Category Archives: Others’ stuff

Unconventional

Within Evangelicalism, there often seems to be a ‘rubber-stamp’ approach to the ‘accepted way’ to ‘become a Christian’ (whatever that means). For many, and especially for pushy evangelists, not only is there only one way to Heaven (Jesus) but there is also only one way to ‘become saved’ by Jesus, and that’s to pray the ‘sinner’s prayer’, or a similar method that is deemed acceptable to the one preaching – never mind what God thinks. And of course it has to be prayed out loud, so that the predator evangelist can hear you and make sure you’re jumping through all – all! – the correct hoops. In fact, to these people, it’s not even acceptable for you to be ‘born-in’, that is, being a Christian from birth because of the church your parents go to, because we are told that ‘God has no grandchildren’ and ‘each of us has to make their own decision for Christ'[1]. In the past, I have mentioned that I know people who are in the Kingdom, and yet never came in by human-approved methods or pathways; instead, God did it. There was no decision, no evangelism, no ‘action’ on the part of the new believer; this is likely part of what evangelists don’t like, because God did it without their help and all their formulae were irrelevant 😀 There is no ‘decision for Christ’ involved, and, well, we can’t have that, now can we? 😉

In reality, of course, every believer’s journey is different, and there is no such thing as a  ‘conventional’ ‘conversion'[2]. Here, then, I present an excellent piece by Kenn Burroughs (and used with his permission) where he describes how he ‘unconventionally’ became a Christian with no human intervention; no ‘credit’ to himself or to anyone else. It’s really illuminating; have a read:


I became a Christian thru an unusual way at 2 in the morning on December 7th 1974 in an empty Navy 4 bed barracks room.[3]

Going to church didn’t have anything to do with it.

I didn’t own a bible so that wasn’t involved in this dynamic life changing experience either.

I didn’t know I was supposed to “repent of my sins”, nor was I aware that I “needed a Savior”.

No one “witnessed” to me, whatever that meant; which, when I found out, I referred to it as “christian mugging.”

The current move of the Holy Spirit is “deconstruction”, but because I wasn’t brought up in any real life meaning religious environment, I was into deconstructing from the get go.

I NEVER believed in fiery torture for eternity.

I wasn’t any kind of womanizer so didn’t have sex until I got married, but never understood the “purity culture” mentality.

I always loved the example Jesus showed when it came to treating women instead of Paul’s thing about submission which I thought was beyond unreasonable.

I have NEVER talked about salvation to anyone, so I am not making it up when I say that my faith has been questioned at least once a week for over the 47 years I’ve loved Jesus.

And don’t get me started with denominations, because I don’t understand the reason, the importance, the silliness and even as harsh as it comes across, the stupidity of them. I just don’t get it and in almost half a century it still boggles my mind.

I am not much of a fan of Sunday services because I will never believe that an audience is supposed to sit in rapt attention to one guy spouting out stuff he got by preparing a sermon. I can’t believe the God I believe in works that way.

I have always believed the Holy Spirit was a “she” if pronouns are permissible.

I also believe Jesus loves us, likes us, comforts us, respects us, encourages us, cares for us, and accepts us EXACTLY the way we are regardless of anything.

I’m not much of a supporter of so called “christian” music as I personally got more from God thru “No More Drama” by Mary J. Blige, “Smash Into You” by Beyonce and “1,000 Cranes” by jazz band Hiroshima, which I listen to at least once a week than anything played on christian radio.

So if you are a religious Trump Republican conservative red white and blue pro life church going every time the door opens bible memorizing women should be silent men only as pastors Amazing Grace singer come up front for an altar call repeat after me ask Jesus in your heart to be saved homophobic full of Islamaphobia going to hell if Jesus isn’t Lord believer, [then] I must be the shittiest example of christianity – but that’s okay.

Honestly, because I am loved and accepted by MY God whether you do or not.

– Kenn Burroughs


I think that’s simply excellent, don’t you?


The header picture is of a Blohm & Voss Bv-141, a highly unconventional German reconnaisance aircraft of the World War II era. You can read more about this fascinating aircraft in its Wikipedia article here.

10

Footnotes

Footnotes
1 Please allow me to apologise for all the ‘air quotes’ (there I go again!) in that passage. It’s because I am using terminology used by those who do pushy evangelism. I don’t use those phrases (nor do I believe in the concepts) myself.
2 Aaaand he’s done it again… 😉
3 The December 7th date is interesting. Kenn mentions his being in the Navy, and Dec 7th 1941 was the date the US Navy was attacked at Pearl Harbor, bringing Japan and the USA into the Second World War – Ed

Morsels

Some people will judge you for changing. Others will celebrate you for growing. Choose your circle carefully.
– Anon

Let your work and your thinking be driven by a sense of amazement at how brilliant things actually are, not by the need to be vindicated.
– Me

As I like to say, when I’m not exactly sure what I want to say, “I’m going to give the wrong answer first.”
– Josh

Me [to someone vocally judging another person]: ‘Quit bloody judging people and go look in a mirror!’
Judgmental person: ‘Ooooh! You just cussed! That’s a sin in the eyes of the LORD, that is; just you wait ’til I tell Him…’
Me: <thinking> Distraction successful. Job done (how piss-easy was that?) </thinking>
– Me

We shouldn’t conclude that someone doesn’t care about a problem just because they don’t agree with our ideas about how to resolve it.
– Diana

When Jesus said ‘Do not worry’, He was talking about daily needs like food and clothing. If He’d been at all concerned that we were not worrying enough about our ‘eternal destiny’, He would have preached a whole lot more on hellfire and damnation, rather than about us simply not worrying about where our next meal was going to come from.
– Me

You will not heal by going back to what broke you.
– Anon

Yesterday morning, I was so bored with the currently-playing dream that I actually smiled when my alarm went off.
– Me

Unforgiveness is like drinking a poison and expecting someone else to die from it.
– Anon

What a pathetic god they believe in. Unable to get his way, he flings his image bearers into a fire forever rather than spend any of his infinite love or power trying to restore them. What a dick.
– Dave

If you have a problem with me, call me. If you don’t have my number, you don’t know me well enough to have a problem with me.
– Derrick Day

I didn’t want to bring people to my old church precisely because I didn’t want them to hear about the loving God I personally know, in such terrible terms [as one who would send people to burn forever in hell]. I see that now. I wasn’t sure back then why I was so reluctant, but this is why.
– Me

If you make someone’s suffering a bit more bearable today, and their burden a little less heavy, you will have manifested more of God than most religions and ideologies ever get around to doing in their entire life-cycle.
– Jeff Turner

[On people not wanting to be called Christians any more because of the bad behaviour of right-wing Evangelical nasties]:
I won’t let the pirates and interlopers steal my own birthright: the right to carry the Name of the One Who loves me. Come what may, and given all the negative connotations that the name carries, it’s still my birthright. Tarnished and sullied by the unclean it may be, but it still means the world to me.
– Me

These things just never look quite the way you pictured them when praying for them, because if they were exactly what you wanted, they wouldn’t be what you needed.
– Jeff Turner

No Christian should ever cause anyone to doubt that God loves them.
– Keith Giles

Judgmentalism is the root of all sin, imo.
– Me

Faith is not something we do to persuade God; faith is what happens to us when we realize how persuaded God is about us.
– Francois Du Toit

Enjoy what you know; look forward with anticipation to knowing more than you know now; and, most important, enjoy the journey of discovery! 🙂
– Me

 

20

The Ha-ha

It’s been a good few months now since I last shared any thoughts on my blog, which I explained at around the same time. My good friend Phil Hendry also has a blog, and oddly enough, he too has had somewhat of a hiatus in his blog posts – but today he shared his first post for some time; a piece called ‘Whitewashed Tombs’.

I liked the post so much that I thought I’d share it here, for your enjoyment and upbuilding. I particularly loved the analogy of the ‘ha-ha’, hence me naming my post with that title. So Phil and I are posting our first items in months, but it’s me who’s the pirate 😉

Over to Phil:


Whitewashed Tombs

The Church of England has begun a ‘conversation’ around the topic of LGBTQ+ inclusion. The main focus at this stage is on a course, and associated supporting resources, known collectively as ‘Living in Love and Faith’. I did the course myself a few months ago, and found it interesting and thought-provoking. At the moment I am helping to facilitate another course for our deanery (a deanery is a local group of churches). It is proving, again, interesting – perhaps more so than last time, because it’s a much more diverse group.

Something has been ‘bubbling away’ in the back of my mind for a while, but really came to the boil after the most recent session, regarding how members of the church see themselves.

We seem, naturally, to identify with the characters in the gospel stories whom Jesus, rescues, ransoms, heals, restores, forgives. Understandably so, I think, given that many people in churches feel as though they have been rescued, ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven. But something odd, if not to say disturbing, seems to happen then, in a lot of cases – something which I think we’re usually completely blind to.

If we aren’t really careful, we can find ourselves becoming ‘defenders of the faith’ or ‘gatekeepers’ – people who see themselves as preserving the purity of the faith, defending what is ‘right’ against what is ‘wrong’ and making sure that the message doesn’t get ‘watered down’ or compromised. In so doing, we draw ‘lines in the sand’ – we divide people into those who are good and ‘in’ versus those who are ‘out’ and who must change, or show willingness to change, before we will countenance the idea of letting them ‘in’.

Without realising it, we are in danger of becoming just like the people whom Jesus railed against in (for instance) Matthew 23:13:

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.”

How dare we judge? Did Jesus not say, in Matthew 7:1-2 for instance :

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.“

Having thought about that, I had a quick read through many of Jesus’ interactions with those excluded by the religious of the day – the sinners, tax collectors, lepers, cripples, blind, etc., – all those seen, at the time, as ‘unclean’ and therefore excluded from temple and synagogue. Jesus doesn’t go in for any of that, at all. He excludes no-one, on any grounds (except, possibly, those who seek to exclude others). He makes himself ‘ritually unclean’ by touching lepers; He heals the sick, forgives sinners, makes the blind see and the lame walk… All things which would ‘pollute’ Him in the eyes of religious. He doesn’t demand repentance (change) before He heals them or forgives them – or even, usually, afterwards – though repentance frequently follows as a sign of gratitude at being accepted and treated as truly human.

It strikes me that, every time the Law of Moses gets in the way of Jesus loving someone, He sets it aside, ignores it, or changes it. With Jesus love trumps (the letter of the) law, every single time. If we are to follow him, and be truly Christlike, we must, surely expect to do the same?

We may believe that ‘the Bible clearly says’ that homosexuality is sinful (there is actually a good deal of scholarly debate about that – clear is one thing it does not appear to be!), and use that as an excuse to exclude those particular ‘sinners’ – but ask yourself – is that truly what Jesus would do? Or would He find a way, instead, to set that aside, so as to allow Him to love them instead of excluding them?

And it isn’t just LGBTQ+ people either. We have also turned against our own, bullying and excluding those who dare to believe different things from us. How is that Christlike? Jesus told us to:

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Matthew 12:30-31)

He also said:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.“ (Matthew 5:43-45)

What excuse do we have, therefore to abuse those who disagree with us on matters of faith, let alone those we see as ‘sinners’?

And to those who excuse themselves by saying:

‘I’m concerned for their immortal souls – I’m just saying it to warn them’,

or:

‘I’m saying it in love because I’m concerned for them’,

I would say that you are deceiving yourself. It isn’t your job. You are not a judge, and you’re fooling yourself if you think you won’t be perceived as sitting in judgment. You are told to love them… Which absolutely doesn’t include telling them they’re wrong, even if you ‘know’ they are. Have some humility: ultimately, you might actually prove to be the one who is wrong – even when, as far as you’re concerned, ‘the Bible clearly says’.

We must be so careful in our dealings with those whom we perceive to be ‘outside’ God’s grace – in whatever way that is, be it because of their gender, sexuality, theology, ethnicity, or whatever. Paul said, in his letter to the Galatians:

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)

If we believe that, we must treat everyone the same – in the way we ourselves would like to be treated.

We went and stayed at Lee Abbey in Devon during the summer; and I found that it has what I think was once a ‘Ha-ha’.

What on Earth, you may ask, is a ‘Ha-ha’?

Rather than being, as you might imagine, a somewhat cynical, entirely feeble, attempt at humour, a ha-ha is a wall. It’s a rather special sort of wall. From one side (which we’ll call the ‘inside’ for now), it and the field beyond look just like one open field. It appears as if the animals grazing in the field are free to wander wherever they like, even right up to those on the inside of the ha-ha.

However, all is not as it seems. From the ‘outside’, if you do try to wander towards the ‘inside’, you encounter a ditch, and inside the ditch is one face of a wall (entirely invisible from the ‘inside’), preventing those ‘outside’ from coming ‘inside’… (And preventing them pooing on the areas where people walk.)

I expect you can see now where I’m going with this.

From the inside, church appears to be or, rather, wishes to present the appearance of being, ‘open’ and accessible to anyone. But…

BUT…

If you are on the outside, or if you leave and try to come back in – then you’re likely to meet a ‘Ha-ha’ – a fence which those on the inside insist is nonexistent, but which seems all too real, and insurmountable, to you on the outside.

It is very easy for us, quite unknowingly and unintentionally, to erect barriers to people we perceive as being ‘outside’. Someone I know is fond of saying that God loves all of us just as we are, but that he loves us too much not to want to change us. It’s sincere and very well-meant. But to someone hearing that, it can be hugely threatening. I have had people say similar things around me and to me. I’m not bothered by it now, because I know now how gentle and loving God is (far more so than almost any Christian I know!) . But, ‘back in the day’, words like those made it feel as though God wanted to ‘take over’ and change ‘me’ into someone else – it felt as though I was going to lose ‘myself’, my identity, and be subsumed into some nebulous, alien, ‘otherness’, and that I’d no longer be me, and no longer know myself – that I might even become one of those terribly sincere, self-assured, Christians who actually made me feel profoundly, inexplicably, uncomfortable. That actually held me back, for decades, from truly ‘opening myself up’ to God and God’s people.

These sort of ‘barriers’ are essentially invisible to those ‘inside’ – ‘we welcome anyone and everyone’ we say. But to those outside, it doesn’t look like that. There is a feeling that if you don’t/won’t/can’t ‘conform’ with what are seen as the ‘expectations’, you won’t be welcomed – or that, if you do come, sooner or later, you’ll have to either conform in order to become ‘someone different’, or find yourself ‘outside’ – whether it be for reasons of gender identity, sexuality, doctrine, theology, colour, etc.

So have a care that you aren’t, inadvertently, whilst believing that you are simply doing what’s right, acting as one of those whom Jesus referred to as ‘whitewashed tombs’.

 


Header picture shows the ha-ha at Longleat, near Warminster, Wiltshire. This shows the view from ‘inside’ the ha-ha. The ha-ha itself is the grassy line across the picture just below half-way down, although it isn’t this obvious for its entire length.

Here is the link to Phil’s original article

10

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’

 

00

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

10

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

 

 

10

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.

00

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

21

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