Category Archives: Insights

Oases of Light

This entry is part 4 of 4 in the series Dark Night

In this Dark Night of the Soul, I am having a lot of interesting insights.

Although at the moment I don’t always feel the burning Presence of God all the time like I usually can, He still gently reminds me – every so often – that He’s still there and still holding my hand.

I think of these reminders as oases of light in the dark valley. Or like pools of lamplight on a dark street, like in the header picture, which I think depicts the concept beautifully.

There are two recent examples in particular which stand out for me.

A couple of mornings ago, I woke up having just been in a dream in which I had been singing the chorus of the Don Francisco song, ‘The Power‘, with my hands lifted high in praise and gratitude. Singing the words, “Praise You, Jesus, for Your Holy Spirit!

In the dream, I knew that the song was just as real to me as it has always been, Dark Night notwithstanding. The dream, and the song within it, served to remind me of my deep knowledge that the Spirit of God lives within me, and that She is the guarantee of my inheritance in the Kingdom, both in the here and now, and in the hereafter too (2Cor 1:22, Eph 1:14). And I could indeed feel the ‘flood of joy’ that Don describes in his song. Ok, it was ‘just a dream’, but it was a dream that I needed and a dream that bore fruit. I have absolutely no doubt that it was from the Lord.

And then today a box of old worship tapes arrived, from a very kind lady who had contacted me through my website ‘Vintage Worship Tapes, with a view to donating some tapes to the ‘ministry’. In the box was a copy of the tape ‘Thank You Lord’, by David J Hadden, whose work I have featured on my blog before. The title track, unsurprisingly called ‘Thank You, Lord‘, I have known for about thirty years, but only today have I heard David’s own version of it. I’ve even previously shared the words for the song, but been unable to publish the audio track until now – because, of course, I didn’t have it! – but today I have made an mp3 track of the song and I share it with you below, along with the lyrics. But the thing is that the song has lifted me up again, on the back of the Don Francisco song and now this David Hadden song, and once again the joy is there and it’s real.

I don’t know if this is the end of the Dark Night or not; certainly it doesn’t feel as decisive as the last time I ’emerged’, five years ago, in February 2014. Here’s what I wrote on that day:

“What a morning. First time voluntarily in a church for fifteen years, and getting thoroughly zapped by God: weeping, laughing, complete acceptance, forgiveness. Wow, wow, wow! Going again tonight hehe

It’s not like that this time! But then I appreciate that each time is going to be different. That said, I don’t feel like everything is sorted yet anyway, so we’ll wait and see. But for those of my readers going through a Dark Night of your own, and for those who simply wanted to get my perspective from within the valley, I thought I would post this today so that you have the information. I think it’s quite fascinating and in some ways this writing of these experiences here on my blog is enabling me to obsere what is happening with a more analytical eye. And I trust that many of you are finding it useful. You see, there are oases of light in the dark valley, and God will lead you to them.

Anyhow, here’s David’s song, ‘Thank You, Lord‘, shared here with his gracious permission:

When I consider all you mean to me
My heart responds in worship
The songs you’ve given me, O Lord to sing
They’re songs of worship
They’re songs of praise
They’re songs of gratitude

Thank you Lord
Thank you Lord
Thank you from the bottom of my heart
Thank you Lord
Thank you Lord
Thank you from the bottom of my heart

You mean so much to me my God and King
My heart is full of worship
I long to bless you and to build a throne
Through my songs of worship
Through my songs of praise
Through my songs of gratitude

Thank you Lord……….

Great is the Lord and worthy of your praise
His name endures for ever
People of Zion come and sing your songs
Sing your songs of worship
Sing your songs of praise
Sing your songs of gratitude

Thank you Lord……….

(Words and music copyright David J. Hadden, 1985, used here with his kind permission)*.

 

Even as I Iisten to this song right now, it’s moving me to tears of gratitude, and to grateful worship, and to raising my hands in thanksgiving. I am just so grateful to Father for what He’s doing with me at this time.

And I am so especially grateful for these oases of light.

Thank You Lord, indeed 😀

Peace and Grace to you


*David is the lead vocalist on the track, and he’s also playing the keyboards and piano.

00

Dark Night – The View From Here

This entry is part 3 of 4 in the series Dark Night

I said in the comments to a previous post that I would write as much as I can about the process of Dark Night of the Soul which I am currently in.

First of all, I had to determine whether or not I am actually undergoing what I think I am undergoing. While there is no clearly defined set of parameters to diagnose the Dark Night, I have to say that, personally, this is what it feels like to me, that I am indeed in a Dark Night. I have no interest in church things. The songs of the Kingdom do not hold the same apparent meaning for me that they did only a few weeks ago. And I currently have little interest in developing my own thoughts and ideas on the things of God; I am happy to consider others’ ideas and post them on here, but my own ideas and developing theology are, almost by definition, hidden during the Dark Night.

So, let me begin by saying that I don’t think we should mistake this time for anything resembling true clinical depression or ‘feeling down’. I am not depressed; I have seen that close up in other people, and I know what it looks like, and it’s definitely not that. I’m not even fed-up in any way; life is fun, interesting and entertaining. Lots to do, lots to enjoy, lots to look forward to. Sure, I am going through a tough time in my life at the moment, but I would like to think that this does not affect my spiritual life. That spiritual life held me firm and fast during the trauma of my wife Fiona’s illness and loss, and through the time after that. Since losing Fiona, indeed, my faith has never been stronger. If it can survive that catastrophic loss, it can survive anything!

As I hinted in the previous paragraph, this particular Dark Night has begun at a time when I am finding life to be very difficult. In particular, I am feeling Fiona’s loss extremely strongly; I am going through another phase in the ongoing grieving process. It’s been nearly two and a half years, and I am not through it yet. I probably never will be. Also, My parents have had to go into a nursing home, and that has opened up all kinds of ramifications and thoughts that I have found most disturbing. And in a more minor, yet still disappointing, role, I was ill in the last two months of last year, so I had to ground myself and was unable to fly. This might sound trivial, but flying is my stress-buster, and I find a release in my flying that simply doesn’t happen down here on the ground. Especially galling about that illness was that I was unable to take advantage of the really dark part of the night flying season*, which I love doing so much. I love flying, of course, but night flying holds a special place for me since learning how to fly at night in late 2017. I have in fact managed to fly only about 1.4 hours at night this season, but that’s better than nothing.

And yet, despite all that, I don’t think that this current Dark Night has been actually caused by these things; rather I think these things have happened around the time of an already existing Dark Night. That said, as I have said in a previous article, sometimes a Dark Night can be precipitated by big life changes and/or big – even momentous – events, and I suppose that could have been part of what happened.

I would also say that my faith is still strong; only the other day, I responded to a commenter with an affirmation of my belief and position in God, and that in itself I found profoundly uplifting. Although I do not at this present time feel the constant furnace-hot sense of His presence, I do not doubt that He is there, and part of the Dark Night, for me at least, is to trust that He is indeed there, because that’s where He always has been. I find I can still trust that God is present.

So with that in mind, let’s take a look at what I do know I believe. I do not anticipate any of these things to change during this Dark Night, because they are things that have been revealed directly to me by God.

  • I know that God exists, that He loves me, and that He fully approves of me.
  • I know that “it is finished” (John 19:30). I know that there is nothing I need to do, continue to do, achieve or even be that will make me any more acceptable to God than I am already. Conversely, I know that nothing I can do, say, achieve or be that will make me any less acceptable to God.
  • I know that I am a child of God. I know this beyond a shadow of any doubt.
  • I also know that I am ‘in Christ’. This too I know beyond a shadow of any doubt.
  • I know that He is walking with me on this path, because He has done it before and He doesn’t change.

With these things in my mind and my heart, I walk this path with confidence and full security and assurance. My previous experience as a believer and as a child of God justifies me in this confidence, which I am sure is not misplaced.

Without wanting to Scripture-bomb you, let me leave you with some verses which I consider relevant, and which I have found to be true in my own experience:

(Ps 23:4)

(Jude 24)

(Phil 1:6 (KJV))

In my next post in this series, whenever that may be, I will describe some more of the things that I am feeling and thinking in this time.

Until then, Peace and Grace to you.

 


Header picture shows the view on final approach to Exeter’s Runway 26, at night, December 18th, 2017. This truly is an example of the view in the dark!


*The ‘night flying season’, because Exeter Airport (along with many other regional airports) closes at 1900 local time, so this means that there are only a few months of the year where there’s enough hours of darkness to be able to do proper night flying.

Roll on October… 😉

10

Jesus Says, “I Will Give You Rest” not “I Will Give You More Burdens”

Here is a wonderful post by my friend Tim, author of the blog ‘Jesus Without Baggage’. If your gospel does not look like this, then it’s not Good News (‘gospel’ means ‘Good News’)

Over to you, Tim:


Many say the foundational passage of the New Testament is John 3:16. Even young children can quote it:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

I love that passage—even though many have corrupted what it says by adding misguided subtexts to it, so that when they read or quote the verse it comes out more like:

God so loved the world [though he can’t bear to look at us because of our sin] that he gave his one and only Son [to suffer and die on the cross in our place and take the punishment for our sins], that whoever believes in him [and prays the sinner’s prayer] shall not perish [in the eternal fires of hell] but have eternal life [in heaven].

The words in brackets are often assumed but are not present in, or even implied by, the verse. Never-the-less, I love John 3:16!

Jesus’ Wonderful Invitation to All of Us

Jesus-without-baggage-REST

Yet I believe the passage that reveals the heart of the New Testament is in Matthew 11:

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

Both passages touch my heart and draw me toward Jesus, yet the first (as used by many believers) seems almost doctrinal—describing what God did, while the second is invitational—inviting me to accept what Jesus offers. In introducing Jesus to those who might be interested in him, I prefer to use Jesus’ own invitation; I believe it is applicable to all people at all times. Practically everyone desires relief from inner weariness and the burdens of life. Almost all of us want rest.

In his report, Matthew does not leave out the Father and his relationship to Jesus because the statement is preceded by:

All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

Jesus Does not Attach Conditions to His Invitation

In the invitation, Jesus offers us rest for our ‘souls’ and begins to introduce us to the Father. We are pleased to learn that Jesus is gentle and humble in heart; he is no tyrant or overlord who has something we need but who will exact a price from us for it. His motives are pure. He is approachable. We do not need be on our guard with him. We need not grovel. He is gentle; he is accepting; he is safe.

To whom does Jesus make this invitation? It is to everyone! Come to me, ALL you who are weary and burdened’—unless, I suppose, one is not weary or burdened. There are no preconditions. There is no creed or doctrinal statement mentioned. There is no screening out of certain types of people. There is not even a sinner’s prayer or ‘accepting Jesus into your heart’.

There is only Jesus and his invitation: I will give you rest.’

Learning of Jesus

Jesus adds that those coming to him should take his yoke upon them and learn from him to find rest for their souls, but he goes on to say that his yoke is easy and his burden light.

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

Following Jesus is not without any commitment at all; once we accept Jesus’ invitation, we will begin to learn of him, and he tells us important things that affect our lives, but they are not onerous requirements. This is no trick. We will not discover that accepting Jesus’ invitation ultimately involves lists of rules or demands. We will not have to accept beliefs that are contrary to our own reason. In fact, there are no doctrinal requirements at all—only rest from weariness and burdens, and learning from Jesus.

Jesus Does not Load Us with Burdens as Some Suppose

Jesus promises to relieve our burdens, not to increase them. Much of the problem with traditional Christianity is the burden it puts on its members—from  requirements of specific rules and behavior to requirements of doctrinal creeds. These are all baggage; they are not the requirements of Jesus.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

Consider Jesus’ invitation. We explore the wonderful ramifications of this invitation on this blog. Do you find Jesus’ invitation appealing? I do. I am glad Jesus’ invitation is for me—and for you.

Jesus without Baggage exists to assist and support those questioning beliefs they have been taught in fundamentalist, traditional evangelical, and other groups. If you know someone who might find Jesus without Baggage helpful, feel free to send them the introductory page: About Jesus without Baggage.


Here is the link to the original article

20

So You Believe Homosexuality is a Sin, Now What?

I have published some of the work of the brilliant Chris Kratzer before on my blog.

In this essay, Chris combines his genuine Grace-filled faith with some of the most incisive Christian thinking I have seen in a while. Read through this piece, savour the logic, and learn the lessons. There is much wisdom here.


So You Believe Homosexuality is a Sin, Now What?

At the end of the day, the debate about whether homosexuality is a sin or not will long be like the debate between Calvinist and Armenians. Each will quote their bible verses and line up their arguments with very little to any resolution between them. Those who believe homosexuality is a sin have their biblical convictions, as do those who do not believe homosexuality is a sin. As a result of their disagreements, there is unfortunately very little, if any mutual respect for one another to be found in most circles. This, in my opinion, is reflective of the sad state of Christianity in America and beyond.

For me, beyond the question of, “Is homosexuality a sin?” is perhaps a much more important question, “If you believe it is, now what?” What is the Jesus-way of dealing with that which you believe is sin?

Here are some thoughts… if you believe homosexuality is a sin… fine, now…

1) You should focus on taking your sin seriously, now more than ever.

Since you believe homosexuality is a sin, and apparently increasing in influence and presence in our culture, you should start taking your sin much more seriously as the same reality could manifest with and because of your sin issues.

Imagine if our culture had the same “outbreak” and increased acceptance of your sin issues as you perhaps feel is happening with homosexuality. That could be catastrophic.

Imagine if things like lying, gluttony, gossiping, coveting, or “not doing the good that you know to do” (to name a cursory few sins) were legalized and lit on fire in our culture. That would be world changing! Imagine if everybody adopted and legalized the sin in your life. Comparatively, the presence of homosexuality in our culture would pail in comparison to the damage potential of the sin in your life (or mine) going viral.

Furthermore, in the familiar teaching about logs of personal sin and specks of sin in other people’s lives, Christ taught how suspicious it is to be even merely looking at sin in other people’s lives when there is obviously a log-full to be taken seriously (looked at) in your own life. In fact, one could surmise, with much wisdom, that Jesus was pointing out the fact that if you properly took your own sin-log serious enough, there would be little if any time for looking, let alone, finger pointing at another’s sin. And even more, Jesus seems to set the standard, if your log of sin isn’t so serious to you that in seeing your own, you can’t even begin to dream of having the perspective from which to judge just a speck in another, you aren’t taking YOUR sin seriously enough.

Perhaps, we Christians who are often so sin-conscious in our outward gaze, but sin-justifying in our inward gaze are the reason why sin seems to be increasing in our culture. The culture sees our example, and concludes, “Double standard for you, double standard for me.”

See, a lack of needed seriousness (apparent because one seems to have time for sin finger-pointing) about one’s gluttoness face-feedings at the local Golden Coral every Sunday after service could be sending a message that a person’s homosexuality is not so serious too. A lack of seriousness about one’s church gossiping, slander, and backstabbing could be sending a message that one’s homosexuality is not so serious too. A lack of seriousness about one’s coveting of other people’s lives, ministries, salaries, homes, marriages, finances, clothes, health, etc. etc. etc. could be sending a message that their homosexuality is not so serious too. And the list goes on and on.

Since you believe homosexuality is a sin and it’s growing presence and influence in our culture is alarming, all the more reason, you better spend every waking moment getting off of their sin and on top of yours, for your’s could become even more alarming than theirs.

The way of Jesus in responding to believed sin isn’t to point fingers and focus attention externally, but to be humbled by the alarming, toxic reality of sin in our own lives that demands our internal vigilance and heavenly mercy.

The way of Jesus is to make sure you don’t take your eye off the ball. The ball is your sin, not theirs.

2) You should be befriending many more gay people.

Jesus befriended sinning, sinful, sin-ladened people. Can’t get around that.

In fact, much of his reputation was founded on it. Apparently it wasn’t a hobby, but a priority. People don’t get reputations from hobbies. Jesus saw sinners as friends, and more profound, sinners saw Jesus as “friend.”

Every gay person you meet, from the day you declared homosexuality a sin, should now conclude from your investment and interaction in their life that you are a real-deal “friend.” That’s the Jesus-way and the Jesus-result.

This is no easy accomplishment. That is, to be known as a “friend” by gay people. When gay people see you in public, they ought to be saying to one another, “he (or she) is safe, they truly get me, and love me for me.” Not an easy response to gain.

Thats why this Jesus-way of befriending means genuinely loving gay people, not for the purpose of trying to change them (as if you or I could do that anyways), but simply to love them. People don’t hang out with and call a “friend,” people who are simply trying to change them and thus put another spiritual knot on their belt. Do you call people like that, friends?

Oh, and by the way, that whole “hate the sin, but love the sinner,” thing. That’s like saying, “Love the pizza, but hate the sauce.” Loving a person the Jesus-way is loving the person, as is.

But, if you believe your befriending a homosexual can change them, all the more reason you ought to be befriending every gay person you meet. Oh, and I guess that applies to every other kind of sin and sinner; hookers, liars, murders, child abusers, sexual predators, rapists etc. Shoot, for that matter, you ought to be befriending yourself.

Dang, between taking your sin more (properly) seriously and genuinely befriending gay people (who you may believe are our culture’s worst sinners) there isn’t going to be time for much else… hate, condemnation, marginalizing, political rants, declarations of your right and they’re wrong.

3) You should be studying the “clobber” passages that relate to YOUR sin much harder

Along with your belief that homosexuality is a sin, you may believe that people hearing the so called “clobber” passages in the Bible about homosexuality is going to change their mind and heart. Therefore, perhaps you memorize them and even rehearse them in preparation for that next debate or anticipated time when you get to “restore a brother gently.”

At the very least, if you are like most people who believe homosexuality is a sin, you have studied the 6 “clobber” passages in the Bible widely believed to condemn homosexuality as sin.

By the way, you also may believe there are passages in the Bible that give you license to point out people’s sin and get them on what you believe to be the right path. Just a question… these passages, that have become important to many people now, especially with the whole homosexuality issue, have they been just as important to you in regards to sins like gluttony, cheating, coveting, divorce, etc. etc. etc.? Have you made good on those passages and leaned across the cubicle to confront or “restore” your over eating, Christian coworker? What about your gossiping small-group buddy? What about your envious worship band team member? What about your non-biblically divorced next door neighbor?

If not, why not? There are tons of other sins and corresponding “clobber” passages to choose from? Aren’t those sins just as serious?

Why is it, with this whole homosexuality thing, that seemingly it’s all the sudden now so important to make sure we dust off the biblical badges that seem to justify our spiritual policing of believers and the world?

Well, if you believe clobber passages change hearts and minds, so be it… great. But that means you should now be all the more memorizing and studying the clobber passages about your sin for the same purpose. You should be writing yourself blog posts, Facebook statements, political messages, declarations of doom and wrath, and holding yourself to the fire for the destruction of America?

See, God doesn’t need to look any further than your own sin (or mine) for cause and reason to open up a can of angel-wrath upon the world. In fact, God expects the world to sin, but you (and I) do it having “tasted and seen.” Oops, probably not good if you believe in all that judgement, wrath, and hell-fire stuff.

I mean really, if God was looking for easy justification to man-handle the planet and drum up disasters of judgement, I think we would ironically find him far more peering into the stain-glassed windows of the Church more than bedroom windows of the world.

So you believe homosexuality is a sin because of your understanding of the “clobber” passages in the Bible. What are the clobber passages that speak to your sin issues? Are you studying them with equal diligence and debate? What about your self-posts, self-articles, self-rants?

If you believe clobber passages change people, are you just as adamant to use them to change you?

4) You should be defending and declaring from the mountain tops the righteousness of homosexual Christians and God’s unconditional love for them.

So, you believe homosexuality is a sin, great… now what? Is it more of an important sin than yours?

I read somewhere, “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” Sin, in God’s eyes, is not placed in hierarchy. Therefore, the same righteousness declared over your life, through faith in Christ, is the same declared over a homosexual Christian.

I know, maybe you say your sin is not a “life-style” of sin. You don’t willingly choose it. Really?

Btw, how many times sinning in the same way makes for a “life-style?” Is it two, five, ten, twenty four? Who gets to determine and judge that? And, how much time in between the sin is this limit. One hour, one day, one week? Who gets to determine and judge that?

See, if you (or I) can’t shout from the mountain top that homosexual Christians are righteous in Christ; unconditionally loved, holy, sanctified, and justified, than neither can you say you are. All these spiritual realities of the believer are based solely on Christ’s performance and finished work on the cross, not the believer’s. It is Christ who makes and keeps us righteous, holy, loved, sanctified, justified, and yes, even saved.

The moment you pull back from the righteousness of homosexuals, you are pulling back from your own.

If they aren’t righteous, you aren’t either. If they are second class citizens, so are you.

5) You should be welcoming and wanting homosexuals in your church all the more.

In the same way, if you, with your sin and sinning, are welcome and wanted in your church, why aren’t homosexuals?

I know, it’s maybe because you see your sin as a sin and many homosexuals don’t. And yes, many don’t believe the way you do that their homosexuality is a sin. Therefore, perhaps in your mind they are not welcome or wanted. They, through their behavior and attitude towards what you call sin, are condoning sin. And you perhaps believe we can’t have any of that running around on in the church.

Well, maybe now you see your sin as sin, but did you always? Furthermore, do you see all your sin? Are you aware of all the areas of sin in your life and see every sin-area of your life as sin? Is not, in your beliefs, the heart wicked and full of deceit? Even portions of your heart, due to the “flesh?” Therefore, can you really trust that you see everything, and aren’t missing an area where you think you aren’t sinning, but actually are? Just like you believe homosexuals do.

By the way, perhaps you say you see your sin as sin, and that makes all the difference, is that why perhaps you overeat still? That’s why you perhaps still lie, right? That’s why you are better than homosexuals? You are better, more worthy, more wanted church-material because you are managing sin better in your life? That’s why you are the perfect leader, right? Never make mistakes that you know are mistakes, never see thing that you are doing as o.k when in fact, they are sin? Right?

I mean seriously, tell the Holy Spirit to move onto someone else. You don’t need any truth guidance, you got it all under perfect view, watch, discernment, and containment in your life. Which makes you the perfect gatekeeper for a church, right? Who better to know who should be in or out, welcome or wanted then you? You see all your sin perfectly, surely, you can do that in other people’s lives, right?

Trust me, awareness of sin makes a terrible safe-guard for sin. Just because you know and say it’s wrong doesn’t make you any more protected from acting on it, nor does it make you any better of a Christian or worthy of being welcomed or wanted in a church.

If “Church” is of and for the sin-aware, then “Church” would have never started. No one starts as sin-aware and therefore, there would have been no one to begin “Church” with on that first Pentecost.

Besides, in your mind, are homosexuals, regardless of “sin-awareness” better off in fellowship with the world or in the family of a church? If, while you were knowingly sinning, no one welcomed and wanted you, where would you be right now? Do you trust the Holy Spirit to change people, if change is needed? Point out sin, if sin pointing out is needed? Or, are you dependent on your “church-strength” and “church systems” to do it and manage it.

It’s one thing to welcome the knowingly sinning, and another to want them. It’s easy to welcome, and not want. Easy to let them sit in your pews, enjoy the same air conditioning, and sing your songs. But a whole other thing to “want” them; want them connected, want them serving, want them doing life along side everyone else.

Truth is, while you were knowingly sinning, through the cross, God welcomed and wanted you into His Kingdom, and still does. To not welcome and want homosexuals, is in all natural and spiritual reality, not to want and welcome you.

If you can’t welcome and want them, you can’t welcome and want you.

So, you believe homosexuality is a sin… now what?


Here’s the link to the original piece

10

“God is Love, But…”

“God is Love, But…”

To me, this is one of the most infuriating phrases used by people trying their hardest to squeeze Bad News from the Good News.

God is Love (or God is Good)…BUT.*

Religion always inserts a ‘But’. And, invariably, the ‘But’ implies some conditions, some Rules or other that we have to abide by in order for the ‘God is Love/Good’ bit to apply to us personally. There’s always something we have to do, say, believe, think, whatever, in order for us to ‘qualify’ the God is Love part. There’s always some reason why we might not be able to claim the ‘benefits’ of ‘God is Love’ for ourselves.**

But Grace says this is an utter pile of tosh.

Grace is an unconditional gift. We can’t earn it; nothing we can do – or fail to do – can change it; and we can’t obtain it for ourselves. It’s something that is given by God, and God alone. It is not administered through any religious ritual, organisation or bureaucracy, nor is it by any means the exclusive property of any particular organisation, either religious or secular. Grace is a gift from God, entirely, wholly, and without exception.

Once we get a handle on this magnificent concept, it transforms our beliefs and indeed our entire lives. No longer are we burdened with the need to conform to a particular human-imposed choice of ruleset in order to be ‘acceptable to God’, because Grace shows us that we are already acceptable to God.

Grace is a gift, not a wage. It’s something we are given, not something we earn. That’s why St. Paul, in Romans 6:23, contrasts the concept of earning death through sin, with the gift of Grace from God, when he says, “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Using Hebrew antithetical parallelism, Paul contrasts our best efforts to please God – ‘sin’ – with the unearned, unambiguous gift of eternal life in Christ.

Once you see that concept, your entire view of life changes. Gone is the focus on ‘sin’ – mine and others – gone is the need to judge others, gone is the need to try to please God. Part of the freedom that his releases into is in realising that we already please God just by being ourselves!

With all this in mind, I would like to let you read a recent piece by my friend Phil Drysdale, whose work I have published in my blog in the past, and which I will undoubtedly be publishing more of in the future. He begins with the ‘God is Love, But…’ idea and then takes our thinking in a slightly different direction from mine. Over to Phil:


“God is love” is a wonderful truth from scripture.

But I find far too often it fails to ends there. Often it’s “God is love but…

…He is also just.”

…He is also holy.”

…He is also righteous.”

Etc.

What this betrays is a terrifying truth:

Many Christians don’t think love is just, holy or righteous.

So much so, that when we talk about love we must temper it with our concepts of holiness or justice etc.

What it suggests is we either have a very misguided notion of what love is or a very misguided notion of what holiness, justice and righteousness are.

I would suggest it’s the latter three with which we struggle.

You see to say God is love, to me, 100% encapsulates the statements “God is just” or “God is holy.”

His love is a holy love. His love is a just love.

The issue we have is our concepts of holiness and justice tend not to be very loving.§

You see, the world has witnessed two forms of justice over the ages. There is a justice that is tried and tested. It dishes out punishment upon those who wrong it and “mercifully” hands out forgiveness to those who make penance.

Its focus is on people getting what they deserve.

But there is also another form of justice, albeit one much less common. One that forgives those who do not know what they do. One that calls everyone to a ministry of reconciliation and of healing. One that forgives it’s enemies seventy times seven times.

It is a justice that does not look to punish sin but instead restore the one who is lost to the sin and heal those harmed by the sin.

So the question is not, is God just? The answer to that is obviously yes. The real question is which kind of justice does God represent?

If your God is just in the sense of handing out punishment for sin and only forgiving those who do the right thing or believe a certain thing then yes… “God is love” will never be enough for you. In fact, it might be quite a problem for you without a clause to temper it. (unless you change the definition of love all together.)

However if your God is just in the sense of forgiving people solely based on His goodness not their actions or beliefs. Restoring people who have been hurt, abused and suffered unspeakable pain. That God… well… He is love. Plain and simple.

“God is love” is more than enough and says it all.

So my challenge to you today is that – if “God is love” doesn’t say it all for you then do you need to revisit who God is to you? Why do you need to temper God’s love to keep your view of God alive?

 

§ I’m aware that many could argue the exact opposite – that our form of love is not holy or righteous. To this I simply say, which do you see portrayed in the life of Jesus and described so iconically in 1 Cor 13?


 

*(And it’s not at all what the Bible actually says in 1 John 4:16!)

**Unlike in the Psalms where it says, ‘Praise the Lord O my Soul, and forget not all His benefits’ – Ps 103:2 – without specifying any conditions. Go figure.

00

Deconstruction

I’ve recently concluded a series on the Stage of Faith, describing how some people’s faith structure changes and grows over the course of their lifetimes. Part of that growth can involve the ‘deconstruction’ of one’s former beliefs in the light of new revelation, evidence, study or thinking – I have referred to this as the ‘Dark Night of the Soul’, also known as ‘The Wall‘, where some – but not all – believers undergo a major deconstruction and (normally) reconstruction of their faith.

‘Deconstruction’ has become anothe buzz-word in Christian circles, and it is in some places well-received, and in others not so well-received, probably depending on their penchant for the control of others. Of course, for those who want to control others, it is not seen as a good thing, and naturally they will seek to vilify and ostracise those who are undergoing the process. In fact, some accuse those people undergoing deconstruction (which no-one would freely choose to do, by the way) of leaving the faith, when in fact the exact opposite is true. This is a classic case of people in Stage 3 accusing those people, who are actually moving forwards in their faith, of ‘backsliding’.

Here, then, is a piece on that very subject of being accused of leaving the faith – “Deconstruction Does Not Mean Christians Are Trying to Leave the Faith” by John Williamson. While I am not including this piece as part of the series on spiritual growth, you could see it as an adjunct to that series, written by someone who is actually undergoing the process. Over to John:


“I distrust those people who knew so well what God wants them to do because I notice it always coincides with their own desires.” – Susan B. Anthony

“There is one road to certainty – through a door marked ‘death.'” – John Ortberg

When I began my own personal deconstruction two and half years ago, it was not something I planned for or even wanted. I’d much rather have remained within my happy, blissful bubble of certainty. Let’s be honest, that’s a much easier way to live. It’s far easier to have someone spoon-feed me what I should believe in neatly defined categories. When we are able to put things in simple dualistic terms it makes the game much easier to play. I’m right, you’re wrong; I’m in, you’re out; this is up, and this is down; black and white, Democrat or Republican, and so on. However, we all know that’s not how life works.

To be human means to live in the grey, to get in the mess and deal with complexity. This is the case with deconstruction. Most of us aren’t so lucky as to have a choice. Many of us are thrown into the journey of deconstruction whether we like it or not courtesy of some sort of trauma. And like so many others I found myself on the path with no map or compass and no idea how I’d even ended up there. It all started with a genuine cry into the dark for answers.

Since starting a podcast I’ve gotten a lot of pushback about the idea of deconstruction. It’s certainly a provocative and often misunderstood term. As a result, I’ve often heard a lot of people and religious leaders say that it’s unnecessary, immature, a sign of weak faith, a sin, and even that it’s only something millennial do. Let me just say that those people, although the mean well, fundamentally misunderstand what it means to go through a deconstruction. If we are to engage with folks who may be in different phases of their spiritual journey in a loving and productive way, we need to first understand what spiritual deconstruction is, and also what it isn’t. Until we gain that understanding, we may continue to do more damage than good, and continue to see people around us leaving the faith.

People who are on a spiritual journey (AKA going through a deconstruction) aren’t bad people. They don’t have less faith, they aren’t sinners (at least not any more than the rest of the world), they aren’t being punished, they aren’t suffering from “white privilege” (or any other sort of privilege for that matter), and they aren’t doing anything wrong. People who end up in a deconstruction are people from all sorts of backgrounds, education levels, cultures, age groups, and believe it or not religions! This isn’t exclusive to Christianity.

Regardless, religious leaders and religious systems have a habit of shaming people who are experiencing a deconstruction as if they did something wrong or are lacking in some way. This is absurd! One of Jesus’ disciples was nicknamed “Doubting Thomas.” Thomas needed to be show the holes in Jesus’ hands after his resurrection just to believe it had actually happened! Israel, God’s “chosen people,” literally means “to wrestle with God.” The fact is, there are people all throughout the Bible who are struggling with what it means to be a follower of the Divine.

This brings me to the second most common misunderstanding. Most people who are in the midst of deconstruction aren’t trying to leave religion or even stop being part of community. IF that was the intent, then why bother to engage with deconstruction at all? What would be the point? It would be far easier just to burn it all down and be done with it. This is not what deconstruction is about though.

Deconstruction is a careful and deliberate examination of one’s beliefs from the inside. It’s about coming to terms with what you believe outside of your inherited beliefs. It’s about growing INTO your faith, not out of it. Sure, there are instances when one’s spiritual journey may lead them away from the faith altogether. However, that is certainly not the goal. Deconstruction is a process of growth and maturation. It is not necessary to throw the baby out with the bathwater as they say.

The religious leaders in our communities need to recognize that deconstruction is not a new phenomenon. Great religious figures have gone on their own spiritual journeys all throughout history. It’s something that is as much a part of the spiritual process as losing your baby teeth is to a toddler. The best thing we can do as leaders, family, friends, and community is love them through it – even if we don’t happen to be in the same place on the path – even if we don’t completely understand it. We must create safe spaces to allow for questions, dialogue, and inclusion. We must stop worshipping the golden calf of certainty, and learn to embrace the God of Divine mystery.


Here’s the link to the original article. There are also links at that website that lead to John’s blog,

00

A Prophecy to the Judgemental

Here’s the brilliant Chris Kratzer on the pushy, judgemental, trying-to-change-sinners attitude of some of the Evangelical church in these times. Granted, it’s written mainly to the Evangelical church in America, but there are people in the UK that could do with reading it too. Not that they will; my blog will long ago have been consigned to the rubbish heap of heresy by these people!

This is what it looks like when the power of the Grace of Jesus overwhelms a believer to the extent that doctrines and ‘correction’ are no longer important; only the approval of Jesus. Their lack of control over such a person is the thing that really gets the judgemental types riled!

Over to Chris:


No, Christian, I’m Not Your Spiritual Bitch

I wonder if you can truly handle what’s on my mind. You’re not going to like it, I suspect, which is probably why I never give it full flight—at least, until now. Honestly, I just can’t shackle the voice in my soul any longer. Neither can I expect you to reconsider your ways if I’m not forthright with their true effect upon my life—however brutal these words might be perceived.

You believe it’s your job to change me, to partner with God to lead me to repent of my sins, surrender my life, and follow the Jesus of your understanding. In your mind, if your divine tag team efforts with the Father don’t work, my eternal destiny could be one of hellfire and forever torment. With such a daunting possibility at the forefront of your beliefs, I appreciate your concern and respect your efforts.

Yet, underneath and far beyond that, it seems you’re pridefully convinced that it’s your special responsibility to point me to the towering endless ladder of your customized, “to do” and “not to do” steps. If my careful ascension isn’t forthcoming and certain, in your mind, I’ll never be successful at activating the neon “Genuine Christian” sign you have conveniently dangling from the top—all to my sure demise and doom. Measuring up and fitting in are of the highest importance. No area of my life seems off limits to your inspection, assessment, and admonition. In the end, it feels like I have become, for you, some kind of Chia Pet-for-Jesus, where you’re hell-bent on making it your personal project to grow me into a “fully devoted follower of Christ” that, in reality, actually looks mostly like you. Oh, the horror that will ensue if I fail to come into compliance and therefore reap the consequence of your rejection.

Still, I’m going to assume that your intentions are met with a goodness in your heart. Yet, all the same, I’m not so ignorant to be devoid of the awareness that some of the greatest of evils have started from the good intentions of people who feel spiritually justified in their actions—especially Christians. In fact, if I’m honest, more so than not, your efforts to save and sanctify me, no matter how well intended, leave me feeling thoroughly defaced as a human being, raped of dignity, condemned unfairly, and judged highly hypocritically. How could that ever be the work of Jesus?

That’s why today is the day of my emancipation.

I mean no disrespect nor lack of love in saying so, but I’m finally breaking free from your apparent determination to convince me that my future and my worth are somehow tied to your spiritual opinion, discernment, evaluation, counsel, influence, and religion. I’m pushing past the seemingly required belief that God is specifically using you to save me from Himself and all that He will do to me if I don’t love Him back in return; of course, with compliance to all your specifics. I’m breaking the chains of, what feels like, your continually condescending glare into my soul that clearly sees me as an inferior person who needs your intervention, lest I perish and waste my life.

Why such resistance and seeming rebellion?

Because the mind of Christ within me has overridden your mind that’s trying to conform me. With heaping helpings of Grace overflowing, He has convinced me of perhaps the most important and liberating revelation of all, “I’m not your spiritual bitch.”

I’m not a misprint in need of your correction. I’m not a floundering vessel requiring your rescue. I’m not a lost cause simply absent of your assistance. I’m not a notch on your belt to appease your quest to earn favor with your deity.

I’m not a blemish the requires your erasing. I’m not a vote deserving of your hacking. I’m not a shame that needs your permission to be unashamed. I’m not a sinner in need of your salvation. I’m not a question mark that needs your answer. I’m not a disease that needs your cure. I’m not a stronghold that requires the strength of your religious prescriptions. And most of all, I’m not an inferior human being whose hope lies within your privilege.

No, I’m a beloved child of God—not by your doing, approval, or securing, but by His.

In fact, here’s what I’ve discovered in my awakening to Love and Grace, yours is not a position from which you should have any position in my life, anyways—only Jesus.

Besides, the God I know, who lives and dwells within me, the One with whom I have full communion unconditionally, would never use hurtful, selfish, inhumane tactics postured from religious pride in order to bring about goodness in me and from me.

So, you can stop pretending I’m your patient and yours is a medicine I need taking. You can stop putting Laws where there are none, and conditions where there never have been. You can stop pimping God as punishing, the Bible as perfect, and your interpretations as exclusively authoritative. You can stop touting your spiritual gymnastics, spiritual navel gazing, and highfalutin exegesis. God’s not impressed and I’m no longer listening.

Why?

Because…

I’m not your spiritual bitch.

And neither is He.

Grace is brave. Be brave.


Check out Chris Kratzer’s new book getting rave reviews, Leatherbound Terrorism

There is no greater evil being wielded upon the planet than Conservative Evangelicalism, and Chris Kratzer’s life and ministry journey are undeniable proof. In Leatherbound Terrorism, Chris tells of his 21 years as a conservative Evangelical pastor and the radical change of heart and mind that led him to walk away from it all. With a new sense of faith centered on Jesus and His pure Gospel of Grace, in Leatherbound Terrorism, Chris chases the evils of conservative Evangelicalism out of the shadows and gives powerful voice to the cries of the religiously oppressed. Confronting issues like racism, sexism, homophobia, religious greed, hypocrisy, nationalism, white supremacy, privilege, and the weaponizing of the Bible, Leatherbound Terrorism pulls no punches. Endorsed by best selling authors Steve McVey and Baxter Kruger, Leatherbound Terrorism will challenge you, inspire you, and most certainly cause you to rethink your faith and life.


Here’s the link to the original blog post

20

Dark Night – The NPCs

This entry is part 2 of 4 in the series Dark Night

For an  explanation as to why I have a row of Mormon boys as my header image, please see the footnotes 😉

In my last post, Theophilus*, I described how I feel like I am about to embark on another Dark Night of the Soul. While I could be wrong, of course, I did describe it as such because I felt I recognised the signs of its approach.

In the comments for that post, regular reader Jeremy suggested I try to blog a little on what my thoughts are, which would be helpful and interesting. I think that really is an excellent idea, because that then means that someone with a keen observational mind and an analytical brain (me!) would be making those observations and writing them down for others. The only downside to the idea is that the Dark Night might involve taking time off blogging or even taking time off thinking and observing too much. Sometimes the idea of the Dark Night is to take time off of having any commitments at all, so, subject to those caveats, I will do what I can. And I’m going to make it into a ‘series’ so as to keep the posts indexed in some fashion.

Let me make it clear right from the start that this Dark Night is not some form of depression or other mental illness. It is a normal and healthy part of spiritual growth, and, because I have been through it before, I am genuinely looking forward to the experience itself and also to the fruits it will produce. Granted, I am still heartsick from my loss of Fiona – even though that’s now 28 months ago – but this is a different thing entirely. This is spiritual, not emotional, and going through times like this only serves to highlight the difference.

Now, to my observations.

The primary observation at the present time is this: this particular Dark Night has been-precipitated, as was my first one, as a result of interactions with nasty grey legalistic people, my reactions to them, and the need to change my attitudes in my dealings with them. So, dealing with these people. And I need to spend time away from them. Fortunately, unlike those who have these people in their immediate families, I have the luxury of being able to remove myself from them.

My son refers to these people as NPCs. ‘Non-Player Characters’, you know, like in a video game. Every time you approach one of these in-game characters, they act all familiar and ‘Hey how are you, buddy?’ like they’ve known your game character all his life. If you come back to them in-game after half an hour or so, they say the exact same thing – because of course they are programmed to. And that’s what these people are like; they are programmed with all the ‘right phrases’ that they trot out willy-nilly and – more worryingly – they also have all the same programmed attitudes. It’s almost as if they have no colour; no personality. The NPCs. What a great analogy.

As my readers will know, about twenty years ago, my first Dark Night began, in which I avoided all church things like I would Flat Earthers 😉 Every time I went in a church, it reminded me of why I didn’t! That Dark Night lasted fifteen years as I was detoxed from all the harmful attitudes that my twenty-one years as an Evangelical Fundamentalist had given me.

Five years ago, I had a dramatic re-entry into the ‘things of God’ (although I was never really away from Him per se) and He has carried me through losing Fiona and all kinds of other stuff. And my faith life blossomed.

But recently something in me has just snapped. I have so had enough of the NPCs who take it upon themselves to ‘love the sinner, hate the sin’…whatever happened to ‘mind your own business’? And these people cast such a bad light on my wonderful Jesus and my Father God…and I have to make this observation that at present I feel that if I never go into a church meeting again it will be too soon. That, for me, is a characteristic of a Dark Night experience. In a way, being with other Christians – at least in a large meeting – is such a ‘trigger’ for me that it can be harmful. Also, being Aspergic does not help in this regard; I can think of many places I’d rather be than in a room with lots of people!

I’m not saying that people at my Church are NPCs; they’re not. They are lovely. And I know for a fact that part of what Father is doing with me at the moment is that He’s not asking me to go to Church, so in a way it’s almost as if that lack of Church prompting from Father suggets that He’s the One Who’s leading me into the Dark Night – and that would come as no surprise to me. And in a lot of ways I have been at this point for a long while, not having been to the main Church meeting for about eighteen months, although I was in a housegroup for a while (it recently came to an end; not my fault, I hasten to add!)

Regarding the NPCs, it’s always the same. If there are two possible interpretations of a Scripture, these people would always rather swing towards the ‘bad’ interpretation and call it ‘loving’, rather than swing towards the actually ‘loving’ interpretation. And coming up against this constantly has made it so that I’ve so had enough of them. I am so sick of religious people like these, and as a sad corollary to that, I am avoiding all things to do with faith at all, because there are just so many triggers. I’m staying off Facebook because there are people on there whom I care about but who also have a list of NPC ‘friends’ as long as your arm, who trot out the same programmed crap in response to my friends’ posts again and again. I just need a rest from it all, and that might take fifteen days, or it might take fifteen years again.

To quote my reply to one of my friends on Facebook, whose post was being ripped at by grey** NPC miseries,

But the truth of it is that I have had enough of these people. Completely had enough. From now on, it’s an instant block from me. We are giving dogs what is sacred and they simply turn and tear us to pieces. From now on, my job is to minister to the people whom these nasties would seek to destroy, while ignoring and blocking the nasty ones. These are deadly, grey, dull people who spread a gospel of horror, hate and lies, and I’ve had enough of them. There is enough poison in life in general without people like these, who claim to represent a loving god, from bringing even more toxicity. Enough is enough. Let them wallow in the mud of their shipwrecks.

(And that’s partly where my recent post. ‘Shipwrecks‘, came from)

One such grey person thusly replied to my exhortation to reconsider the doctrine of Hell:

“Don’t need to. Hell is forever. You don’t make the rules. God does. Your job is to obey, not figure out God’s logic.”

Case in point. Cold, grey, dull, lifeless. In fact the voice of the Pharisee is always cold, lifeless, grey, dry, dusty and joyless. By their fruits you shall know them (or in this case, the lack thereof)

Remember:

Dry

Dusty

Grey

Cold

Joyless

Lifeless

Jesus spoke of them as tombs – whitewashed tombs. Lookin’ good on the outside; full of rot and corruption inside. And these are the people who accuse all mankind of being ‘unregenerate sinners…’ for goodness’ sake! If your life looks like that, you need to get it sorted. But then, if your life looks like that, you probably are not reading this because you will have consigned my blog to the heresy pile long ago!

Another key phrase, when given a joke that falls outside the lines of what their group think acceptable, is ‘We don’t think it’s funny’.

Like this one, for example:

“We don’t think it’s funny”, they would say***. Who’s ‘we’? That sort of prohibition only has power when there’s a group of them all agreeing with each other, and presumably nodding sagely, and they find like-minded miseries to sit with.

Even talking to these people is a downer. This is not what the kingdom of God is about! If it’s not righteousness, peace and joy, then it’s not the Kingdom of God.

And I find, as a direct result of my interactions with grey NPCs, that when I’m reading my Bible, my reading voice – you know, the voice that I hear in my head as I read – sounds just like the grey NPCs. And so, unless I feel particularly inspired, I do not go to the Bible all that often. True, when I do get such inspiration, that voice is absent…maybe the lesson there is to not read the Bible unless that voice is absent… This is another of the signs of the Dark Night, and obviously one I have learned from already! 😀

Another thing is that, in some ways, I don’t feel as close to God as I normally do. I know He’s there; I still feel the Spirit burning inside. Or maybe that’s indigestion. And worship means little; once again, I can hardly bear to hear the Songs of Heaven. These are two more of my signs of an impending Dark Night.

I think that one of the main things I am looking for in this Dark Night (although of course Father probably has other plans!) is that I need to learn how to deal with the Grey People. The NPCs. If indeed there is any dealing with them. By ‘dealing with’ them, I mean how I personally deal with the effects of interfacing with them on a theological level. Certainly we’re not going to change them; not that I would want to – that’s not my job! And indeed, this brings me to another point about the NPCs and how to cope with them, and it’s this.

When we criticise the judgemental, their standard response is always [predictably] “Ah, but now you’re judging me!” It seems to be the privilege of the judgemental that, although they started it, still they think we are wrong to point out their judgementalism; that we are ourselves being judgemental in our pronouncements against their judgementalism. I sometimes think that they set these things up just specifically for that purpose. He who accuses first has the upper hand, it seems!

Talk about a no-win situation!

So, how do we solve this conundrum? How do we tell these people what they are doing without ourselves being judgemental, or even giving them the excuse to say that we are being judgemental? Is it even possible?

I’m 56 years old and I am still unaware of an answer. Maybe that’s something I will learn in this Dark Night. But I wouldn’t bank on it.

And please be aware that I am actually not blaming the NPCs; all I am doing is to describe how their actions and my responses/triggers have precipitated this new Dark Night. For others, their own entry into a Dark Night will be highly individual, and indeed probably unique to that person. Also, I have not been forced into this ‘course of action’ by these people, because a) it is not my choice anyway, and b) they are not that powerful. The main thing is my response to their trigger reaction in me; that’s what I need to work on.

This may well read like a rant, and I do not apologise for that. What I need to show, above all else in this series, is honesty. Because it will be of no use to my readers if it’s not honest.

And anyway I am allowed to rant. There are no rules in a Dark Night! 😉

I hope this is helpful.

Peace and Grace to you all.


*Pirated from St. Luke in Acts 1:1 😉

**What’s all this about ‘grey’ people? Well, one of the characteristics of being in a religious cult (which I believe Evangelical Christianity is) is that everyone has to be the same; everyone has to believe the same things, have the same sense of humour (none) and all that sort of thing. Imagine a group of Mormon missionaries lined up for a game of ‘Spot the Difference’ and you’ll get what I mean. And that explains the header image (it’s actually taken from a Broadway show called ‘Book of Mormon’ – and they’re not real Mormons; they’re actors...) 😉

(Not saying Mormons are NPCs; I don’t personally know any so I can’t say. But their missionaries, at least, do all dress the same and will therefore do for the purposes of illustration).

And so, despite each NPC being technically an individual, in terms of faith they are not; there is no colour, no variety, nothing interesting going on. Hence, grey.

[Edit: Apparently, the term ‘NPC’ is nowadays common parlance for people who always say the same, predictable things. Shows how far behind the times I am]

***Clue: YMCA 😉


 

30

The Dark Night Beckons…

This entry is part 1 of 4 in the series Dark Night

As my regular readers will be aware, I am a strong advocate of the idea of the ‘Stages of Faith‘, which is a loose set of ideas describing the way in which some of us humans grow and change in our spiritual lives.

One of the Stages of Faith is of course the ‘Dark Night of the Soul‘, which is where God takes a believer into a place where old ideas and preconceptions are challenged and often deconstructed. Once this period is completed, the believer emerges into a new ‘era’, if you will, of freedom and light in the Spirit. As such, the Dark Night is therefore to be welcomed and, even though it might not always be pleasant, the blessings are nonetheless real.

But the Dark Night is not always, nor indeed is it usually, a ‘one-off’ experience. Several times in a believer’s life, God might need to take that person aside for a discussion and contemplation of that person’s belief systems, attitudes, or whatever.

And I, personally, am beginning to enter another Dark Night. I am recognising the signs. Despite the lovely and sympathetic best wishes of my online friends, however, I actually relish the opportunity, because personal growth in God is one of my primary ongoing objectives. My appetite for new learning is insatiable, and in the Dark Night, we learn more about God, His secrets, and the way things work, than at any other time.

In practical terms, this means that my blog posts may or may not be intermittent from now on. I may not even do my monthly ‘Fiona’ articles on the 25th of each month. I would think also that those articles in which I present my own thoughts and ideas will be rarer, and as part of this Dark Night involves a general staying away from my usual external channels of fresh thoughts and concepts, I might not be getting ideas for blog posts from others all that often either. At the very least, others’ posts will be featuring more than my ‘own’. I have been writing this blog now for almost four years, and my output has been reasonably constant. But I don’t want to give my readers poor-quality articles that are not grounded in my deep convictions and deep thinking; I don’t want to short-change you. But, who knows? Maybe this season in my life might bring forth a torrent of inspiration…well, we’ll just have to wait and see, I guess!

So, there we have it. I am excited to see what God has in store for me over this next season, and I look forward to sharing the fruits of it with my readers in due course. It may take a few weeks, it may take a few years – although I would hope the latter is not the case. I just thought I’d better let you know ‘where I’m at’, because I cherish my readership, both those who comment and those who are the silent listeners; you are all welcome and all part of my journey. And I don’t want you to think I have abandoned you!

Peace and Grace to you all 🙂

20

The Not So Good News

Here’s a great piece by my friend Dave Griffiths:


The Evangelical ‘gospel’ so many of us believed and served for years is not much good news.

The lesson I was taught, which is being reinforced around the world all the time, is that we are essentially bad, and if we ask Jesus to be our saviour, he will save us from a bad place we will go to when we die. God is Holy and so cannot have dirty sinners in his heaven. Someone had to be punished very badly for us to be forgiven. That someone was Jesus – hence he is the saviour.

I’d almost go so far as to say that this is an ‘anti-christ’ message.

Christ means ‘anointed one’. What was the ‘anointed one’ sent to show us? How to bind broken hearts, open blind eyes, and share good news with the poor. This is good news for everyone. This is what Jesus proclaimed in the synagogue at the start of his ministry (Lk 4:18), quoting from Isaiah (Is 61:1).

So, being a CHRISTian is actually about becoming like Christ. Doing all that good stuff. We get to unmask and dethrone the powers of the world that are built on evil ways. We get to see the divine economy (Kingdom of God) shared among us.

We get to be possessed by the Holy Spirit and made more and more compassionate, forgiving, empathetic, nonviolent and non-judgemental.

Paul grasped this. John grasped it too. Peter to an extent. I reckon the Marys were probably way ahead of them.

I’m so sick of the message from the mainline church that basically destroys your sense of Christ within you and makes you a grovelling wretch that pleads with an angry god to forgive you because you’re covered in Christ’s blood. All you are is sorry, and then you try all your life to please god by behaving better. Well, that isn’t good news.

We don’t get to live for God. We get to live as God, and in God.

Friends. Reject all the negative, false gospel that tell you and everyone else that they are not worthy. You are and always have been. Made in God’s own image. You are invited to more and more love and goodness by simply discovering what you already have.

– rant over.

Shalom.


 

10