Category Archives: Others’ stuff

Oases of Light

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you Lord……….

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

Thank you Lord……….

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

 

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

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

Thank You Lord, indeed 😀

Peace and Grace to you


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

00

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

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

Over to you, Tim:


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

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

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

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

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

Jesus’ Wonderful Invitation to All of Us

Jesus-without-baggage-REST

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus Does not Attach Conditions to His Invitation

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

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

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

Learning of Jesus

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

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

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

Jesus Does not Load Us with Burdens as Some Suppose

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

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

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

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


Here is the link to the original article

20

So You Believe Homosexuality is a Sin, Now What?

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

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


So You Believe Homosexuality is a Sin, Now What?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2) You should be befriending many more gay people.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Here’s the link to the original piece

10

“God is Love, But…”

“God is Love, But…”

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

God is Love (or God is Good)…BUT.*

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

But Grace says this is an utter pile of tosh.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

…He is also just.”

…He is also holy.”

…He is also righteous.”

Etc.

What this betrays is a terrifying truth:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Its focus is on people getting what they deserve.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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


 

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

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

00

Deconstruction

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

00

A Prophecy to the Judgemental

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

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

Over to Chris:


No, Christian, I’m Not Your Spiritual Bitch

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why such resistance and seeming rebellion?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why?

Because…

I’m not your spiritual bitch.

And neither is He.

Grace is brave. Be brave.


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

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


Here’s the link to the original blog post

20

The Not So Good News

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– rant over.

Shalom.


 

10

Religious Trauma Syndrome

As you have probably guessed from other articles on my blog, I have a strong interest in helping people to come to terms with large changes in their spiritual lives. These changes can be due to divorce, bereavement, spiritual growth and its associated ‘growing pains’, or more sinister things like dealing with spiritual abuse and religious trauma, where people are either trapped (knowingly or unknowingly) in spiritual abuse systems – which are loosely described in this article –  or where they have broken free from such systems and are having to cope with the trauma of what is essentially a major loss of part of one’s life.

This post, by Dr. Valerie Tarico, is quoted from the RawStory site, and the link to the original article is given at the end. In this article, Dr. Tarico quotes much from Dr. Marlene Winnell, who is a human development consultant, and who first used the term ‘Religious Trauma Syndrome’. Unsurprisingly, her use of the term made waves, most likely (my guess, anyway) amongst people who didn’t want their abusive ways brought to light. Here’s the article in full, with original links intact insofar as they work. Note that the title refers only to some, not all, organised religion.


Religious Trauma Syndrome: How some organized religion leads to mental health problems

At age sixteen I began what would be a four-year struggle with bulimia.  When the symptoms started, I turned in desperation to adults who knew more than I did about how to stop shameful behavior—my Bible study leader and a visiting youth minister.  “If you ask anything in faith, believing,” they said.  “It will be done.” I knew they were quoting the Word of God. We prayed together, and I went home confident that God had heard my prayers.

But my horrible compulsions didn’t go away. By the fall of my sophomore year in college, I was desperate and depressed enough that I made a suicide attempt. The problem wasn’t just the bulimia.  I was convinced by then that I was a complete spiritual failure. My college counseling department had offered to get me real help (which they later did). But to my mind, at that point, such help couldn’t fix the core problem: I was a failure in the eyes of God. It would be years before I understood that my inability to heal bulimia through the mechanisms offered by biblical Christianity was not a function of my own spiritual deficiency but deficiencies in Evangelical religion itself.

Dr. Marlene Winell is a human development consultant in the San Francisco Area. She is also the daughter of Pentecostal missionaries. This combination has given her work an unusual focus. For the past twenty years she has counseled men and women in recovery from various forms of fundamentalist religion including the Assemblies of God denomination in which she was raised. Winell is the author of Leaving the Fold – A Guide for Former Fundamentalists and Others Leaving their Religion, written during her years of private practice in psychology. Over the years, Winell has provided assistance to clients whose religious experiences were even more damaging than mine. Some of them are people whose psychological symptoms weren’t just exacerbated by their religion, but actually caused by it.

Two years ago, Winell made waves by formally labeling what she calls “Religious Trauma Syndrome” (RTS) and beginning to write and speak on the subject for professional audiences. When the British Association of Behavioral and Cognitive Psychologists published a series of articles on the topic, members of a Christian counseling association protested what they called excessive attention to a “relatively niche topic.” One commenter said, “A religion, faith or book cannot be abuse but the people interpreting can make anything abusive.”

Is toxic religion simply misinterpretation? What is religious trauma? Why does Winell believe religious trauma merits its own diagnostic label?  I asked her.

Let’s start this interview with the basics. What exactly is religious trauma syndrome?

Winell: Religious trauma syndrome (RTS) is a set of symptoms and characteristics that tend to go together and which are related to harmful experiences with religion. They are the result of two things: immersion in a controlling religion and the secondary impact of leaving a religious group. The RTS label provides a name and description that affected people often recognize immediately. Many other people are surprised by the idea of RTS, because in our culture it is generally assumed that religion is benign or good for you. Just like telling kids about Santa Claus and letting them work out their beliefs later, people see no harm in teaching religion to children.

But in reality, religious teachings and practices sometimes cause serious mental health damage. The public is somewhat familiar with sexual and physical abuse in a religious context. As Journalist Janet Heimlich has documented in, Breaking Their Will, Bible-based religious groups that emphasize patriarchal authority in family structure and use harsh parenting methods can be destructive.

But the problem isn’t just physical and sexual abuse. Emotional and mental treatment in authoritarian religious groups also can be damaging because of 1) toxic teachings like eternal damnation or original sin 2) religious practices or mindset, such as punishment, black and white thinking, or sexual guilt, and 3) neglect that prevents a person from having the information or opportunities to develop normally.

Can you give me an example of RTS from your consulting practice?

Winell: I can give you many. One of the symptom clusters is around fear and anxiety. People indoctrinated into fundamentalist Christianity as small children sometimes have memories of being terrified by images of hell and apocalypse before their brains could begin to make sense of such ideas. Some survivors, who I prefer to call “reclaimers,” have flashbacks, panic attacks, or nightmares in adulthood even when they intellectually no longer believe the theology. One client of mine, who during the day functioned well as a professional, struggled with intense fear many nights. She said,

“I was afraid I was going to hell. I was afraid I was doing something really wrong. I was completely out of control. I sometimes would wake up in the night and start screaming, thrashing my arms, trying to rid myself of what I was feeling. I’d walk around the house trying to think and calm myself down, in the middle of the night, trying to do some self-talk, but I felt like it was just something that – the fear and anxiety was taking over my life”.

Or consider this comment, which refers to a film used by Evangelicals to warn about the horrors of the “end times” for nonbelievers.

“I was taken to see the film “A Thief In The Night”. WOW. I am in shock to learn that many other people suffered the same traumas I lived with because of this film. A few days or weeks after the film viewing, I came into the house and mom wasn’t there. I stood there screaming in terror. When I stopped screaming, I began making my plan: Who my Christian neighbors were, whose house to break into to get money and food. I was 12 yrs old and was preparing for Armageddon alone”.

In addition to anxiety, RTS can include depression, cognitive difficulties, and problems with social functioning. In fundamentalist Christianity, the individual is considered depraved and in need of salvation. A core message is “You are bad and wrong and deserve to die.” (The wages of sin is death.) This gets taught to millions of children through organizations like Child Evangelism Fellowship, and there is a group organized  to oppose their incursion into public schools.  I’ve had clients who remember being distraught when given a vivid bloody image of Jesus paying the ultimate price for their sins. Decades later they sit telling me that they can’t manage to find any self-worth.

“After twenty-seven years of trying to live a perfect life, I failed. . . I was ashamed of myself all day long. My mind battling with itself with no relief. . . I always believed everything that I was taught but I thought that I was not approved by God. I thought that basically I, too, would die at Armageddon.

“I’ve spent literally years injuring myself, cutting and burning my arms, taking overdoses and starving myself, to punish myself so that God doesn’t have to punish me. It’s taken me years to feel deserving of anything good.

“Born-again Christianity and devout Catholicism tell people they are weak and dependent, calling on phrases like “lean not unto your own understanding” or “trust and obey.” People who internalize these messages can suffer from learned helplessness. I’ll give you an example from a client who had little decision-making ability after living his entire life devoted to following the “will of God.” The words here don’t convey the depth of his despair.

“I have an awful time making decisions in general. Like I can’t, you know, wake up in the morning, “What am I going to do today? Like I don’t even know where to start. You know all the things I thought I might be doing are gone and I’m not sure I should even try to have a career; essentially I babysit my four-year-old all day”.

Authoritarian religious groups are subcultures where conformity is required in order to belong. Thus if you dare to leave the religion, you risk losing your entire support system as well.

“I lost all my friends. I lost my close ties to family. Now I’m losing my country. I’ve lost so much because of this malignant religion and I am angry and sad to my very core. . . I have tried hard to make new friends, but I have failed miserably. . . I am very lonely”.

Leaving a religion, after total immersion, can cause a complete upheaval of a person’s construction of reality, including the self, other people, life, and the future. People unfamiliar with this situation, including therapists, have trouble appreciating the sheer terror it can create.

“My form of religion was very strongly entrenched and anchored deeply in my heart. It is hard to describe how fully my religion informed, infused, and influenced my entire worldview. My first steps out of fundamentalism were profoundly frightening and I had frequent thoughts of suicide. Now I’m way past that but I still haven’t quite found “my place in the universe”.

Even for a person who was not so entrenched, leaving one’s religion can be a stressful and significant transition.

Many people seem to walk away from their religion easily, without really looking back. What is different about the clientele you work with?

Winell: Religious groups that are highly controlling, teach fear about the world, and keep members sheltered and ill-equipped to function in society are harder to leave easily. The difficulty seems to be greater if the person was born and raised in the religion rather than joining as an adult convert. This is because they have no frame of reference – no other “self” or way of “being in the world.” A common personality type is a person who is deeply emotional and thoughtful and who tends to throw themselves wholeheartedly into their endeavors. “True believers” who then lose their faith feel more anger and depression and grief than those who simply went to church on Sunday.

Aren’t these just people who would be depressed, anxious, or obsessive anyways?

Winell: Not at all. If my observation is correct, these are people who are intense and involved and caring. They hang on to the religion longer than those who simply “walk away” because they try to make it work even when they have doubts. Sometime this is out of fear, but often it is out of devotion. These are people for whom ethics, integrity and compassion matter a great deal. I find that when they get better and rebuild their lives, they are wonderfully creative and energetic about new things.

In your mind, how is RTS different from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?

Winell: RTS is a specific set of symptoms and characteristics that are connected with harmful religious experience, not just any trauma. This is crucial to understanding the condition and any kind of self-help or treatment. (More details about this can be found on my Journey Free website and discussed in my talk at the Texas Freethought Convention.)

Another difference is the social context, which is extremely different from other traumas or forms of abuse. When someone is recovering from domestic abuse, for example, other people understand and support the need to leave and recover. They don’t question it as a matter of interpretation, and they don’t send the person back for more. But this is exactly what happens to many former believers who seek counseling. If a provider doesn’t understand the source of the symptoms, he or she may send a client for pastoral counseling, or to AA, or even to another church. One reclaimer expressed her frustration this way:

“Include physically-abusive parents who quote “Spare the rod and spoil the child” as literally as you can imagine and you have one fucked-up soul: an unloved, rejected, traumatized toddler in the body of an adult. I’m simply a broken spirit in an empty shell. But wait…That’s not enough!? There’s also the expectation by everyone in society that we victims should celebrate this with our perpetrators every Christmas and Easter!!”

Just like disorders such as autism or bulimia, giving RTS a real name has important advantages. People who are suffering find that having a label for their experience helps them feel less alone and guilty. Some have written to me to express their relief:

“There’s actually a name for it! I was brainwashed from birth and wasted 25 years of my life serving Him! I’ve since been out of my religion for several years now, but i cannot shake the haunting fear of hell and feel absolutely doomed. I’m now socially inept, unemployable, and the only way i can have sex is to pay for it”.

Labeling RTS encourages professionals to study it more carefully, develop treatments, and offer training. Hopefully, we can even work on prevention.

What do you see as the difference between religion that causes trauma and religion that doesn’t?

Winell: Religion causes trauma when it is highly controlling and prevents people from thinking for themselves and trusting their own feelings. Groups that demand obedience and conformity produce fear, not love and growth. With constant judgment of self and others, people become alienated from themselves, each other, and the world. Religion in its worst forms causes separation.

Conversely, groups that connect people and promote self-knowledge and personal growth can be said to be healthy. The book, Healthy Religion, describes these traits. Such groups put high value on respecting differences, and members feel empowered as individuals.  They provide social support, a place for events and rites of passage, exchange of ideas, inspiration, opportunities for service, and connection to social causes. They encourage spiritual practices that promote health like meditation or principles for living like the golden rule. More and more, nontheists are asking how they can create similar spiritual communities without the supernaturalism. An atheist congregation in London launched this year and has received over 200 inquiries from people wanting to replicate their model.

Some people say that terms like “recovery from religion” and “religious trauma syndrome” are just atheist attempts to pathologize religious belief.

Winell: Mental health professionals have enough to do without going out looking for new pathology. I never set out looking for a “niche topic,” and certainly not religious trauma syndrome. I originally wrote a paper for a conference of the American Psychological Association and thought that would be the end of it. Since then, I have tried to move on to other things several times, but this work has simply grown.

In my opinion, we are simply, as a culture, becoming aware of religious trauma.  More and more people are leaving religion, as seen by polls showing that the “religiously unaffiliated” have increased in the last five years from just over 15% to just under 20% of all U.S. adults. It’s no wonder the internet is exploding with websites for former believers from all religions, providing forums for people to support each other. The huge population of people “leaving the fold” includes a subset at risk for RTS, and more people are talking about it and seeking help.  For example, there are thousands of former Mormons, and I was asked to speak about RTS at an Exmormon Foundation conference.  I facilitate an international support group online called Release and Reclaim  which has monthly conference calls. An organization called Recovery from Religion, helps people start self-help meet-up groups

Saying that someone is trying to pathologize authoritarian religion is like saying someone pathologized eating disorders by naming them. Before that, they were healthy? No, before that we weren’t noticing. People were suffering, thought they were alone, and blamed themselves.  Professionals had no awareness or training. This is the situation of RTS today. Authoritarian religion is already pathological, and leaving a high-control group can be traumatic. People are already suffering. They need to be recognized and helped.

—-  Dr. Marlene Winell is a human development consultant in the San Francisco Bay Area and the author of Leaving the Fold – A Guide for Former Fundamentalists and Others Leaving their ReligionMore information about Marlene Winell and resources for getting help with RTS may be found at Journey Free.  Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and writer in Seattle, Washington.  She is the author of Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light and Deas and Other Imaginings, and the founder of www.WisdomCommons.org.  Her articles can be found at Awaypoint.Wordpress.com.

 

Here is the link to the original article

00

Tasty Treats

Any gospel message that instils fear in your heart, is probably not the gospel, but the ministry of death Paul warned us about. – Henry Harris

God is not a being to believe in. God is a mystery to participate in. – Nathan Jennings

The idea we need to fear God, always comes from people that don’t know God. – Kurt and Katy Adkins

“I think the reaction we’re meant to have when we look at the cross is to weep with relief — that there’s someone who understands our sufferings and dealt with it” – Christine

If your goal is to share what you know, to teach people what you know, to make people understand what you understand—if it’s about a subject for which you have passion and concern—then speak to that end.

When you degrade, when you yell, when you vituperate, you can no longer feign that you have a noble pursuit. You’re speaking from your ego, from your sense of superiority, you’re asserting your dominance.

Now, the subject for which you allegedly feel so strongly is on the back burner, and the entire conversation is about winning an argument that you created.

The person to whom you’re speaking has been lost, and will not consider what you know, share, or care about.

Watch your step, and be sure you’re speaking for the right reasons. – Steven Gilmore

I have learnt that to love is so much more important than trying to convince others of my belief. Knowing that all will be well in the end has given me such freedom to be with others whatever they believe. I have found that my attempts to show love encourages hope in others to a far greater extent than was ever achieved when I tried to tell people what was right. – David Bell

For all the criticism [a particular Christian ‘leader’] has had, I think it’s great that he answers to what his own conscience says, rather than to what others think his conscience should say. – Me

Movements

Religious and spiritual movements both tend to come and go, with only Divine Presence remaining constant.

May I respectfully make a suggestion, one born out of personal experience.

Don’t pour your whole identity into a movement, no matter what the brand.

Why not?

Well, it all usually ends up in tears, disillusionment and deep confusion.

Best to open up one’s heart to the One without change, I reckon.

– Dylan Morrison (Irish writer-poet)

As to why people deny [evolution], though, well that’s just fear that their written Divine Contract might not be as watertight as they thought. And I think that’s intentional; God never intended us to live by faith in a Book, but by faith in Christ. If the book is infallible, then who needs the Holy Spirit? – Me

Jesus came to show us the Father’s love, not threaten us with eternal conscious torment for hearing bad preaching & saying no to THAT god. – Karen Belcher

There is only one thing that could ever make a person say “I love you” to a god they believe finds them deplorable without seeing them through someone else… and that is fear of torment.

Your heavenly Father doesn’t need to look at you ‘through’ Jesus to be head over heels in love with you. He sent Jesus to show you who you’ve been in His eyes all along… and that there is never any fear or torment involved in His perfect love.

“May they know they are One, Father, even as you and I are One; and may they know you have loved them… even as you have loved me.” (Jesus)  – Dave Carringer

In fact I would even say that, unless you really believe that you know ‘…where you would go if you died tonight’, then you have absolutely no right to try to sell people the salvation that Jesus offers as if it is indeed a complete, cast-iron assurance, when the reality is that you yourself don’t really believe it is as secure as you claim. Because that sort of gospel, that so many peddle these days, is really no gospel – not good news – at all. – Me

The Bible is not the Holy Spirit’s bridle – Barry Smith

“Ah, but…what about this scripture and that scripture…” yes and it’s always – always! – the negative they are emphasising. It’s really weird. It’s always ‘God is Love, but he’s also just…’, never ‘God is just, but he’s also Love!’ Anyone’d think they don’t want to believe anything positive about God! – Me

Saying “You’re not saved by good works, you’re saved by grace, but you have to prove you’re saved by doing good works” is just a clever way of saying you’re saved by good works and acting like you’re not saying it. – Jacob M. Wright

I don’t have any proof of this. But…

It seems often, as if the people who argue over doctrinal differences, and go about calling those they disagree with names, are coming from inferiority and poor self-esteem, and trying to make themselves appear “right”, knowledgeable, and believable.

When I sense that this is happening, 1) it makes me very uncomfortable, and 2) I feel very sorry for that person. Usually I walk away asap and am careful about future interactions with them. – Sonny Bellotte

Today, be the sort of person whose kindness, compassion and love could be the difference between someone losing their faith in God and the humans he calls children, and them saying, “Eh, I think I’ll give it one more try.”

All the arguments you might win, or energy you might expend ranting on social media, are meaningless compared to this. – Jeff Turner

“There is no more important issue than whether or not the large majority of the human race is heading for a fate that … would make the holocaust look like a joke.” – Jacob Wright

“I choose not to succumb to my circumstances, and become angry at the idea of existence, I choose not to be a person who sees every moment as an opportunity to be disappointed by life—a victim with no options.

Rather, I choose to see myself as one being pursued relentlessly by goodness and mercy. I choose to see opportunities for myself to advance, excel, and be the best possible version of me. I choose to see valuable lessons in my daily interactions with people and events.

I choose to see goodness and mercy all around me—seeking access to my life and family today. I choose to see myself as one entangled in a divine conspiracy in which all that is in the world is seeking to make me better. “ – Charlie Fischer

If all you know of God is from books, you are walking in deep darkness – Don Francisco

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

 

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That Same Jesus

“The One to whom every knee will bow and every tongue confess is none other than the One who dined with, forgave, liberated, and healed sinners. The One who will judge the world is none other than the One who bound up broken hearts and freed the oppressed, who said to the adulteress “I don’t condemn you.” It’s the same One. Jesus the compassionate and merciful does not morph into Jesus the hateful and condemning. Jesus, the One who said in order to be like God we need to forgive our enemies, saying that if we don’t then we are no better than the pagans, will not one day act like a pagan deity.

“The One who died at the hands of his enemies with forgiveness on his lips is the same yesterday, today, and forever. If you believe we are in between two different Jesus’s, gospel Jesus and future Jesus, enemy-forgiving Jesus and enemy-decapitating Jesus, then you might want to re-examine your theology, in particular your eschatology and understanding of judgment and the symbolism of Revelation. The lion is a little slain lamb, his power is his humble love, the way he wages war is by making peace through the cross. His wrath is his lamb-likeness, he destroys the powers of evil by being slain. He is the antithesis of the violent and forceful means by which the world has its way. He subverts it all.”

– Jacob M. Wright

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