presence. And then giving those people the power to hurt us and control us, based on concepts alien to the Person Who told us that we do not need such people to lead us.

Like preferring to remain in ignorance, and to follow ideas based solely on that ignorance, rather than to follow the One Who said ‘Follow Me’ and then showed us what that looks like.

Like not trusting the Most Trustworthy One to hold us up in the bottomless ocean of life and adventure, but instead allowing others to make us feel ‘safe’ by constructing fake ‘harbours’ of safety that are nothing more than prisons.

I will not go back into that cage.

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It Has to Stop

I’ll follow on from my last post with this one by Mike Douglas. This piece gives another slant on how people who should know better tarnish the image of God for others.


Here we go again… and again and again.

Last weekend we visited with dear friends and the discussion started, sadly, like so many [too many] others I have had in my years of ministry. ‘Mike, here is why I’m never going back to church…’

The particulars are not important. But they are very familiar. Good people, who love Jesus become completely turned off church because of the actions of those who claim to be followers of Jesus but who act nothing like Him.

Our friends love Jesus but are just tired of many in the church. They love Jesus, but I worry about how many more of these incidents they will see before they reject Him too. I also worry about all of those who don’t know Jesus but are getting their image of Him from His followers. As I’ve wrote many times, people are not rejecting Jesus they are rejecting us.

There is another reason why this hurts me so much. I love God the Father, God the Son and God, the Holy Spirit. I love Him with all my heart. He loves me with an unconditional, sacrificial love. He is beautiful to me. He has done great things for me. He thinks I’m amazing!

But now I must endure those who He has done so much for as well routinely and repeatedly hurting His reputation and thereby keeping others away from the wonderful love I cherish. If you love someone, I am sure you can relate to the pain you would feel if that person’s reputation was attacked through no fault of their own by people who should and do know better.

They would not get away with it if they were attacking my wife and I can’t let them get away with it when they attack my Father.

IT HAS TO STOP!

If modern culture were a hockey game, Christianity wouldn’t quite have lost the game yet, but the clock is running down, we are way behind on points and we keep shooting on our own net. For those of you not from Canada, insert your own sports metaphor. Tackling your own quarterback. You get the idea.

It’s no secret that people are leaving the Church, and although they are not all rejecting Jesus, they are surely saying no to the faith that bears His name. And many will never know Jesus and His Father’s love for them for the same reasons. It breaks my heart.

I spend a great deal of my time listening to many of these folks, and they educate me. Based on what I’ve learned, here are some ways Christians are hurting God’s reputation and hurting people:

1. Hating Non-Christians

In response to a dying church, many Christians respond with attack language and war rhetoric against those deemed outsiders (those who don’t fit within a narrow framework of appearance, conduct and belief).

This anger is something people see a mile away and are rejecting. Who would want to be part of that? Who would want to be attacked like that? Quit hurting and speaking poorly of my Father!

People want and deserve a Christianity that is known for love and kindness, not violence. One that reflects Jesus. Now, that’s attractive.

2. Making Jesus a Conservative Politician

Nothing has hurt the church more nor the reputation of my Father more than Christianity wanting to become a political lobby group and force their nation to follow their narrow, restrictive idea of what is right. NOTHING.

People rightly want a Jesus that can’t fit comfortably within any political platform or voting block. I have written about this often so won’t elaborate here.

If God is as be as big as we say He is, He must transcend political systems in the minds of His followers. Again, Jesus didn’t come to take sides, He came to take over. The answers to what is wrong in our society are not found by looking to Ottawa, Washington or London. They are found by looking up.

3. Defending Our Bad Actions While Destroying Others for Theirs

Time and again it is revealed that not only are those Christians who crusade most vocally on “morality issues” often the most broken, but that we are lousy about accepting responsibility when we fail—especially when we do so sexually.

In response to revealed indiscretions, we invariably see disgraced followers of Jesus blaming everything from pornography to the media to immodest dress to the Devil himself, instead of simply admitting that we too are messes, and we fail too.

One sentence could change so much but we so often refuse to use it: ‘It’s my fault, and I’m sorry.’

4. Misusing the Bible

When it comes to the amount of damage Christians have done in the world, the Bible is sadly the deadliest weapon of choice. We use it to justify wars and gun violence and to perpetuate injustice and attack those we disagree with.

We’ve ripped it from context, used it for our own political agendas, selectively enforced it and brutally bashed people over the head with it—and people have grown weary of it.

We must stop using the Bible like a hammer, unless it is to build something useful.

How have we gotten so far away from a Book that is all about the love God has for people such that He would sacrifice His own Son to be reunited with us? And use it to keep people away from Him.

Church is Broken

Sadly, must Christians don’t even want to admit this. But, unless we fix it, people are going to keep saying No.

But take heart. They are a growing number of Followers of Jesus who can no longer stand by and see the reputation of the One they love damaged by people who should know better. I’m part of that group. I believe there is a huge shakeup coming. And I can’t wait.

You don’t have to agree with me, but these views are held by many who have grown weary of a church that has lost its way. I still believe when someone encounters Jesus that he or she is changed forever, yet, that is not who they are encountering when they walk through church doors.

Jesus himself is a model of love, acceptance, forgiveness, peace and hope.May we look in the mirror and get rid of any arrogance and pride and fear that keeps us from allowing ourselves to be changed, until the true image of Jesus is revealed in us.


Here’s the link to the original article

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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!

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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! 😀

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Facing into Bereavement, Part II

This entry is part 34 of 35 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.

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