Category Archives: Others’ stuff

Elevenses

“Jesus: ‘You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy’; but I say to you, love your enemies.’ For the 1st century Jews, the effect was the same as if a preacher stood up today and said, ‘The Bible says……but I say to you…..’”
– Brian Zahnd

Deconstructing our faith is letting go of any part of whatever you believe that does NOT tell you that you are absolutely, unconditionally acceptance, included, loved and beloved. It can be scary and feel overwhelming.  But it is one of the most beautiful things you will ever do. What remains is real and pure and celebrates who you are, without condition.
– Susan Cottrell

When a toxic person can no longer control you, they will try and control those around you, and how those around you perceive you
– Sacha DeSouza

If you love, and love well, I don’t really care what you call yourself. You embody my faith, which, so said Paul, counts only when expressing itself through love.
I know a great many people who, in silence and anonymity, better flesh out the faith many claim to have than most (including myself) who insist on labeling what they have.
– Jeff Turner

Religion: You have to understand an ancient Jewish text correctly to have knowledge of God.
Spirit: No, you don’t. Realize it was the story and descriptions of their experiences, centuries ago and create your stories with your own descriptions of your own experiences today.
– Ken Etter

Troll comment [talking about brother Christians who don’t believe the same as she does]: “And they will also be going to hell for their sins against God/Jesus”

Me: “Nah, God says ‘I will remember their sins no more’. It’s right there in your Rulebook, with no conditions attached”
– Me

Everyone fails at being who they’re supposed to be. The important thing is to succeed in being who you really are.
– Sue

Grace does not close your eyes to sin. Grace opens your eyes to your identity as righteous, and behaviour always follows identity.
– Don Keathley

“Love Me or burn”. Put like that, it’s easy to see that God just isn’t like that.
– Me

[commenting on incorrect apostrophe use in a ‘credible’ video] It seems like people put in extra work to look less intelligent
-Anon

Grace teaches that the Father gives gifts, not merit badges.
– Don Keathley

[To a judgmental person on a forum] Is it your entire calling in life to judge others, or is it just something that you do in your spare time?
– Me

I’ve decided to stay up on New Year’s Eve this year. Not to see the New Year in, but to make sure this one leaves…
– Graham

To believe God cannot look at sin is anti-biblical.
Habakkuk states otherwise.
Jesus being with sinners states otherwise.
Jesus becoming human states otherwise.
Jesus becoming sin for us states otherwise.
Be careful what you believe and have been taught.
– Dale

“Christianity is like a swimming-pool. All the noise comes from the shallow end.”
– Quote from a US theologian.

Do you know why old men study the scriptures? it is because they are cramming for final exams.
– Richard Carlin

[In response to a really wise statement] “I am tattooing this to my soul.”
– ‘Lace’

 

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Thanos

I don’t know how many of my readers have seen the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s epic story arc spanning twenty-three films, and more are in the pipeline.

The main story is that there’s a bad guy called Thanos[1], who wants to collect the ‘Infinity Stones’, which will give him the power to destroy half of the population of the entire Universe, for the purposes of ‘balance’.  My friend Mo Thomas wrote an excellent piece using Thanos as an illustration, which I wanted to share with you here. He followed it up with a quotation from the great A. W. Tozer, too; can’t go wrong! 🙂

Here you go:


Thanos – Compassionate Supervillain?

Did you watch Avengers: Infinity War? Consider the character of Thanos the villain – his “noble” desire was to collect the stones, and then wipe out 1/2 the population for the greater good of the world. Agree? If you haven’t seen it, imagine Hitler wiping out 6 million Jews, and many other evil, sadistic dictators throughout history who kill off portions of humanity in the name of progress.

What would you say, if you had no familiarity with the Bible, and you heard the following about God:

1 He wiped out the ENTIRE world’s population – including women, children, and babies – except for saving 8 people to start over (Noah and family), all for the greater good of the world.

2 He directly caused rape and infants being bashed against rocks. (Isaiah 13)

3 He authorized that virgins should be kept as spoils of war after a victory against another people group.

4 He will sustain most of the world’s population in excruciating torment for billions upon billions of years, without hope of repentance, for NOT loving Him in response to His unconditional love.

As an “unbeliever” hearing this unfiltered truth, what image of God would come to your mind? What is the essential character of God that you’re being asked to believe, and follow???

Is this a biblical case of both terrorist/rescuer residing in the same deity, like…
Jekyll and Hyde?
Thanos and Ironman?
Hitler and MLK?
God the Father and God the Son?

What we need to be saved from is our counterfeit, distorted views of God. Don’t confuse the Abba of Jesus with a Marvel terrorist villain or an evil human dictator, which can easily happen when one reads the Scriptures using the distorted lens of dead-letter literalism without any aid from the Spirit of Christ.

The portrait of God we have in our mind and heart is an important and powerful indicator of one’s perspective towards life, and towards others made in Their image – we become Who we behold.

________________

“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. … Worship is pure or base as the worshiper entertains high or low thoughts of God.

For this reason the gravest question before the Church is always God Himself, and the most portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like.

We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God. This is true not only of the individual Christian, but of the company of Christians that composes the Church.

Always the most revealing thing about the Church is her idea of God, just as her most significant message is what she says about Him or leaves unsaid, for her silence is often more eloquent than her speech…”

A.W. Tozer


– Mo Thomas, used with his kind permission

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Footnotes

Footnotes
1 Header picture shows Marvel’s arch-villain Thanos, played by actor Josh Brolin

Le Pique-Nique

Pique – Nique is of course French for ‘Picnic’

Another collection of (hopefully) profound and/or interesting quotes from across the Internet. Oddly, many of them this time around are by anonymous people.

Oh well. Enjoy 🙂 :


People seem to have a tendency to treat their notions about God as though the notions are God.
– Anon

I’ve been struggling to sleep recently, but I got half way through your comment and was out like a light for a solid 8 hours. Thank you so much!
– Anon

The [high-control religious cult] are entitled to their own beliefs, but they are not entitled to their own facts.
– Gordon

A baby bird honors the egg by breaking it, not by remaining inside of it longer than it should and dying. There are some things in your life that you are meant to honor by breaking.
– Jeff Turner

If God desires us to love Him in any serious way, He would be stupid to threaten us with Hell. Or any other punishment. Once punishment is introduced, any action comes from fear, not love.
– Susie

If wrath would be a property of God it would be the 10th fruit of the Spirit. It is not.
– Anon

Do not be concerned so much with what people say and think about you. That only causes you not to believe what God says about you.
– Dave Adams

God Has
More Faith In You
Than
You Have In God
– Mo Thomas

That’s one of the major reasons I left [a well-known Fundamentalist church]; it’s difficult to take a church service seriously when it’s basically Sunday School with bigger words.
– Dane

Probably the number one thing that has given me hope is the idea that I’ve always been good underneath all of the lies; that the truth is for me and not against me.
– Amy

The Bible worshippers think God stopped speaking after the last word in the book of Revelation. Then they limit God to just be a sign poster pointing you back at the Bible.
– Kehinde

We often say that the good is the enemy of the best, and we should add to it that the familiar is the enemy of the possible.
– Jeff Turner

Jesus says in John on one occasion that the Spirit would lead the disciples into all truth. In another, He says no one can come to Him unless the Father draws them. Nowhere does it say the Bible will do either. So when evangelicals put a greater emphasis on the authority of the Bible, they minimize the Spirit’s role in both the incarnation and resurrection. The Bible did not become incarnate nor was it raised from the dead. Jesus was and did.
– Anon

Only love that cannot be changed by our behaviour can actually change our behaviour.
– Dave Griffiths

The only “sinner’s prayer” that will ever matter was not prayed by you, but on your behalf: “Father, forgive them. They have no idea what they’re doing.”
– Jeff Turner

“The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom – it’s how we first begin to take God seriously. But if we stay on the road of divine wisdom long enough, we finally discover that God is love and One from whom we have nothing to fear. Indeed, perfect love casts out all fear.”
– Brian Zahnd

“Every day people are straying away from the church and going back to God.”
– Lenny Bruce

It doesn’t matter how beautiful your theory is; it doesn’t matter how smart you are. If it doesn’t agree with experiment, it’s wrong.
– Richard Feynman

Have you learned that you can’t speak butterfly language with caterpillar people?
– Don Keathley

 

 

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The Misinterpretation of Grace

This entry is part 3 of 3 in the series Grace and the Believer's Freedom

I read a great little piece earlier this year by Jamie Englehart, whose work I have featured before here on my blog.

To conclude my short series of reblogs on the nature of the believer’s freedom under Grace, I thought it good to share his short piece here in order to sort-of sum up.

Be free!


“The litmus test of if what we are preaching and listening to is the Gospel is best summed up by British pastor and theologian D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones ‘There is no better test as to whether a man is really preaching the New Testament gospel of salvation than this, that some people might misunderstand it and misinterpret it to mean that it really amounts to this, that because you are saved by grace alone it does not matter at all what you do; you can go on sinning as much as you like because it will redound all the more to the glory of grace. If my preaching and presentation of the gospel of salvation does not expose it to that understanding, then it is not the gospel.’

“If we are afraid of that [concept], then we will preach a mixture of law and grace which is worse. Paul called that witchcraft in Galatians and taught that is how you fall from grace. When you sin you fall into grace, not from grace, because where sin abounds grace much more abounds (Rom 5:20). Now does that mean we should just run around sinning? Of course not; the grace of God teaches us to deny ungodliness (Titus 2:12). Plus there are consequences to sin and we will reap what we sow, but that is why we need to leave the sheriffing of the Kingdom to the Holy Spirit and trust that He that began a work in people will bring it to completion” (Phil 1:6).

– Jamie Englehart, used here with his kind permission. Scripture references inserted by me.

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It’s Your Story

Here’s a profound little piece from one of my online friends. Simply let it speak to you whatever it needs to:


It’s your story. You have to pass through the Gethsemane (place of crushing you to extract your pure essence) and endure the accusation of blasphemy as you are put on the cross by the religious establishment. They think they are killing you, but they are actually killing the false idol god of accusation. The one thief on the cross which hurls accusations and contempt.

Now as you grieve, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me,” the still small voice of Immanuel, God with us, within us, as us, speaks and says, “I’ve never left nor forsaken you. If you remember this then even here today, you shall be with me in paradise.”

This is the first day of creation as the spirit broods over the abyss you face and whispers “I am the light.”

Because of this your false accusing idol god is dead and entombed where it always belonged, but was foolishly carried around in a heavy graven coffin filled with lifeless dead stones of graven images of burdensome and inflexible rules which accuse you.

Now you are free as you hear the voice of the spirit within you and follow the mind of Christ reborn within you and are now baptized in the image of Christ seeing that all is love and love alone is the power of transformation.

 – R. I. Fiar, shared with his kind permission

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Secret Angel

My dear friend Sue is a fiery Welsh lass, who says it how it is and doesn’t pull her punches. She’d make a good Yorkshirewoman, in fact 😀

She’s also a gifted writer, with a tremendous sense of humour and sometimes quite a ‘coarse tongue’ which, to my mind, only adds to the hilarity in her writing.

Sue has quite a few tattoos[1], and I’ve seen a picture of the ones on her back: she has a pair of wings tattooed on there. Most impressive they looked too.

And Sue works in a local supermarket as a checkout operator, so of course she gets to meet loads of people of all ages in the course of her work. Yesterday, she shared a lovely story about a conversation she’d had with some of those people, and it really blessed me. So of course I had to share it here, with her kind permission.

Over to Sue:


So yesterday at work, I served an older couple who had their granddaughter with them, she was about 3-4 years old. She wanted to lift the items from their basket up to me but she took one look at me and hid behind her grandad in sheer terror (because unfortunately I have a face like a smacked arse when I’m not smiling).

So after doing the transaction I leaned down over the counter and, looking shiftily around, I loudly stage-whispered, “Hey! Do you want to see my wings? ‘Cos I have wings, I’m an angel you see. Wanna look?” Her face lit up, and she crept forward, nodding her head.

I turned around in my chair and said, “I can’t show you all of them because it’s my little secret, but here’s the bottom,” and I lifted the back of my polo shirt up, “and here’s the top,” and I pulled my collar down.

She gasped in delight when she saw them, and I stage-whispered, “Do you like them?” to which her grandma said, “Oh, aren’t they beautiful?” to her, and she vigorously nodded her head.

“You have to keep this a secret, just between us okay? You can’t tell anyone I’m a real angel, promise?” She nodded her little head, eyes still huge in wonder, big smile on her pretty face, and practically skipped out of the store.

Unfortunately the young chap who was on tills with me also saw, he obviously didn’t like what he saw though because he was kneeling on the floor, throwing up into the waste bin. I don’t know, everyone’s a bloody critic and you can’t please them all…


I love that story 😀

Grace and Peace to you

20

Footnotes

Footnotes
1 Including her own name, her husband’s name, and her son’s name, tattooed on her forearm in Elvish script – wow!

No Return

This entry is part 11 of 11 in the series The Stages of Spiritual Growth

I know I’ve shared a lot of stuff by Jeff Turner lately, but so much of it is prophetic and really needs to be as widely shared as possible. So I make no apology for reblogging this latest beauty from him.

As you may remember from my series on the Stages of Spiritual Growth, each of us grows in our Christian maturity in a different way, and sometimes in a different direction, from those of our peers[1]. And, understandably, sometimes those peers are shaken – often badly shaken – when they learn how we have changed in our views and beliefs.

This was exemplified to me very sharply only a couple of weeks ago, when a dear friend of mine was extremely shocked to hear that I no longer believe in ‘penal substitutionary atonement (PSA), or the concept that Jesus was punished for what I did wrong so that God would no longer be mad at me. I was devastated at my friend’s reaction, and I mean devastated on an emotional level because there’s no way I would have wanted her to be hurt by my beliefs. We go back over twenty years and we have been in many great worship meetings together (some of which I was leading) and we’ve shared life with each other through a fair bit of life’s ups and downs. Essentially, one of her core beliefs had been challenged quite out of the Blue by someone (me) for whom she has a great deal of respect, and that ‘s going to be a paradigm-shaking experience for anyone. And I appreciate that’s not going to be an easy thing to have to face, not by any means.

To her credit, my friend handled it all well – and we are still friends! – and in fact she herself said that she had grown spiritually from the experience. But still it brought it home to me that some people are genuinely concerned and even upset when they hear of ‘different’ beliefs like mine – particularly when they are expressed by close friends – despite the fact that today’s ‘orthodox’ beliefs have in fact not always been ‘orthodox’. Part of the problem is that we are not told about that point when we first believe; instead we are taught that ‘our way’ is the only way to believe; the inference is that it always has been so; and that everyone else is wrong to a greater or lesser degree. And that’s partly why it is so hard for some people to grow, because they see that growth as moving away from that which they were first taught, and that of course is ‘dangerous’ because what they were first taught is always assumed to be ‘right’. Therefore, any move away from that first learning is, almost by definition, a move into ‘error’. And that’s a move that, quite rightly, no-one wants to make.

In the past, I have kind-of assumed that most detractors against changing beliefs are simply being Pharisaical and awkward, and in some cases just in it for the argument. And, indeed, some of them really are – like the heresy hunters. However, I have learned from that recent painful experience with my friend that in fact some people are genuinely hurt by what they see as my/our rejection of much of what they hold dear.

With all that in mind, then, I’d like to share Jeff’s piece now:


Christians love sounding the alarm whenever another’s spiritual practice diverges a bit from the norm, and they seem to be heading in a direction that makes them feel uneasy. While said alarm may need sounding, it sadly typically involves calls to return to this or that practice from yesteryear, which is nothing that in any way needs returning to. The answers we seek do not lay in returning to the manipulative, high-pressure, performance driven revival services of the past, the prayer card-scanning and scamming prophetic meetings of the seventies and eighties, or the turn or burn, hit the altar repentance-a-thons that we’ve all had the misfortune of having been in attendance at. I’m sorry, and I’m sure your devout and sincere, but I don’t believe you when you say God is telling you this is what we need. We have a generation on our hands whose nihilism, absolute disdain for religion, and eagerness to replace it with something truly meaningful, tells us all we need to know about the efficacy of how we’ve done things in the past.

I don’t come from the mountaintop with the answer, but I can assure you it does not lay in the clear failures of yesterday. You might not be comfortable with where you see certain people going, but I honestly get more uncomfortable when I see people returning to practices and ways of being that they were once delivered from, and thinking of themselves as having “returned to their first love” in the process. I’d honestly rather see a person set off on a journey of their own, forge their own spiritual path, go totally bonkers for a bit (in our eyes), and actually discover who they are and who their God is, then to have them blindly turn back to tried and failed methods from the past.

If we actually want to be part of the movement “forward” we have to be willing to allow people to take uncomfortable turns, and to even go spelunking into some caves and caverns we think too deep and dark. There is no “forward” if we continually go backwards. And, no, I’m not buying that we used to be forward, and that our attempts at forwards were backwards, meaning that going backwards now would be going forwards. That actually works sometimes, like Chesterton’s search for heresy leading him to Orthodoxy. But unless we are returning to practices after having had our understanding of them *RADICALLY altered, I don’t buy it. The sons and daughters of the church must branch out and go on their own heroes journey, and, if they return, return transformed, along with their understanding of what it is they are returning to. So transformed should their understanding be, that it in no way seems to them like a return at all.

Let’s be honest: we’ve done things terribly wrong, and we don’t need to go back. We need to forge new paths and move into places we should have moved into years ago, but were too afraid to approach. I won’t be a part of a movement that was once on the cutting edge, but starts pearl-clutching like the Queen at a hillbilly Monster Truck rally, and whimpering like a dog during a fireworks display whenever things start really getting real. To be honest, I’d even rather fall into outright heresy for a season than blindly return to the heresy I left. No sir. No ma’am. No thanks. No way. I’ll pass.

– Jeff Turner, shared with his kind permission


I’d also like to share an excellent short blog post by Bob Ingle, which shows the attitude of some parts of organised Religion towards personal spiritual growth. I share this because it gives the less gentle side, very different from simply someone like my friend who was genuinely upset:


My Brother Will Rucker was recenty ask to remove the name of a Bible College he attended from his [Facebook – Ed] profile. Offended by Will’s greater understanding, the writer said “I pray that you return to the gospel that you have been taught”.

I wonder where we’d be today if Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John had returned to the gospel they’d been taught. I believe God reveals His truth in many ways, but I’m glad the Brothers participated in writing 27 new books. If they’d returned to the gospel they’d been taught there’d be no New Testament, there wouldn’t be as many Bible colleges, and Paul (Saul of Tarsus) would have continued persecuting those who didn’t believe the way he did…hmmm

Jesus’ home synagogue threw him out and tried to kill Him when he revelealed His greater understanding of the Gospel He’d been taught… The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free...Luke 4:18-19

Brother Will, don’t look back. Some will follow, some will throw you out but rest assured, God will continue reveal a far greater understanding of The Gospel you’ve been taught.

– Bob Ingle, shared with his enthusiastic permission

Here is the link to Bob’s original blog post


I don’t know if I can add anything to all that, except maybe to reiterate that spiritual growth looks different in each individual, because each of us is unique and needs to grow in our own way, in our own time, and under the personally-tailored guidance of the Holy Spirit. Despite their concerns, it’s never going to be any other human’s place to have the final say on what that growth can or cannot look like.

Grace and Peace to you all 🙂10

Footnotes

Footnotes
1 In fact, I have gone ahead and added this piece to that series, because I think that is says much that is relevant with regards to spiritual growth and therefore complements the series nicely

Why Grace is Coming For Us All

I love this essay. Yet another one about the fear, horror and yet eventual shedding of the Hell doctrine, written in a beautiful style by a lady who has compassion. I need say no more:


All shall be well, and all shall be well,
and all manner of things
shall be well.
Julian of Norwich

I don’t believe in hell anymore.

I don’t think believing in hell makes us very good at loving our neighbor.

It doesn’t makes sense to believe in hell given what we know about human development and trauma and psychology.

And mostly, I don’t believe in hell because I think that God comes for us all. The name of God is Love, and God can’t betray God’s own name.

I don’t believe in hell because I think that it’s grace, all the way down.

Tales of a Tiny Missionary: Evangelical Objectification

I didn’t used to be a hell skeptic. I grew up in fundamentalism, and I believed everything they taught me. I believed in hell so deeply that I wanted to be a missionary so that I could save as many souls as possible.

I was eight when I started practicing, and backed a tiny neighborhood friend into our garage, enthusiastically reading out loud from the Children’s Story Bible. She was uncomfortable, but I was persistent. The next day at Sunday School, I announced that I had “told a neighbor about Christ” and that she “really wanted to hear more about Jesus.” (Reader – she did not). When I started working in restaurants, I used to stay up all night praying for my co-workers, asking God for moments where I could turn the conversation to Jesus (poor Brandon, who had to finish mopping the floor and thus could not escape my triumphant theological trump card – Lord, liar, or lunatic, Brandon??). In college, I hoped that my answers in philosophy class would show students and professors that Jesus was the answer for their meaning-haunted lives. I prayer-walking the campus at midnight, laying hands on brick sorority buildings, praying for revival.

I was so earnest about converting people because I was so scared for their souls, and loved them so much, and truly wanted to save them from being punished for the rest of time by the God that I loved. Every conversation with a non-Christian was a chance to witness, and every friendship with a non-Christian was missional – which is to say that everything that was supposed to be intimate became goal-oriented. Neighborhood BBQ’s were Jesus MLM’s. Politely asking about church was an opening to the Gospel. Most horrifically, when people shared their losses or suffering, those heartbreaks and rock-bottom moments were retold in prayer group – because when our non-Christian neighbor suffers, it means they might just be closer to finding Christ. I’ve sat in those prayer groups. I’ve held hands and thanked God for bringing more “openness” through suffering for people I barely knew.

Jesus weeps.

In our defense, in whatever defense we have – we were so scared.

We were so, so scared.

Imagine looking at your sister, your mother, your next door neighbor, your coworker – good people that you loved! – and believing that they’re only an inch away from eternal damnation. If we did see non-Christians as salvation projects, it was because we loved them so much, and were so scared for them.

In our fear, though, the people that we loved became a project to fix, and whether we intended all these relationships to become manipulative or not – once we have particular outcomes in place for conversations and relationships, that is manipulation. As we try to mold those around us, we stop loving them fully, as they are, without requirements and without strings attached.

I guess if we think that God only loves people with strings attached, why shouldn’t we?

***

The beginning of doubts about hell got planted during my brief, chaotic, glorious season as an angry atheist. Shortly after leaving Christianity, I got coffee with one of my old philosophy buddies. He was smart and kind and loved Jesus, and was one of my dearest philosophy teammates at our secular university.

While I told my story, Derek got more and more uncomfortable. He twisted in his seat, anxiously interrupting me. He had answers to questions I wasn’t even asking. He may have even dropped the big Lord, liar, or lunatic. I was startled and confused, wondering why our honest, vulnerable conversations had become like like this. Then I realized that I was a non-Christian now. I used to be a whole human being who did beat-the-clock drink challenges with him at Libby’s or took silly pictures at Wagon Hill. Now I was only a project.

Looking back, I know that Derek was just scared. He didn’t have any tools to deal with his faithful Christian friend walking away from absolute truth. It wasn’t his fault. But it broke my heart. I felt unseen and betrayed. I cried the whole way home, at first because I was angry, and then because I knew I had done this to every non-Christian I’d ever loved. I had betrayed them, too.

When I eventually wove my way back to Christianity, that conversation with Derek stuck with me. I stayed uncomfortable with the idea of hell. I still took the Bible seriously if not literally, and the New Testament seemed unflinching about eternal punishment. But something didn’t feel right.

Beyond the objectification of “friendship evangelism,” the idea of hell seemed to have done a lot of damage for a long time. I started to interrogate the idea of “missions” – hell has been the cover for colonization and oppression and white supremacy, as we break into people’s countries, wipe out their cultures, steal their wealth, and insist they accept a God who apparently could not be bothered to speak to them in the culture and with the language they already have.

Hell may be true, but believing in it seemed to be very bad for our souls.

Chaplaining: Stories and Trauma and Cracks in Our Souls

When I worked as a chaplain, hell stopped making sense in another way.

If there is a hell, the criteria for escaping it can’t be just “accepting Jesus before we die.”

When I started working as a chaplain, I really thought that we had a lot of choices about who we are and who we become, but the more I listened to people’s stories, and the more I studied generational trauma and family systems theories, the more it felt like few of us have may fully “free” choices at all.

The reason that some people “accept Jesus” and some people don’t is chance mixed with generational trauma plus cultural baggage plus personality plus the stories we carry with us. I met people who will never go to church again because of an abusive pastor or abusive church community. They’ll never “accept Jesus,” and I can’t imagine any compassionate God blames them for that.

Beyond “accepting Jesus,” the reasons that we seek the good in healthy ways or find ourselves trapped in unhealthy patterns are often also outside of our control. I sat with people with serious mental illnesses like narcissism, formed in them by abusive parents before they could walk. There is no therapeutic treatment for narcissism. A narcissist is hurt so deeply at such a young age that they grow up to do almost infinite damage to everyone around them, because they don’t know how to love or be loved.

Does God really just allow all narcissists to go to hell?

Even though they didn’t choose this? Even though they can’t choose otherwise?

The sins of our mothers and fathers do a number on our souls. Sin makes sin, and hurt people hurt people. Generational wounds and wickedness spill out onto innocent kids, who don’t stay innocent, but grow up to turn those wounds into swords. This doesn’t mean we don’t hold people accountable for evil. It just means that at the root of evil is a deep wound, and some people have fewer choices than we like to admit, in this culture of rugged individualism and bootstraps.

Fully free choices just aren’t an option for everyone on this side of heaven.

Some of us do find a way to healing. But for a lot of people, healing won’t happen, because of terrible luck, because of an unjust system, because of systemic racism, because of generational trauma, because of abuse, because of overly indulgent parents who never taught healthy boundaries or consequences, because of a thousands decisions that were made before they were born that shape who they are.

I can’t believe that Jesus just lets those people go.

God’s grace is either coming for all of us or none of us – otherwise, we’re all just one traumatic childhood way from being cast out of the Presence.

Annihilation itself is no death to evil.
Only good where evil was, is evil dead….
That alone is the slaying of evil.
George MacDonald

When I started letting go of the theology hell, it astonished me how angry some Christians were about it. Wouldn’t it be a good thing if this weren’t true?

But in their anger, I hear an echo of the workers in the vineyard, who showed up early and then watched in shock and rage as the ones who never even went to church stream into the Kingdom of Heaven.

I hear an echo of the older prodigal son who couldn’t believe that this punk kid was getting a party when “I have been good for so long.

Sometimes I wonder if Christians are angry at the idea of universalism because they don’t actually enjoy being Christians. Their faith is a Get Out Of Jail Free Card, and if they have to tolerate the misery of religion in order to get to heaven, how dare anyone else get in without it.

We need the bad people to be punished, otherwise why did we work so hard??

If you take away hell, it forces us to reexamine why we’re Christians at all.

If we’re only Christians because of fear, then universalism will crush our entire religion.

The mark of a mature faith, though, is not one based around fear of punishment (1 John 4:18). In a faith based on love, not fear, we’re Christians because it is good to be here, because we’ve found something true and beautiful in the Person of Jesus Christ, because our lives are stronger and richer since we’ve met Him, because we have found Love.

If I found out today that there’s no eternal reward for loving Jesus on this side of death, I would still love Jesus, so very much. I would still show up at church. I would still write words trying to help us all encounter a God who aches to encounter us. I would still believe in the deep, deep love of Jesus, in this life even without the next.

“This much is certain –
that we have no theological right to set any sort of limits to the loving-kindness of God which has appeared in Jesus Christ.”
Karl Barth

I do believe that there’s another side to this life, and I believe that in that new heaven and new earth, every one of us will be gathered into Love.

But what about free will? Do we get a say at all?

I don’t believe in a God who is chasing us down and forcing us to worship God when we decide we don’t want to. What an awful idea. Consent matters.

But God isn’t an angry, punitive father figure, a divine top cop hunting for people to love Him or to suffer the consequences.

If the name of God is Love, then God is the One who sustains everything that ever is and ever will be through love. Everything that has ever tasted like joy is God. Being gathered into Love means that for the very first time we’ll be entirely free of our own broken souls that keep hijacking us to chase power or lust or greed. For the first time, we’ll actually be able to make a free choice – without the defensiveness and rage and fear that has always seemed to keep us from loving and being fully loved on earth.

Maybe there is always a choice to reject God, but if our souls are whole, cleaned of our baggage and woundedness – would a fully healed person ever say no to a God whose name is Love?

I do believe in a just God, a God who cares about the poor and oppressed, a God who does bring judgment to people who do great evil.

But God’s judgment is restorative, not punitive. If Hell is just a place people get sent to punish them, to separate them from God without chance of reunion, than Hell is just another kind of human prison system. But our God is an abolitionist. God is not a God of arbitrary punishment – God’s justice heals the wounds that causes the evil in the first place. 

And I don’t believe that this God, who heals instead of hitting, whose justice is in service of love – I don’t believe that this God ever encounters a wound that this world made that cannot be healed.

I have crossed the horizon to find you /
and this does not define you /
I know your name
.
Moana

My favorite Disney Princess story is Moana. I love the Gospel moment at the end, when Moana walks through the parted sea towards evil, because she knows that evil is just goodness that has lost its name and misplaced its heart.

On this side of the Kingdom, people doing terrible evil need to be stopped to protect the innocent. There is human judgment on this side of the Kingdom, and it’s necessary.

But in the Kingdom whose name is shalom, I don’t think there are limits to the restorative, healing justice of the God whose name is Love.

Jesus never stops crossing the horizon to find us all, every one of us.

Jesus knows our name – the true name that grace gave us, the name that’s underneath all our anger and evil and wounding. Jesus will never stop walking towards us, through the sea, until the end of time, to return our heart and speak our true name, Beloved, over us.

This world has really hurt a lot of us, and has failed to be safe or kind, and for some people, there may not be redemption this side of heaven. For some people, the wounding is too much and their resources are too low and they might never be able to hear their name when God speaks it over them. But God is stronger than the world, and grace is stronger than our broken stories, and Love always has the final word.

Grace never fails the ones whom this world has failed so deeply.

***

Some book recs on this for further reading: The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis and The Last Days of Judas Iscariot by Stephen Adly Guirgis are both allegorical stories about hell and grace that I hope everyone takes time for. George McDonald’s theology on universalism, and Julian of Norwich’s theology of sin and Divine Love, have both shaped my theological imagination as well. For an overview of universalism (even if the Biblical exegesis is a bit sloppy), Love Wins by Rob Bell is very good, too.

– Laura Jean Truman

Here is the link to the original article20

All You Can Eat

There is a subtle but important difference between ‘All you can eat’, like you get offered sometimes in restaurants, to ‘Eat all you can’, which I don’t really think is the restaurant’s intention 😉

I will let you work it out.

But for today, here’s another buffet-style meal of tasty quotes from around the Internet.

Tuck in!


“I always have been, and always will be, your Saviour”
– Jesus

Nothing discourages, dilutes, dissipates, disperses, and, dare I say, destroys the human soul like the pursuit of other people’s respect. Have it for yourself and if others catch on, great. If not, don’t lose a moment of consciousness thinking on it.
– Jeff Turner

People who claim that they went to the ‘University of Life’ and’or the ‘School of Hard Knocks’ are simply highlighting the fact that they never went to University
– Anon

The Gospel does not invite you to receive Christ, but states, as an unchangeable fact, that He has received you.
– Jeff Turner

[Speaking of a photo of a legalism preacher who doesn’t look all that happy] No wonder he’s looking so fed up. He’s missed that the Kingdom of God is not about following rules, but about righteousness, peace and joy. One is a set of behaviours. The other is a state of being. I know where I’d rather live
– Me

Yeah, my ‘salvation’ was cancelled by several people for actively and publicly building bridges with our local mosque.
– Dave [speaking of ‘Heaven’s gate-keepers‘]

Thinking that God is always trying to fix you instead of love you, will cause you to try and fix others instead of love them.
– Matthew Knickle

Please do not mistake my politeness for agreement
– Me

Why go to school if you’re not going to listen to experts?
– Anon

The disasters [ascribed to God] in the OT were, I think natural disasters. That they were ascribed to God says more about the people, or rather about the people’s image of God (which, let’s face it, was probably based upon them making their god in their own image), than it does about God Himself.
– Me

I don’t spend time grieving over healthy actions that were deemed sinful by the folklore of illiterate nomads thousands of years ago.
– Becky Michele

“I seek to end my days on an upward trajectory”
– ‘Michael’

Gratitude puts everything into perspective
– Me

“Compromise where you can. But where you can’t, don’t. Even if everyone is telling you that something wrong is something right; even if the whole world is telling you to move. It is your duty to plant yourself like a tree, look them in the eye, and say, ‘no. You move.'”
– Peggy Carter (quoted by Sharon Carter in the movie Captain America – Civil War)

Where there’s a will, there’s a way. But there probably isn’t a will…
– Anon

A god who saves you from himself is a god in whose presence you will never truly feel safe. – Jeff Turner

The phrase ‘Qualifications don’t mean anything’ is most often used by people who themselves have no qualifications.
– Me

“Grace doesn’t sell; you can hardly even give it away, because it works only for losers and no one wants to stand in their line.”
– Robert Farrar Capon

“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself – and you are the easiest person to fool.”
– Richard P. Feynman

Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are
– Chinese proverb

Labels serve almost no positive purpose in the hands of those who don’t know us. And are irrelevant in the hands of those who do
– Phil Drysdale

As I get older, I realise being wrong is not a bad thing, like they teach you in school. It is an opportunity to learn something
– Richard Feynman00

Ruach

Ruach – the Spirit , breath or ‘wind’ of God

Back when I was a Fundamentalist, Charismatic Evangelical Christian, we used to pray for God to ‘move’ on the earth like He’d never done before. For decades now, most of the Evangelical church has been praying for this worldwide ‘move’ of God, and promising the carrot of the Kingdom which will happen ‘really soon now’, but it never seemed to get any closer.

And that’s because we were looking in the wrong direction.

Ironically, the great work that God is doing right now, in answer to those prayers, is happening among people of all faiths, of all denominations, and of all cultures, races and creeds. It’s happening among people whom the Church would normally see as outcasts: the down-and-outs; the LGBTQ+ community; the divorced; refugees from cults; the poor – in fact, all the people whom Jesus said the Kingdom was for. In the parable of the Banquet in Luke 14:15-24, Jesus spoke of all the privileged people (probably meaning the Religious) who made excuses, so He sent out into the ‘highways and hedges’ (so, outside the church), and almost forced them to come in! And this is what is happening right now, and many if not most in the Evangelical church can’t see it, mainly because they deem the ‘sinners’ being ‘forced’ to come in to be not worthy of the Kingdom. But Jesus never said that anyone had to be worthy; He just invited them anyway, with no conditions, because He is giving a great banquet. Because He’s like that. And the irony is that God is doing this in answer to those very prayers that the Evangelical church has been sending up, and those of many others too – and they just can’t see it; in fact some people even brand it a work of the Devil – again, just like the Religious people in Jesus’ day (Mt 12:24). The ‘tax collectors and prostitutes (i.e. those not accepted by the Religious) are going into the Kingdom ahead of those who are praying for revival (Mt 21:31)! Irony indeed!

That the church of today is missing it all is unsurprising; the Religious missed what God was doing the first time round too, when Jesus first came. Because the wind blows where She wants Jn 3:8), and not where Religious humans say She has to; that’s just another way of saying that God always does stuff that’s unexpected. But for those with the eyes to see it, it’s magnificent. If it’s God Who is doing something, then the results will be well worth seeing 😀

Anyway, here’s the brilliant Dave Carringer who puts all this a lot better than I do:


Salvation. You might (or not) like hearing the word at this point in your life. Yet taken back to true meaning (before the doctrinal distortions of man were applied to it) it was simply a place of peace, wholeness, preservation and freedom- even to the point of protection and rescue from something that could be of harm or a risk to that wholeness and well being.

The largest move of ‘salvation’ the world has ever known is taking place right now. The true Source of all Light and Life is waking people up (from within) all around the globe. They’re being rescued from veiled distortions of a God they once believed was angry, distant and too holy to live inside them- and back (re-newed) to an upper room consciousness of unity and Oneness with each other- out of the dumbed down, disrupted mindset of separation and alienated ideas of ‘us and them’.

There is a great falling away taking place that is necessary to catapult them back to the truth and resting place of their authentic origin. In this place of peace and wholeness, certain ideas have been taken captive and cast down from their vain and distorted war-like imaginations. This falling away isn’t at all like you may have heard taught over the years; it’s men and women dropping the ill-fitted grave clothes that reek with the stench of fear and death. It’s them leaving passively imposed control and religious hoop-jumping lists behind, and coming back to the true home place freedom of their right mind.

Among things falling away are:

  • Imaginations of a distant judging deity with a continual surveillance log, who’s only pleased by a certain kind of life in service and sacrifice.
  • Mythical imaginations of a place of eternal torment called ‘hell’ which those who don’t believe, live, and serve a certain way will be cast into.
  • The idea that one life is somehow more honored or valuable than another to the Source from which all Life comes.
  • The idea that this God will (in a cataclysmic sci-fi ending) destroy the terra firma earth that exists (while a few escape to a distant members-only paradise) rather than bring man’s mind back to the genesis awareness of ‘very good’ in which it was created.

Though things may ‘seem’ dark and prolonged to our minds that were programmed with ‘time’, one day it will be seen as happening in ‘the twinkling of an eye’. We can argue, debate, and push against it with our powerless traditions all we want- but it’s coming… and nothing can stop it.

And once we see how gloriously beautiful it truly is… we’ll wonder why we didn’t surrender to it long ago.

– Dave Carringer


This wave of the Spirit is bringing a lot of shaking and uncertainty to some Christians. I can understand that many people who feel that they are ‘holding the line for God’; standing up for His truth while so much ‘error’ is flying around; I can understand why they might feel threatened, that the truth is being diluted, and that the Gospel is not being preached. That the ‘whole counsel of Scripture’ is not being adhered to.

What I can suggest to you, if you are reading this and are one of those people, is that you get close to Jesus. Not necessarily by reading more of your Bible, although if this is His main way of speaking to you, then it’s a starting point[1]. But what I mean is to get close to the heart of Jesus Himself. Listen for His voice. Hear the still, small voice right there in your heart. If He tells you something you don’t agree with because it’s not related to how you interpret the Bible, simply remember that Jesus is not confined to the pages of the Bible, and He’s certainly not confined to the way in which you personally understand it.

So, begin to swim in the ‘oceans‘ that you have sung about, where feet may fail. In fact, allow your feet to fail. You’re not supposed to be standing in your own strength anyway; you already know this. Launch off the ‘foundation’ you have been standing on – your own assumptions about God; your own Graven Image of God – and swim free in the oceans of bottomless faith. He will catch you; He will keep you afloat. There is simply no other way to live, and if you can bring yourself to swim like this, there is no limit to where you will go in that vast ocean of faith. But you need to let go of the jetty, and to take your feet out to where there is no bottom. Because when you’re out there, you won’t need feet anyway; you will be kept afloat by Jesus. Whose hands would you feel safer in: yours or His?

Grace and Peace to you.

20

Footnotes

Footnotes
1 You need to remember that although the Scriptures speak of Jesus, you still need to come to Him to have life (Jn 5:39-40).