Category Archives: Others’ stuff

Why Grace is Coming For Us All

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


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

I don’t believe in hell anymore.

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

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

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

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

Tales of a Tiny Missionary: Evangelical Objectification

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

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

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

Jesus weeps.

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

We were so, so scared.

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chaplaining: Stories and Trauma and Cracks in Our Souls

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

– Laura Jean Truman

Here is the link to the original article

All You Can Eat

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

I will let you work it out.

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

Tuck in!


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please do not mistake my politeness for agreement
– Me

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

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

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

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

Gratitude puts everything into perspective
– Me

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ruach

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Among things falling away are:

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

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

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

– Dave Carringer


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

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

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

Grace and Peace to you.

Footnotes

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

The Security of the Past

My friend Phil Drysdale is a man with a remarkable ministry.

He helps people to grow as Christians while giving them permission to allow that growth, in full realisation that sometimes that growth is constrained by the church environment they are in, maybe their circe of friends, maybe their family.

Phil helps these people to realise that it’s ok to grow outside the plant-pot they have been raised in since they were seedlings[1]. Sometimes for the first time, these dear ones see that growth is normal, that it doesn’t always go in the direction that their peers want, and that it’s always healthy even if sometimes (actually usually!) painful. In his seminars and meetings, Phil provides a safe space where people can be open about all aspects of their growth, and realise from meeting others in a similar place that they’re not alone in their travels[2]

And Phil has a lot more patience with naysayers than I do 😉 I don’t have a lot of time for people who try to bring down the Good News to their level, down there in the pits of mud and despair of deadly Religion. Religion that hampers rather than promotes; Religion that steals, kills and destroys rather than giving Life in all its fulness (Jn 10:10). But, more than anyone else I know, Phil also includes these people too in the ‘growth’ framework, because, whether they like it or not, and whether they fight it or not, the growth pressures are almost always still there. He can see it; I can’t.

And so that brings me to today’s gems of wisdom from Phil. I want to learn everything I can from this great little essay, and apply it. How well I will stand up when confronted by the naysayers, I don’t know…but this little piece is golden and I hope that my readers, at least, can be encouraged by it.

Over to Phil:


Many people are victims of their framework. When their rules of engaging with their faith require them to seek to move society backwards they are naturally going to be scared, confused, aggressive, upset etc. when society naturally moves forward.

There is no scenario in which they win, certainly not for more than a few years here or there which end up being blips in history. Any student of history will tell you we are moving gradually forward in remarkably positive ways.

We continue to move forward, society evolves, spirituality evolves. We are more loving, more inclusive, more accepting etc. etc.

These people are fighting a losing battle, they have lost again and again throughout history and while they can still have tremendous negative impacts on society that impact is lessening every single day. Not only that but less and less people are believing the lie that our future is in the past. Every day more and more people wake up and see the future is believe it or not, in the future! And even better, we can bring it about TODAY!

There is a danger that we look down upon such people rooted in the past though. The truth is that they are not inherently bad people but rather good people lost in an old dead system.

We must learn to cease demonising these groups of people intent on dragging the world backwards… rather we need to remember to humanise them. For they very much are human. They are scared, they have no other options for how to see the world. Some in time will wake up. But many won’t. And it is very unsettling to see society moving in the opposite direction from the one you’ve been told since birth we need to move.

The safer you can make them feel in these moments of growth and evolution the less grief we will be creating.

Our goal as we continue to transcend as a society should be to try and minimise the growing pains as much as we can for those not ready for growth. To love people where they are at while not allowing their desire to live in the past to hold society as a whole back.


 

Footnotes

Footnotes
1 Oh, I’m so poetic today! 😉
2 Phil hasn’t asked me to do this, but it is possible to support him financially in his ministry. He also runs a network called ‘The Deconstruction Network’ which enables Christians from all over the globe to contact other Christians in a similar growth/deconstruction position. For more details, visit his website where the links to all his great material are available for free. There’s also his other site, ‘The Deconstruction Network‘.  And if you’d like to support his ministry. there are links on both those sites about supporting him, via ‘becoming a partner’ or ‘support us’.

Ashes

I just wanted to make a plug for my daughter’s new EP that’s just been released today.

It’s a six-track EP/album called ‘Ashes’ and it’s taken her more than a year to create the songs on it. All proceeds go to our local Hospice, Rowcroft Hospice, where Ellie’s Mum was looked after for her last few days on this earth.

It’s priced very reasonably at £3.54 on Amazon, and I am sure it will be on other countries’ Amazon sites too. It’s also avaliable on streaming services like Spotify, Apple Music and Amazon Music; just search ‘Ellie Rosie’ to find the links to this and all her other published music.

Click the image below to go to the Amazon UK sales page, where you can also listen to some short preview clips from the tracks on the EP. Ellie is a very talented young lady with a superb singing voice and excellent songwriting skills; even the short clips will send shivers down your spine 🙂

Did My Dog Arrive in Heaven?

On the back of my last post about pets being with us in Heaven, here’s a lovely piece shared by my friend Mo Thomas, which I think was originally written by a chap called Keith Wilson. It describes a lovely act of human kindness and compassion to a grieving soul. Let it minister to you:


“Our 14-year-old dog Abbey died last month. The day after she passed away, my 4-year-old daughter Meredith was crying and talking about how much she missed Abbey. She asked if we could write a letter to God, so that when Abbey got to heaven, God would recognize her. I told her that I thought we could so, and she dictated these words:

Dear God,

Will you please take care of my dog? She died yesterday and is with you in heaven. I miss her very much. I am happy that you let me have her as my dog even though she got sick.

I hope you will play with her. She likes to swim and play with balls. I am sending a picture of her so when you see her you will know that she is my dog. I really miss her.

Love, Meredith

We put the letter in an envelope with a picture of Abbey and Meredith and addressed it to God/Heaven. We put our return address on it. Then Meredith pasted several stamps on the front of the envelope because she said it would take lots of stamps to get the letter all the way to heaven. That afternoon she dropped it into the letter box at the post office. A few days later, she asked if God had gotten the letter yet. I told her that I thought He had.

Yesterday, there was a package wrapped in gold paper on our front porch addressed, ‘To Meredith’ in an unfamiliar hand. Meredith opened it. Inside was a book by Mr. Rogers called, ‘When a Pet Dies.’ Taped to the inside front cover was the letter we had written to God in its opened envelope. On the opposite page was the picture of Abbey & Meredith and this note:

Dear Meredith,

Abbey arrived safely in heaven. Having the picture was a big help and I recognized her right away.

Abbey isn’t sick anymore. Her spirit is here with me just like it stays in your heart. Abbey loved being your dog. Since we don’t need our bodies in heaven, I don’t have any pockets to keep your picture in so I am sending it back to you in this little book for you to keep and have something to remember Abbey by.

Thank you for the beautiful letter and thank your mother for helping you write it and sending it to me. What a wonderful mother you have. I picked her especially for you. I send my blessings every day and remember that I love you very much. By the way, I’m easy to find. I am wherever there is love.

Love, God
__________________

You will be happy to know this wonderful story is 100% true.

“Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.” “

 

 

The Genius of the Cross

Whatever you need the Cross of Christ to be, for you, it will meet that need. It’s often been said that at the Cross, God meets all the deepest needs of mankind. Reconciliation with God? Check. Healing? Check. Forgiveness? Check. Putting to death of the ‘old nature’? Check. A sacrifice? Check. Demonstration of God’s love for us? Check. I myself no longer see the Cross as being the place where Jesus was sacrificed as a Lamb to appease a wrathful god. But if you, personally, need the Cross to be the place of sacrifice, then God is big enough, and the work of Christ at Calvary is huge enough, to meet that need. And that’s fine. Others will likely have different needs, and that’s fine too.

For myself, I no longer see the Cross through the lens of ‘penal substitutionary atonement’ (PSA), where Jesus ‘took my place’. I no longer consider PSA to be a viable Biblical concept, although I do understand why people believe that idea. I used to believe it myself, once upon a time. I’m generally not very good at describing what the Cross means to me, because it’s more of an internalised thing for me, although I have expressed some of my ideas in previous blog posts. I know what it means to me, and I know that I am continually learning more about just what Jesus did there. At the bare minimum, if we fix ourselves to just one particular interpretation, or ‘meaning’, of the Cross, we will miss out on learning so much more about what Jesus did there.

And so, for your upbuilding, here is a beautiful piece by the brilliant Jacob M. Wright, where he presents a superbly logical and totally Biblical idea on a particular aspect of the Cross. As usual, Jacob expressess his ideas with clarity and conviction:


Here is a couple lines from a beautiful and scathing critique of Christianity by Sam Harris. Part of his critique is of the superstitiously violent nature of religion throughout history and its nearly universal practice of sacrificing humans in a myriad of different horrific ways to “appease the gods” or satisfy strange superstitions. I fully agree with him in this particular critique and I believe a very different interpretation of the crucifixion which I will briefly go over afterwards.

“Upon seeing Jesus for the first time, John the Baptist is rumored to have said, ‘Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world’ (John 1:29). For most Christians, this bizarre opinion still stands, and it remains the core of their faith. Christianity is more or less synonymous with the proposition that the crucifixion of Jesus represents a final, sufficient offering of blood to a God who absolutely requires it (Hebrews 9:22-28). Christianity amounts to the claim that we must love and be loved by a God who approves of the scapegoating, torture, and murder of one man—his son, incidentally—in compensation for the misbehavior and thought-crimes of all others.

“Let the good news go forth: we live in a cosmos, the vastness of which we can scarcely even indicate in our thoughts, on a planet teeming with creatures we have only begun to understand, but the whole project was actually brought to a glorious fulfillment over twenty centuries ago, after one species of primate (our own) climbed down out of the trees, invented agriculture and iron tools, glimpsed (as through a glass, darkly) the possibility of keeping its excrement out of its food, and then singled out one among its number to be viciously flogged and nailed to a cross.”

I appreciate Harris’ brilliant words here in so much as he is exposing the wrong way of seeing Christianity. This is why we need to continue to overturn Calvin’s model of the atonement and show that with Christ we do not have what every other religion has in terms of slaughtering a creature to appease its god with blood, but rather we have a subversion of sacrifice and an overturning of normal sacrificial thinking.

I would start by pointing out that if the bloody torture and crucifixion of Jesus was demanded by God to appease his wrath, then why are Jesus torturers and killers considered evil in carrying out this act, if they were merely fulfilling a necessary barbaric human sacrifice ritual unto God and with every drop of blood appeasing him?

Here is the normal sacrificial routine: those bringing the sacrifice are considered righteous and pleasing to God by bringing an offering to slaughter unto God. Now contrast with Christ’s Passion: The ones carrying out the act are evil, not pleasing to God. And the one bringing the offering (“I lay my life down of my own accord”) is God himself who is offering himself to humanity. This is the opposite of a divine wrath-appeasing human sacrifice model. This is completely turned on its head.

If they were carrying out an act that in itself was good and pleasing to the Lord, namely torturing and killing Jesus as a human sacrifice to satisfy God’s wrath, then why did God go about it the way he did? Why didn’t Jesus just explain to his disciples to tie him down to an altar, slaughter him, and burn his flesh as a pleasing sacrificial aroma to God? Instead we have the opposite playing out, that it was an evil act and that it was God offering himself up to the hands of sinful men, rather than humans offering a sacrifice to God. The Passion is a subversion of the sacrificial system.

Furthermore, we have Paul explaining that God offering himself to be killed by the hands of sinful men was an exposure and defeat of the principalities and powers and it was God making peace with humanity, in contrast to a sacrifice where humans try to appease and make peace with God. Usually it was man trying to reconcile God to himself through their offering to God but here we have God reconciling the world to himself through his offering of himself.

To go further, the normal pagan sacrificial ritual was to satiate the bloodlust of the gods with the flesh and blood of the sacrifice. Whereas in the Passion narrative, God’s flesh and blood is offered to us, and we are the ones who eat and drink the flesh and blood of God.

The Passion shows us to be the ones with the bloodlust, not God. God subverts this nearly universal practice of sacrifice to expose something at the heart of humanity and to transform human thinking concerning who God is and who we are. We are thus transformed by coming again and again to remember this act of self-giving, unconditionally forgiving love, remembering the One who does not demand blood but lays down his own life to make peace. We partake in this act, we receive unconditional forgiveness, and we are called to be transformed into peacemakers ourselves.

This is how Jesus’ sacrifice was pleasing to God. Not because God demanded it or was satisfied with a blood offering, but because as the writer of Philippians says, Jesus “emptied himself”, demonstrating the humility of a servant, laying his life down in non-violent forgiveness, dying a victims death at the hands of violent humanity. This was a perfect act of love, and thus God exalts Christ to supreme authority, that at his name, everyone will surrender and every tongue confess that this love is the supreme authority. Within this act of divine love is the reconciliation of all things.

God did this at the risk of being thought of as normal sacrificial thinking, that is, an animal or human being offered to God to satiate his bloodlust and appease his anger. Yet even when people see it that way, it still communicates the final doing away with sacrifice with an act of self-giving and peacemaking which begins to deconstruct these sacrificial paradigms in social thinking. Even when one cannot see the powerful subversion of sacrifice at work in Christ’s act, and they see it through the lens of normal sacrificial thinking, it still begins the necessary deconstruction of sacrificial thinking and begins to end sacrifice once and for all in civilization, and begins to point to a God of self-sacrifice, forgiveness, self-giving love, and reconciliation, which begins working itself through human thinking and overturning our violence and enmity with Christ’s act of peacemaking and reconciliation.

 – Jacob M. Wright, used with his kind permission

A Good, Good Father

This is a brilliant insight by Jamie Englehart. I need add no more, except to say that it really fits with the general theme of my blog in that God is a good God!

Over to Jamie:


Jesus came to reveal the Father, not the law giver, or judge, or even a King, but a Father who desires relationship with His offspring.

When we view God and scripture through a legal, judicial lens, we will get excited about judgement, justice, punishment, and rendering evil for evil, and like the idea of God sending calamity, especially on those who have hurt us. These are not the days of Job or Elijah or Moses, but of Jesus.

However when we view God and scripture through Jesus which is a new and better covenant lens, we will view through the lens of family, relationship, mercy and grace, love, reconciliation, and the forgiveness for our enemies.

When we realize that His righteous judgements are from the heart of a loving father who is seated on a throne of grace and mercy and not in a courtroom, then we will run to Him and not from Him. He is a holy, righteous, and just Father who does chastise and correct those that are His, but it is from a place of loving correction and not punitive. Mercy triumphs over judgement, and TRUE justice or the God kind of justice is mercy and compassion (Zech 7:9).

If we are more patient, loving and kind as parents than our God, and we would not do to our children what we are ok teaching that He will do to His, then our God is NOT like Jesus. He is a good, good, Father and according to Jesus much better than the best of us.

 – Jamie Englehart, shared with his kind permission

Proximity Fixes Everything

Here’s a great piece by Michael McElyea:


Prior to 2018 and the awakening within that I had, the place I was running with was the statement that “proximity fixes everything and nothing else will”

I still believe that wholeheartedly, except I see this in an entire new light

I want to say that although I’ve moved past the theology I am so thankful for the Pentecostal world

I adore it with my whole heart

At least they taught and stressed and emphasized that this thing with God is not merely some beliefs to hold sacred, but an invitation into an experience, a communion, a fellowship and a nearness to not only the Father of all of this beautiful creation but the very lover of our souls

But the proximity message was as if God was over there in this holy place that I was not and I had to seek to be there I had to pursue him I had to ascend this mountain….in other words I had to get on this hamster wheel called religion and strive strive strive, I had to do in order to be…..having lost that I am not a human do-ing but that I am a human be-ing

Once the concept of the incarnation became a deep seated revelation in my heart, Jesus destroyed my hamster wheel

Once understanding that there’s never been any objective distance or delay or separation between Him and I, it changed my entire life and is continually changing my life. I’ve been “saved”, from lies, I’m being “saved” as we speak, and I will be “saved”

Proximity fixes everything, the truth that I was joined to him from my conception, never been separate, he’s with me in my darkness as well as on my mountains. And when my life contradicts my true self, it doesn’t take weeks of me condemning myself and grinding out to be a good person and get back into his nearness again, but that he’s always near, closer than anything else, and I’m reminded of who I am, that I am in Christ and Christ is in me. Restoration

And I’m reminded that love is the essence of my being, it’s my DNA, that I’ve been formed and fashioned for love, through love, to love and In the very image and likeness of Love himself…..by the very One who is nothing other than pure Love

He asked me and he received, he sought me and found me, and knocked until my door within opened. He put me on his shoulders as One, clothed me in righteousness, found the image that was lost, and we together are moving forward in this journey called life

Love has the final word

Proximity does fix everything, and we’ve always been woven together. The message is Union. There’s an incarnated human be-ing seated upon the “throne” in “heaven” announcing this perpetual union, as well as your dignity and glory and beauty, forever and fully immersed into the divine dance of the ages

This applies to every single one of you who reads this

Change the way that you think

He’s better than you’ve been taught

– Michael McElyea


Shared with Michael’s enthusiastic permission 🙂

Except by Me

I’m sorry to say, but, in general, Fundamentalist Evangelical Christianity loves to be exclusive.

Black and white thinking: saved or unsaved; in or out; blessed or cursed.

We are the Chosen Ones; everyone else is wrong to some degree, and we are the only ones who have most of it right at least.

In the Old Testament (OT), so beloved of the more judgmental sectors of Christianity, there are – of course! – lists of people who are ‘excluded from the assembly’; in other words, they’re not allowed to ‘go into the presence of God’. The main list that springs to mind is the one in Deuteronomy 23:1ff[1], but there are others too.

Quite apart from those exclusion lists being part of the Old Covenant, of course, many modern Christians have not only revived the lists but have also enthusiastically gold-plated them by adding people from groups that they personally – or corporately – disapprove of. For instance, LGBTQ+ people, unmarried single parents, men who don’t wear ties 😉 , well, the list goes on and its contents vary depending on whom you ask. Maybe it’s best not to ask then? 😉 But it’s going to be that the main criteria for a given ‘exclusive’ Christian’s exclusion of certain people from the Kingdom of Heaven are: a) (in the wider sense) anyone who is not a ‘Christian’; b) (more narrowly) anyone who is not in their specific denomination; and c) (in the narrowest sense) anyone and everyone who does not believe the exact same things as he does. I suppose it gives them a sense of superiority or something.

But, to be fair, the reasons and the heart behind these actions and attitudes are not my target today; instead, I want to use an excellent piece, by Jacob M. Wright, to show why the main verse normally used to justify exclusiveness – John 14:6 – is actually a really inclusive passage of Scripture, not exclusive as it has of course been twisted to mean. Let’s take another look at it:

(John 14:6)

On the surface, when Jesus says “No-one comes to the father but (except) through Me”, it does look at first sight as if that’s what He’s saying, especially when we see the word ‘except’, which is of itself an exclusive kind of word. Jesus is the only way to the Father. And in a sense, I agree, but for other reasons which are not germane to this present piece. I too have written on this idea before in this blog (but I can’t remember all the places, but one such piece is here 😉 ) There is also Acts 4:12, which appears to say a similar thing, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name [Jesus] under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” But, look, I’m going to stop blathering and let you read Jacob’s piece; it’s a real eye-opener, and will give you a great perspective on this verse. I learned something new from Jacob when I read this.

Here we go:


“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but through me.” (John 14:6)

Today, I would like to discuss this statement. Typically this statement has been interpreted by many Christians as an exclusive statement, but I would like to show how it can and should be interpreted as an inclusive statement. Usually when you hear this verse, it is a Christian trying to use it to basically say that you must be a Christian by saying the sinners prayer or believing the correct things about Jesus in order to “go to heaven instead of hell.” This is just not what the verse says.

Rather, Jesus says, “No one comes to the Father but through me.” This is the same as saying, “Everyone who comes to the Father, comes through me.” It’s like saying, “No one is alive on earth but through breathing the air.” Yes, and everyone who is alive on earth is breathing air. In other words, everyone who has a relationship with the Creator, has it through the Spirit of Christ at work within them, whether they know it or not. Jesus was simply pointing to himself as the incarnation of this reality.

Christ was a universally ever-present reality before he assumed the body of Jesus of Nazareth, and still is now. As John tells us, he is the divine Logos through whom the universe was made, and his life is the light of all mankind (John 1:3-4), not just Christians. Furthermore, Paul tells us that in him we all live, move, and have our being, as well as that the whole universe exists and is sustained in and through Christ (Col. 1:17).

So, with this in mind, Jesus is simply saying, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. If anyone knows God, they know him through me and my Spirit at work within them.” Jesus was simply saying that he is the embodiment of the universal Christ that John and Paul later attested to. By this, Jesus was both saying he is the inclusive universal reality that everyone can and does access AND putting exclusive importance on his own life, teaching, and person that signifies and clarifies this reality.


– Jacob M. Wright, shared with his kind permission

I’d just add as a final point that there are many other verses that agree with Christian inclusivity (did I just invent a new phrase?? 😉 ). A good place to start would be in the list of Scriptures given by Mo Thomas in the recent post of his that I shared here.

And in any case, if there is no Hell, as I firmly believe, what other conclusion can there be but total inclusion? Even if not in this life, certainly in the Hereafter…but hey, why not start now?

Grace and peace to you 😀

Footnotes

Footnotes
1 Ah, surprise, surprise – good old Deuteronomy again! Don’t you just love it? 😉