Category Archives: Insights

The Bottomless Pit

There are people, and this is especially common amongst controlling types, (who actually depend on this mechanism for their control), who ration their approval towards their victims.

People who look up to them try anxiously to please them, to appease them and to win their approval. But the problem is that this resource of commitment, devotion and being anxious to please is wasted on these people because they do not value it except only as a means of measuring how much those unfortunate people are trying to suck up to them. It’s like throwing your attentions into a bottomless pit. I know people like this and they use these tools deliberately as a means of control – the tacit or overt withholding or dispensing of approval – in order to make others do their bidding. Being Aspergic, of course, this sort of manipulation goes straight over my head, and it’s only by examining a situation really carefully and logically that it becomes clear to me. But it’s true nonetheless; there really are people who behave like this. No doubt you too will know someone like that.

I had been thinking along these lines for some time when, true to form, I found something where another believer echoes similar thoughts. In this case, it was the brilliant Jeff Turner, whose thoughts on this complement mine nicely – partially because they’re not identical! – recently shared a short piece which clicked with me immediately. Here it is:

“I dare say that there are thousands reading this who live for the opinions of people whose approval they will never get. When it comes to fundamentalist types, as wonderful of people as they might be, some of them just aren’t budging. They’re fearful, terrified, and have convinced themselves of the rightness of their beliefs, though they were blindly received, and remain both untested and unexamined. Maybe you’ve become a pariah to them; a heretic, unsaved, or some other epithet they render powerless through endless repetition. They may be parents, children, old friends, former pastors or leaders, or something else entirely, but whatever the case, you living your life seeking their approval, and refusing to move on until you get it, is a fruitless endeavor. Some people will never approve of you because some people refuse to think and move forward themselves. I’m not saying cut these people out of your life, but, please, for your own wellbeing, cut yourself free of them. They know that they hold you in bondage by withholding approval. Do not let such ones be in control of a life you fought very hard to have”.

This is excellent advice on all counts. I love how Jeff can so concisely express these things and yet be so easily readable. I do tend to ramble, myself 😉

It also occurred to me that people who ration their approval, like those we have talked about above, are usually those who also believe that God is impossible to please in exactly the same way and for exactly the same reasons. They believe (although they would not describe it in so mamy words) that god holds them too on the whim of his own approval. And they project that on to their congregations and that’s how they control them. As Jeff says in his book, Saints in the arms of a Happy God, “…In our Western traditions God is often presented as being cold, austere, distant and judgmental. We imagine Him surrounded by dark clouds, with a scowl sprawled across his angry mug…He’s very eager to be pleased, but, unfortunately, extremely difficult to please….the God that a large percentage of us imagine and pay homage to is disgruntled, disappointed, and disapproving”. And this is spot on. Many, many believers have been taught that this is the normal way of things, and that this is the way God is.

But He’s really not. The Kingdom of God is supposed to reflect the character of its King, and if the Kingdom of God is supposed to be ‘righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit’ (Rom 14:17), then it follows that these will be at least some of the attributes of God’s character too. If that’s the case, then those who lead by the underhand techniques wwe have been talking about here are not really displaying many of those attributes, if we’re honest! And as I have said before, these people do not represent God, nor do they carry His authority.

No, God is full of joy, laughter and goodness, whereas Religion is full of grey people who think everything has to be really serious all the time. They think you can’t have any fun in case you fall into ‘sin’.

Maybe it’s like in Job 1:5, where the old guy makes a sacrifice for his children after they have been partying, ‘just in case’ they have ‘sinned’:

“When a period of feasting had run its course, Job would make arrangements for them to be purified. Early in the morning he would sacrifice a burnt offering for each of them, thinking, “Perhaps my children have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” This was Job’s regular custom”.

But God isn’t all serious like this. God Himself laughs for the sheer joy of all He has created, and all He has planned, and is supremely happy and joyful. He loves to delight and surprise us, and He rejoices with us when we too are delighted. God likes you, just as you are.

And therefore I believe in a happy God. Do you?

 

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Why We Need To Stop Demonizing Those Who Leave The Church

Following directly on from yesterday’s post by Phil Drysdale that I shared, here’s his blog article fleshing out the ideas in some more pratcical terms. This is, I feel, so important to see in these days of increasing nastiness towards those – even ‘former brothers and sisters’ – that ‘fall away’. Over to Phil:


 

“They’ve backslidden.”

“They fell away from the Lord.”

“They fell from grace.”

“They are no longer walking with God.”

“They’ve turned their back on Jesus.”

These are the sorts of phrases I would have frequently used in the past to describe someone who had stopped going to church.

I wouldn’t be surprised if you’ve heard some of these phrases too, you might even, like me maybe, have used them too.

But over the years, doing what I do, I’ve found myself drawn more and more to those outside the church than to those in it.

One of the aspects of having an online ministry is that those who contact me have a degree of anonymity. This in turn means people open up to me in a way they don’t with their pastors, church friends and sadly even their spouses at times.

I get a unique window into the lives of those who reach out to me. Which is many. When I travelled more often a few years back it was when talking to people around services (therefore mostly people in church meetings). Now I focus on online resources and social media I get hundreds of messages of people reaching out to me every week. More often than not these people don’t go to a local church.

Why leave the church?

The reasons are many. Maybe they were abused by the church leadership. Maybe they came out as gay and weren’t welcome any more. Maybe they were disillusioned by the affair the pastor had. Maybe they started to doubt some of the key teachings and were encouraged to stop asking questions or to find another place to worship. The list could go on for a long, long time. Believe me when I say I’ve heard thousands of stories over the years and while there are many similarities no two stories are identical.

Suffice to say, the fact I love the Church and I still very much believe in the Church is somewhat surprising given the horror stories I hear every day.

I think it’s because when I was in church meetings every day throughout the year all over the world the conversations were largely positive. So I hold onto that and remind myself that just as I was in a pro-church bubble then I now find myself in a very anti-church bubble today. Both are biased experiences that do not tell the whole story for everyone.

The thing that surprised me was not however the terrible experiences people had in church. I’ve had a handful myself so it stands to reason when you cast your net to the entire population of the planet online you’ll find some people that have been hurt or given up on the church.

The big surprise…

What surprised me is that most people I encountered hadn’t given up on God, on their faith, they desired to continue on a spiritual path of some sort.

They still loved Jesus.

As I started to do research on this I was shocked.

Did you know that 30 years ago a study was done in the UK that found around 48% of people who left church maintained some level of spirituality.[1]

More surprising when the same study was done in 2000 just 13yrs later the number had risen to about 78%.[2]

A national survey again in the UK in 2000 found that 38% of people who left the church felt the daily personal presence of God. 37% said that God frequently assisted them by answering prayers.[3]

I could go on with interesting statistics all day, but I have been told by my wife that not everyone finds statistics as interesting as I do.

The point being that it’s safe to say that when people leave church they aren’t always leaving God.

When they say “I’m done with Christianity” they often don’t mean, “I’m done with Christ.”

And this has certainly been my experience as well. Daily I speak with dozens who have found their church experience to no longer facilitate their spiritual growth.

In fact, for many it is because they are spiritually growing with Jesus that they find themselves leaving their local church! That’s right, they feel Jesus is calling them away from their local church so they can continue to grow!

Why do I say all this?

Because I think it’s high time we stop seeing the church and church attendance as the defining line of in and out. I’m personally not a fan of ins and outs anyway to be honest.

But talking about people who are not in church as unsaved, backslidden, unbelievers etc. only serves to push them further away from us as a community.

Instead we need to be asking, what does it look like to accept this group of brothers and sisters in the world without requiring that what they do on a Sunday morning looks like us?

I myself here in the UK go along to my local church on Sunday afternoons. But every Sunday morning I meet with others on spiritual journeys mostly outside of churches. We go climbing at an indoor bouldering wall and have brunch that usually lasts well into the afternoon as we have great chat about everything and anything.

To be honest, most weeks I find the mornings more spiritual and more nourishing than the afternoon! Maybe I’m a closet backslider too. Or maybe, just maybe God can be found outside four walls. Maybe we are writing off a whole group of people and intentionally isolating them because they don’t fit in our box?

Let’s remember this – church originally was just the gathering of followers of Jesus.

So let’s not limit what church can be by requiring attendance in a building for it to apply.

There is a desperate need in the body of Christ

For me over the years my ministry has shifted away from people in the church. People inside churches have huge quantities of people to help them. There is no limit to people in the church you can talk to, your pastor, leaders, peers etc. plus most ministries out there are for those in church (or for getting those outside church into church.)

But there aren’t many people looking to help those coming out of churches… for good or bad reasons it’s almost always a lonely and scary time. It’s a time where many may well give up on Jesus and spirituality all together if they don’t see another way to do it. If they are not taught that their local church and Jesus are not synonymous.

I personally see it as a great privilege to come alongside such people.

Many will (and do) see me as the one who leads people astray. That is a shame, but they seem to care a lot less when it’s their son or daughter who is the one leaving church and they come to me to find spiritual guidance and a safe space to process.

I don’t really mind what people call me. At the end of the day I’m in good company if people think I’m backslidden or a sinner! That’s the sort of things people called Jesus because of the company He kept.

What I care about is that there is a safe person out there who isn’t crying out “heretic” or “backslider” as people are going on a legitimate spiritual journey.

My prayer is that those people might find in me someone who is saying, “hey, this is a pretty scary and lonely journey, want some company?”

And my greater prayer is that there might be more people rising up who equally desire to fill that role.

So I’ll leave you with a challenge, will you be a safe place that celebrates people going on a journey and helps them go on that path? Or will you demonize their path because it doesn’t look like yours?

Will you be a part of the problem or a part of the solution?

[1] Hay & Heald, 1987

[2] Hay & Hunt, 2000

[3] Hay & Hunt, 2000

Link to the original article

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Are you persecuting the largest growing group of Christians?

I get a weekly email newsletter from Phil Drysdale, a man for whom I have the greatest respect, and who is a real Christian thinker. In the past, I have likened to C. S. Lewis other thinkers like  the superb Jeff Turner, and I would say that Phil is in the same league.

Today, I would like to share with you a piece taken directly from his latest newsletter. Don’t be put off by the title!


Are you persecuting the largest growing group of Christians?

I’m fascinated by how the Christian landscape is changing in the West.

It’s something most Christians are aware of. But just in case you aren’t I want to share some stats with you…

Did you know that in the USA, the most conservative numbers suggest ~3500 people leave the church every day. This equates to dozens of churches closing their doors every week!

The fastest growing Christian group is Evangelical Christianity, which grows at a rate of ~1,000 a day. Which is pretty impressive, until you realize that most of those people come from other churches. It’s not really a net gain for Christianity as a whole.

Some statistics suggest that while the Evangelical church grew by 2 million between 2007-14, the amount of people leaving church entirely in that period was 19 million (that’s 10,000+ a day!).

That’s 10 times as many people leaving Christianity as those who are joining the only growing Christian group in America.

This is where most Christians tend to shut down. It’s easy to look at these numbers and find ourselves in despair. To feel pretty hopeless.

But there is another way to look at these numbers.

You see there is another statistic that turns these kind of numbers on their heads. I’ve mentioned it before in my newsletters and online in various places.

That’s the statistic that approximately 78% of those who leave church still claim to follow Jesus in some way or another.

Stop and think about that.

That means of the 3600 (we’ll stick with the smaller number for the sake of our poor hearts) people leaving church today, with no intention of returning, as much as 2700 are still in love with Jesus and trying to follow Him as best they can.

I’d like to propose to you that while institutional church is facing a crisis, The Church isn’t.

Every day I talk with dozens of people who are going through this process. Most have not left their church because they have a lack of faith, but because they are growing in their faith and their church simply doesn’t have room for them to do so.

There is an astonishing awakening in the world today. And much of the church which is crying out for a move of God in their midst is missing it!

Not only are many of us missing this move of God… we are actively persecuting it!

We cry “heresy” and label people as “backsliders.” Because we have a framework that can’t celebrate people actively growing in their faith if it doesn’t involve church or God as we understand it/Him.

It has been famously said by many a leader of revival that “those in the new movement of God are almost always rejected by the past move of God.” But I genuinely believe this is exactly what we are doing right now.

Instead of writing off the millions who are leaving the church we should be engaging with them. Not with a view to make sure they stay in the church. Or even to try and change them. But rather to understand them and have relationship with them as part of our family.

Because trust me… for every person I know who left the church for bad reasons there are dozens who have left it for very good reasons. In fact, the average person sitting in a pew each week could probably grow tremendously by listening to them.

It’s easy to get discouraged for those of us who are in the church and believe in the church when people stop attending one (especially in such huge numbers!)

But with a perspective change it’s easy to see that these people never left The Church. They are still a part of the Body of Christ. They still gather with other believers. The only difference is in how we choose to see them.

So the question is, will we embrace them as part of our family, working out their faith in a fresh and new way as they feel God calling them? Or will we reject what is very possibly the next move of God?

 – Phil Drysdale, shared with his kind permission

10

Sin Stuck, or Sin Freed?

Firstly, I must apologise that I haven’t really been sharing much of my own thinking recently on my blog. I think my last post of my own personal work was my exposition on Matthew 7, back in July.

As you know, I ‘do what I see Father doing’, and while I have been having lots of ideas and beginning essays on these ideas, I have also found that others have been posting stuff that is definitely worth sharing, and is also ‘what I see Father doing’, and so I have shared that. I know I don’t have to apologise for what I write here, but I thought I’d just give a bit of an explanation for my regular readers.

Anyway, I saw an excellent piece yesterday by Ralph Harris, which I found was echoing exactly the sort of things I have been preaching over the last couple of years about believers being personally a New Creation. Wow. In his header for the piece, Ralph also encouraged people to share it, so I have done so without asking specific permission*. The Easter theme he mentions is because he published the piece at around Easter time, but of course the ideas behind it are timeless!

Here we go:


Not long ago I was involved in a Facebook thread in which people were discussing sin. One person became increasingly indignant with me—she was pretty much yelling via text—and insisted that, as a Christian, she would always be an “incurable sinner,” whose best hope was “sin in remission. Don’t you know that?!” she demanded.

Well, I answered, only if you think of yourself as the unchanged, old creation, the former creation, and as what you do rather than who you truly are in Christ, a new creation. Then you can you say that you are “a sinner.” You will be wrong, but you can say it. Essentially, you will be in error concerning what Jesus did for you and to you through the cross and resurrection. This error hurts you because, not knowing the cure of Christ, you will misdiagnose yourself and treat yourself as though you are sick. This will become a twisted and sickly caricature of Christianity; while perfectly cured, you will deny your health. You will frustrate yourself by looking for health—freedom from sin—based upon what you do, rather than upon what Jesus did. That won’t work. It never has. What He did is your cure and health, not what you do.

To the error-prone Christians in Rome, the apostle Paul wrote: “knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin” (Romans 6:6-7).

So the big question is: “Did God’s cure work for you?” Through Jesus’ crucifixion, was your old self crucified with Him? Was your body of sin “done away with” so that you would no longer be a slave to sin? Since, in God’s thinking, you died with Christ, are you freed from sin? Is what He did your cure, or do you have another diagnosis and prescription? Who is the better Physician—you or God?

If you continue to believe that you are an unchanged, old creation and an old sinner-self, and that salvation “only” rescued you from sins and guaranteed you for heaven, your diagnosis will be wrong, because you will not believe the gospel and enjoy the perfect health benefits of the cross and the resurrection for you. One was for your sins, and the other was for your new life. Those in Christ are no longer “sinners” by nature, since through the crucifixion and being included in that, they’ve had a change of nature in Christ and now share in the Father’s. They are saints by nature, holy sons in fact, and already citizens of heaven—free from sin, as is everyone in heaven.

You cannot have dual citizenship. You are either born of this world and are of it, or you are born of heaven and are of it—alien to this world and representative of heaven. Which one are you?

I love my citizenship and how I got there through the cross and resurrection with Jesus. I’ve never felt more clear about sin than after I knew the truth about those two events and my being included with Christ. In Christ, I have died already, and sin has no power over me. In Christ, I have been healed and raised, and my nature is righteous—through and through. How about yours?

Happy Easter!


*Here is the link to Ralph’s post on Facebook

And here is the video – it’s only five minutes, and it can change your life if you haven’t heard this news before:

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Grace

“Grace is wildly irreligious stuff.

It’s more than enough to get God kicked out of the God union that the theologians have formed to keep him on his divine toes so he won’t let the riffraff off Scot-free.

Sensible people, of course, should only need about thirty seconds of careful thought to realize that getting off Scot-free is the only way any of us is going to get off at all.”

— Robert Farrar Capon, The Romance of the Word

10

Take-Away Time

Well, it’s not so long since I last published a piece containing bite-sized quotes, but I have read so many thought-provoking things lately that I have collected enough for another one.

Here we go. Enjoy!


“Man made doctrines, religion, and traditions die screaming. God is stripping from the church right now everything He never told her to do and believe, and it is terrifying those in the system who are not willing to let go” – Jamie Englehart

“I think that the only sort of God one can hold on to is the one that they can freely and frequently let go of. When you inhale, you must exhale in order to find breath again. If you hold your breath, for fear that you will lose it, you cease to breathe. When you let it go, however, you will find your lungs inflated almost instantly, and with no effort put forth on your part. A God that you hold onto is one that you will lose, but a God that you lose, and who does not mind being lost, is a God you will rediscover over and over again” – Jeff Turner

“I find it disgusting how Religion takes the most glorious news – ‘Christ within you, the hope of glory’; ‘Your bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit’ – and makes it into a set of Rules instead of rejoicing in the glorious truth of it.

“Here’s how it should go: ‘God in us? Wow! That’s incredible!’

” ‘He that is in us is greater than he who is in the world? – Wow! I mean. wow!’

“But instead it’s ‘God in us? And therefore don’t smoke!’

‘He that is in us is greater than he who is in the world? – So you must not dance or go to the cinema!’

What a sad way to live. This is apparently what’s known as ‘abundant life’, btw… 😉 ” – Me

“Prayer does not bring you into the Divine Presence, nor does it bring the Divine into your presence. Rather, prayer is simply a way by which we make ourselves aware of the Divine as it is present at all times, and in all places and people”- Jeff Turner

“Don’t underestimate love at first sight. Many of us might not pass a second inspection 😉 ” – found in a Fortune Cookie

“You can always tell luck from ability by its duration” – another Fortune Cookie

“The most offensive thing about the Father of Jesus has always been who he accepts, not who he rejects; who he includes, not who he excludes. Religion has always gotten this precisely backwards, and this is why the way of Jesus is a narrow way. Not narrow in the sense that it is accessible only to an elite few, but in that those who think themselves elite reject it by default” – Jeff Turner

[In today’s Evangelical church] “…even just questioning something for which there is no Scriptural foundation whatsoever…you can be called a heretic” – Keith Giles

[Writing in response to someone criticising a ‘politically-incorrect’ joke] “You find it offensive; I find it funny. It seems that you will need to look elsewhere to find your humour, just as I will need to look elsewhere in order to find offence” – Me

“What I realised … is that a lot of control is based on fear, and God is not afraid. God doesn’t need to control” – Karl Forehand

“If my Christianity motivates me to “win souls,” attempt miracles, preach on street corners, wear out bibles, and speak in tongues until I run out of syllables, but also encourages me to abandon lifelong friends when it becomes apparent we disagree on a point of doctrine, I don’t believe for a moment that Christianity is what I have” – Jeff Turner

“If the validation of your own faith requires that you invalidate someone else’s faith, then I would say that your own faith is at least partially invalid – until you get rid of that preposterous requirement” – Me

“Nobody in my fundamental-ish church growing up meant to make it like this, but I learned a religion that for me was a lot about shame, guilt, and fear. I’m done with that, but I don’t want to flush the whole thing down the toilet”  – Jedidiah

“Grace is for the offender and the offended, the oppressor and the oppressed, the victim and the victimizer. It makes no sense. It goes against logic. It blows apart all of our boxes. But, alas, it is the Gospel. A Gospel that does not stretch your notion of inclusion is not nearly inclusive enough” – Jeff Turner

“If you think [God hasn’t spoken to you], I’m afraid that says more about your awareness than it does about God’s communication skills. He is always speaking. He is always telling you in countless ways, on countless days, how He loves you. His sheep hear His voice, they don’t just read His book” – Joshua Greeson

“Someone once acknowledged to me that the Church is simultaneously the best, and the worst, witness to Christ there is. I agree with half of that; I will leave you to guess which half 😉 ” – Me

“When the Gospel has become bad news to the poor, to the oppressed, to the broken-hearted and imprisoned and good news to the proud, the self-righteous and privileged instead, it is no longer the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” – Beth Moore

“Jesus reveals a God who does not put the weight of knowing Him on human shoulders, but on His own. He breaks into our world by becoming human, and does not require we break into His by becoming gods” – Jeff Turner

“I have my own ideas about ‘predestination’, but it struck me just now that the Calvinistic doctrine of predestination/election ONLY works if there are some who are ‘in’, and some who are ‘out’. If full inclusion is actually what the gospel is all about, then the entire Calvinism bubble bursts. And deservedly so” – Me

“Modern religion focuses on filling churches with people. The true Gospel emphasises filling people with God.” A. W. Tozer

00

Your Repentance Will Not Save You

Here is a great artice by Australian writer Russell Croft, which I am privileged to be able to share with his kind permission. Don’t let the title put you off; he explains really well in the article what he means by it. 🙂

Your Repentance Will Not Save You

“You must repent and believe!”, cries many a preacher; from pulpits, street corners and social media. The implicit, and even explicit inference is, “If you don’t, you will go to Hell”. It is a method that has been terribly powerful for some generations now, but it seems that the effectiveness of such a mantra is wearing thin. The common disregard for such preaching now should register to those preaching it as an indication that there is a problem with this particular message. But for some reason it doesn’t. This apparent disregard has been seen as a signal to preach the exact same message with even greater fervour. But where it once could bring millions of people into the Church at one time, now it is turning millions away.

The message relies so heavily on guilt and fear that people have had enough. It has been preached at them for so long that they have switched off, and for good reason. Many of them at one time or another bought into this fear and guilt and committed their lives to escaping it through the authorised means of repentance. But it has not worked. They have grown tired of the cycle of sin, guilt, shame, repentance – sin, guilt, shame, repentance. Tired because the effort and striving to live a holy life never actually amounted to any real betterment of their lives or yielded any true alleviation of the struggle. It only served to feed the cycle until it became completely overwhelming.

How is this so?

Guilt and fear do not, and cannot, ever bring about a truly transformational repentance. They only inspire a fear of one’s own eternal destination. Whether we are repenting to avoid going to Hell, or we are repenting to remain close to God (and hold on to your ticket to Heaven), we are still repenting for selfish motives and living out of a worldview completely antithetical to the Kingdom of God’s selflessness and humility. Is this something God will be proud of? Repentance is supposed to be about letting go of selfish desires isn’t it? Dying to one’s self in order to live for the Kingdom? Are we really living a life of self-sacrifice and humility if our ultimate goal and motivation is our own glorious, eternal destination?

The motives for this understanding of repenting and believing are largely selfish and sinful. And it leaves so many of us worn down, confused, doubtful and afraid of whether we are are truly saved because it is so heavily focused on our own efforts, no matter how much we dress it up in holy, selfless language.

How long does salvation that comes from this repentance last? For eternity? Or just until the next time you sin? How long can you hold out before you sin again? How often do you feel sorry and repent for your sins? Are you sure that’s enough? Jesus is almost completely forgotten in this approach, until it comes to judgment. Yes, he died for our forgiveness, but the focus is on what we must do to appropriate it. Without our repentance, Jesus is beyond worthless to us; and worse, he will actively work against us to punish our unbelief.

Repentance that works

There is a better way of repentance however, and it has a completely different starting point. True repentance is turning away from our false ways of seeing ourselves and instead adopting God’s vision of who we are. God is Love. Unconditional Love. This is the heart of the good news of who and what God is. We are all loved, forgiven and accepted – unconditionally. True repentance is turning away from the belief that we are unlovable (with all the sinfully depraved actions that come along with that) and turning towards the belief that we are loved, totally and graciously, and that nothing we can do will ever change that.

Unconditional Love is the only thing that can convict us in a healthy and positive way. When we look at our failings and shortcomings and see how much we are still loved despite the ugliness we see in ourselves, we are convicted of the sin of seeing ourselves as unworthy. We might feel bad about letting ourselves down, letting others down and even letting God down but God still offers nothing but love for us. There is no striving to do better, to be better in order to earn it. There is however a deep conviction that we are loved despite our failings, and a desire to simply be present in the presence of God’s Love.

When we turn away from a selfish repentance towards a real acceptance that we are loved despite our failings, not only can we let go of our burdens and sin to find peace and rest, we can begin to allow that same Love to bubble up through us and out into the world around us. We can begin to live by the Higher Law and the New Commandment through no effort of our own, but by the Spirit of Love that has made us whole.

“You are giving people a licence to sin!”, some might say. Not at all. God is patient. God is kind. God will continue to love people in their sin as long as it takes for them to see that they are loved despite their sin, just as God does for you. God knows that when you finally see your true value, despite your own feelings of unworthiness, you will eventually learn to trust such an amazing grace. And when you do, all of Heaven rejoices!

We can only trust Love once we have experienced it. And we can’t truly experience such grace if it we believe we have to earn it. Is biblical repentance something we do to earn love? Or is biblical repentance a response to unconditional love? The transformation may require more patience, selflessness and humility than we would otherwise desire, but Unconditional Love and Grace is an infinitely more authentic, substantial, legitimate and undeniable basis for repentance than a system that requires anything from us before it can become a reality.

– Russell Croft

The link to the original article is here

01

A Bag of Chips

My regular readers will be familiar with the idea of these ‘quotation’ articles being likened to the concept of small, foody snacks. This one is no different. Note for non-UK readers: Over here in Britain, what some people around the world refer to as ‘Fries’, or ‘French Fries’, we call ‘chips’. * And these are big, fat and tasty, not long and thin like what we would call American-style fries. You get a lot of flavour and a lot of satisfaction from a proper bag of chips, I can tell you, and I trust that these snippets of others’ wisdom will also be tasty in the same way 🙂


“A Flat Earther’s idea of ‘research’ is just to watch other Flat Earthers’ videos” – Sci Man Dan

“And I know that Grace rarely makes sense for those looking in from the outside” – Wm. Paul Young

“Whoever has seen Jesus has seen the Father. Therefore if it doesn’t look like Jesus, it’s not a correct image of the Father. There is no God other than the one seen in the human face of Christ”. – Jacob M. Wright

“Inclusion also ‘includes’ those who are opposed to the Inclusion message. This is something the Lord has been explaining to me over the last week or so, and He’s been showing me His great love for those who are trapped in the kind of hate-filled religion (but marketed as ‘loving’) that causes exclusion in the first place.

“No doubt this [short response] will get kickback from people who, for whatever reason, are not into including others…and to those people, I think the Lord would say again that He loves you more than you can possibly imagine. No strings attached”. – Me

“If Luther and Calvin were right in declaring that forgiveness precedes confession and repentance, then it would mean that forgiveness also precedes belief” – Wm. Paul Young

“It’s not about our free will. You’re not going to hell, and it’s for the same reason you’re never going to buy a unicorn” – David Neal

“…it is a recognised phenomenon, in the study of spiritual growth, that those who move forwards in their faith are seen by those who have not [yet, if ever] moved forwards, as ‘backsliders’. I often wonder if those who claim that we are supposed to be ‘growing into Christ’ have ever actually thought what that’s going to look like”. – Me

“If you don’t use the Bible to endorse slavery or promote women as inferior to men, then don’t use it to condemn queer folk either, otherwise you’re the cherry picker, not those who are fully affirming” – Nathan Jennings

“Every religion on the planet requires ‘separation’ [separation from God] as one of its core doctrines, because then we can tell you how to get un-separated – those of us who are the professionals – and we can charge you for it. We’ll call it something benign, and in fact we’ll make you feel really guilty about it if you don’t (and it’s on the gross, not on the net, just so you know!)” – Wm. Paul Young

“I have nothing to prove to you.” – Carol Danvers, Captain Marvel

[In response to someone asking a question about painful post-death judgement] “I don’t think there is any pain in judgement, save perhaps for a slight embarrassment as I see what I dick I was in certain scenarios. I believe that judgement will be one of restoration and reconciliation, rather than retribution and revenge. God’s wrath is against the damage caused, not against those causing it, and that damage will somehow be put right. And for those who hated me, we will lean on each other and laugh about it, because it’s all sorted out. That way, we are all winners. That’s what divine judgement looks like.” – Me

“If the idea that the Biblical authors sometimes mistakenly misrepresented God upsets you more than the idea that God actually commanded genocide does, then your ethical priorities are in the wrong place.” – Daniel Skillman 

“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes” – Anon

“…a simple look at the Scriptural narrative will put on display the sure reality that God always shows up in ways that the religious never expect and almost always detest”. – Chris Kratzer

“Praising God is acknowledging His attributes. I try to be aware when I pray that God is the ever-present, all-powerful, all-knowing, loving heavenly Father. I don’t praise Him because He needs me to tell Him who He is. He knows who He is. I am the one who needs to keep His divine attributes constantly in my mind. I try to keep the knowledge of God’s presence foremost in my thoughts. No matter where I go, He is with me”. – Neil Anderson

“Nowhere does Jesus mention that anyone should try to save others from Hell. You’d have thought if it was that important He’d have told us? You’d also have thought He’d have told us how important it was that we pluck the souls from the brink especially in the context of those parts of His teaching where the meaning is traditionally ascribed to being about Hell.

“Furthermore, if the hell-fire doctrine is true, and if Evangelical Christians claim that a loving God still lets people go to Hell ‘because He is so loving that He will not override their free will’, then it follows that they have to change the definition of Love so that it bears no resemblance to that found in 1Cor 13.” – Me

“It is quite possible to think too much, but those who accuse others of doing it are rarely guilty [of it] themselves”. – Jeff Turner


*And what they call ‘chips’, we refer to as ‘crisps’. And so it goes on 😉

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Something To Chew On

More bite-sized thoughts and ideas for you to enjoy, to get the brain working and the spirit singing. Here is wisdom* from many people all around the Internet, and indeed all around the world:


“When we come to the realization that we don’t have the power or responsibility to change anyone, our burden becomes a little lighter. We can encourage, we can pray, we can be an example, we can love unconditionally…but ultimately, it’s the Father who molds, potters and reconciles the heart. My prayer for others has gone from begging God to change them to simply this:

“Father, let them see what they look like through Your eyes.”

“Because once that happens, everything changes.” – Chris Martin

“The enemy of the Truth does his best work through the religious folks. He keeps them sin conscious while convincing them that they are Christ conscious. They are the first to throw stones, point out specks and elevate the Bible to the level of an idol. But thanks be unto God that He will bring them too into a realization of Himself through Christ in due course of time. For now ya just gotta love them. They can’t help their blindness.” – C Andrew May

“This is why I refuse to be labelled. As soon as someone has a label for you, they categorise you into a box. So I would rather people heard what I believe, and saw the sort of person I am, and only then can they realise that no box will fit.” – Me

“This is a statement that is true and worthy of full acceptance. For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe – The First Letter of Paul to Timothy, chapter 4, verse 10

“When your identity is built on your devotion to God, when your devotion fails then who are you? But when it’s built on Gods devotion to you, that devotion is never going to falter or fail and your identity is secure and you’re set.” – Lecrae

[On religious discussions online] “Maybe people should more often than not just [accept what the Bible says] and shake the dust off and leave when their message is not being received? According to the Bible, saying nothing is actually a good thing and shows maturity and wisdom. But alas… They probably won’t, because such is the religious spirit. It always has to be right and always has to get the last word, or it will eat them up inside. Their comments will never seem to be about correcting for love’s sake, but will more than likely seem to be about correcting because nobody is as right as they are.” – Tim

“For me, it’s all those people who take someone who’s full of awestruck wonder at the Person of Jesus that they have just met, and then little by little, straw by straw, they layer over their victim’s pure Jesus experience with subtle layers of rules, laws, ‘if-then’ and ‘ah, but’ qualifications, do’s and don’ts, nasty-god doctrines, tacit expectations and tacit disapprovals, until the new life is smothered, suffocated, and subjected to the evils of legalism. It’s utterly diabolical to take the new believer and do that to them. “- Me

“The roots of judgment are firmly twisted around a bedrock of fear that is buried deeply within the souls of these people.” – Sharon

“I’m not sure who it was but someone said they define a cult by how they let you leave it.”
– Monica

“If your picture of God is
starting to feel too good to be true,
you’re starting to move in the right direction.” – Greg Boyd

“The awkward moment when the people that prophesied you would break religious mindsets are now angry you’re breaking religious mindsets.” – Matthew Challenor

“If you never hear another word I ever say, hear this and remember it. God is Love, If it doesn’t look like love, then it’s not God, it’s a religious lie…..even if it is found in the Bible.” – Anonymous Baptist Pastor

“Grace doesn’t point out the problem, because it’s the solution.” – Jim


*If you are uncomfortable with the idea that humans can generate wisdom, because all wisdom comes from God or other such objection, please can I respectfully refer you to this article where this is discussed in depth, and hopefully your fears will be assuaged 🙂

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Lest Ye Be Judged

I’m sad to say that if there’s one thing that Christianity in general is notorious for in this time – and probably throughout most of Church history – it’s its Judgementalism. The attitude that feels that a person or organisation has some sort of right to judge someone else.

Many people in the world make value judgements about other people on a daily basis, sometimes even hourly, and they do so verbally, mentally, in gossip and rumour, backbiting and slander, as partially described in Gal 5:19-21 as being fruits of the flesh. And it seems that, instead of being different from all that worldly behaviour, many Christians not only judge others just as harshly as do the world, but they do so with a sickening self-righteousness that comes from a perceived divine mandate to judge others.

Jesus said that people would know us by our love for one another, and I strongly agree that this does indeed happen, where Jesus is allowed to express Himself through the hearts of people who listen to His voice (Jn 10:4). It’s awesome to see. But sadly, it is also painfully true that Christianity makes more noise by judging others than they do about loving others. Granted, they will claim that they are exercising ‘tough love’; ‘pointing out people’s sin’ in order to ‘save’ them, and that by this they are being ‘loving’*. But nobody likes people pointing the finger of judgement at them, and that’s certainly not the way to ‘win converts’. This is not Good News; all it is is bad news that Christianity has sunk so far.

Jesus said many times not to judge others. In response to this, though, Religious hardliners will both twist Scriptures that say it’s not good to judge others so that those passages support their judgementalism, and will also point out other places where Jesus purportedly said about it being ‘allowed’ to judge others. But given the context of such passages, and given the larger overarching context of the nature of Jesus and the Father Whom He perfectly portrayed, those passages must be read with the Good News in mind rather than the Bad. So, rather than saying ‘It’s ok to judge others’, we should instead not judge others at all, and, instead look at those other passages in their correct contexts and not simply accept them as ‘plain reading’ excuses/proof-texts to allow us to judge others. My position on judging others has always been clear: Don’t. Just don’t. I won’t proof-text this; I know that the Scripture is an excellent tool for the Rabbinic-style debate of putting together two polar-opposite propositions and arguing it down to a mid-point position, and gleaning truth in the process. That is good and healthy, but not all Scripture is suitable for that. The Scriptures on judging others are among those not really suitable for that kind of debate; suffice it to say that I simply believe that judging others is so harmful on so many levels, both to the one judging and to the one being judged, that it is unhealthy to do it.

I also think that if we judge others, we are putting ourselves on a pedestal and thinking of ourselves as being somehow better than those others. Disguise it or excuse it all you like, but that’s the reality behind it. In judging others, we are saying that we are somehow better than they are. And for those who hold the Bible as a Rulebook, I would say that they are conveniently ignoring one of their Rules: St. Paul’s injunction to ‘…not think of yourselves more highly than you ought…’ (Rom 12:3).

What do we do, then, when there is a judgemental prat on a forum – and we’ve all seen them – who is doing the judging? He’s sitting there traversing his guns left and right and shooting at all those who come along telling him to chill out  a bit. We’ve all seen him; he’s just like a cornered animal. He has to tackle all comers. Every question and assertion has to be answered. Every point has to be addressed and (usually) refuted. Every bit of Good News shown him has to be countered with some Bad News from another Scripture verse. It’s a sign of the religious spirit that it always has to have the last word, and he does indeed do that. And yet there is a sense of defensive – but – still – aggressive desperation in his posts that suggests a deep insecurity in his relationship with God; that he seems to think that if he doesn’t counter every argument successfully, not only are his victims going to Hell, but he is probably going there with them (likely in a handbasket), for not ‘saving them from the fire’.

That’s no way to live.

I often despair over people like this. They come uninvited into others’ discussions and lash out with their flailing comments, and then suddenly they’ve moved on and they’ve forgotten all about it, but left a trail of damaged people in their wake. This indeed is an example of those who would ‘steal, kill and destroy’ (Jn 10:10) and is the exact opposite of the gentle Christ Who does not break bruised reeds nor snuff out smouldering flax (Is 42:3, Mt 12:20).

So, what do we do about them?

Well, I was involved in a great discussion about this sort of thing some weeks ago. One thing in particular that spoke to me was this little nugget from a lady called Sharon:

The roots of judgment are firmly twisted around a bedrock of fear that is buried deeply within the souls of these people. I ache with a dichotomy of anger and desperate painful sorrow that battles inside me when I ponder this stuff .
“My belief in the truth of that statement is the main reason I am able to survive being surrounded daily by those who are trapped in that bondage; allowing me to function with love and prayers for their freedom instead of getting angry and frustrated to the point of despair, or lashing out and compromising my own commitment to peace while losing any position to influence change that I currently have”

Now that is profound. “The roots of judgement are firmly twisted around a bedrock of fear that is buried deeply within the souls of these people”. Maybe it looks something like this,

…but you get the idea. And I think Sharon is right when she says that these people need prayer for their freedom. Of course, such prayer would best be done secretly and without telling the person. Firstly, there is nothing quite so condescending as the offer of ‘I will pray for you’ when that offer is made to someone with whom you disagree. It makes it sound as if you want God to bring them round to your point of view, and actually hardens them to the freedom they so desperately need. Secondly, it is such a lovely thing to see when someone emerges into freedom without them even knowing you were praying for them 😀

So, not all Christians are judgemental. Those of us who do enter into ‘discussion’ with the desperately Religious do so not to judge or argue, but instead with a desire to bring freedom, but with no real expectation that such freedom will happen for those with whom we are discussing things, save for the direct intervention of Father, Who, let’s not forget, loves those people just as much as He loves us. What our real expectation is, however, is actually this: we remember that there are many, many silent readers who read our stuff, in addition to the judgemental person in his corner. Our hope is that that those others will see that there are gentle Christians who are not judgemental, and are accepting, affirming and inclusive. And that is one of the main reasons why we have to keep our conversations ‘full of Grace and seasoned with salt‘, otherwise, as Sharon hints, we lose our influence towards change. Don’t get me wrong; I am never out to ‘convert’ people. I gave that up a long time ago. But I am all for releasing words of freedom ‘into the wild’ so that people know how much God loves them, just as they are, with none of the conditions that Religion would place on our acceptablility before God. Each of us has to come to God in our own way, and this is why there is no pre-set ‘formula’ described in the Bible to enable us to do so. When preconditions exist for our acceptability before God, this inevitably leads to a whole entangling web of legalism and bondage which will only need to be left behind at some point in the future when we realise our true freedom. And that can be painful for us and others around us. I sometimes wonder if some of our ‘cornered animal’ friends are people on the cusp of realising how much bondage they are in, and are expressing the last of their deperation with their current belief system before they finally throw off their chains and walk free. Kind of like birth pains. I sincerely hope so.

Don’t just take my word for it, though. Do a Google search under ‘Judge Not’. You will certainly find many references where Christians are justifying judging others, as you might expect. But you will also find other Christians who believe that judging others is harmful and should therefore be refrained from. Not as a Law or Rule, you understand, but simply because it makes you look like a complete pillock.

Be prepared to believe that not all Christians are judgemental people like our ‘cornered animal’ friend described above. Note also that the weight of the hits you get on Google will be more about those who consider it ok to judge others. This is because it is, as we have seen, the predominant view in Christianity: judge away; it’ll be fine. As always, those who are listening to the Spirit of Grace will be in the minority – but those are the ones you need to listen to.

What I find funniest – and most annoying at the same time – is that when people tell the cornered animal that they are coming across as judgemental, they usually play the “Ah, but now you’re judging me too!” card.

Well, dear Judgemental Cornered Animal, I’m sorry, but if you are going to come into others’ conversations and judge people left, right and centre, then you don’t get to play the ‘You’re judging me!’ card. You started it, mate. And I would also add that Jesus warned you about this sort of behaviour. He wasn’t laying this down as a Rule, but as wisdom, and when He said, “Judge not, that ye be not judged”, for with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again” (Mt 7:1-2), just before He gave His plank-and-speck parable in v.3. So this is entirely about judgement. You see, Mr. Judgemental, what is happening to you is exactly what Jesus warned you about in His clearest statement about not judging others**. If you do this, then people will judge you back again, and then some. They are judging you back in full measure, pressed down and shaken together (in other words, fair measure) – giving you back just exactly what you deserve, which is exactly what you have given out in the first place, just like He said would happen. So it jolly well serves you right.

And you can’t say He didn’t warn you!


*But if what someone thinks of as ‘love’ does not match up with 1 Corinthians 13, then it’s not love.

**Of course, all judgemental Christians justify their ignoring of this wisdom of Jesus by making an exception for themselves, saying He didn’t mean not to point out sin, saying whatever they like, in fact, to allow themselves to judge others. And in some ways that’s fair enough, because they can interpret the Scripture just however they like. But it still doesn’t mean that they are exempt from being judged back again. That’s going to happen anyway!

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