Category Archives: Quotations

Further Quotes

“Truth does not compromise Love, and truth offered forcibly, out of harmony with Unconditional Love, is no longer truth.” – ‘Sarah’

“The same people who tell you that one sin is exactly as bad as any other sin, in God’s sight, also use Hitler as an example of a really evil person. Think about it. How is that a consistent standard??” – Me

“…we’ve decided that The Bible speaks everything that God ever has or ever will say, and that He’s said it exactly as we’ve determined, translated, and believe it to be. In other words, by elevating the Bible to the same level as God, and by leaning on our own understanding of its 66 books, we’ve crafted a God that seems to think a lot like we do, vote like we vote, hate who we hate and bless what we bless.
[…]
“The question we need to ask ourselves as modern believers, is whether we really trust God to speak clearly and directly to someone, independent of the Bible. Sometimes it seems we believe that the words of the Bible are, as it says, “living and active “, but believe that God is not. The inevitable outcome of thinking the Bible is the last and only word, is a God who is no longer living.” – Mike Douglas

“When we proclaim God is love but then proclaim that God will either destroy or eternally separate God’s self from those who didn’t make a certain decision in this life due to whatever reason (being born in the “wrong” culture, abuse, mental illness, etc), then maybe we should redefine what love really is. We certainly couldn’t use 1 Corinthians 13…” – Nathan Jennings

“The Us vs. Them mentality around [contentious issues] has grown exponentially recently, proving that even in the Church we are wanting to create more enemies, rather than loving those we already have.” – Russell Croft

“For Jesus didn’t die to save us from an angry God, but to save us from believing He is”. – Chris Kratzer

“I don’t do crashes. Just…exciting landings” – Gen. Hera Syndulla, Star Wars Rebels

“The gift God gives me is the peace of knowing I will be ok no matter what happens in this life. The peace that surpasses understanding is the miracle. We so often want the miracle to be circumstances changing. Sometimes they do. Sometimes they don’t… God is renewing our minds, not our circumstances” – ‘Kelly’

“We’re told that if you lose one sense, your other senses are enhanced. Maybe that’s why people with no sense of humour have an increased sense of self-importance.” – Anon

“No matter what interpretation of Scripture you arrive at, no matter how clear you think Scripture is being or how faithful you think you are being to the words on the page, if your interpretation (and therefore your way of life) does not adhere to the greatest commandment – love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and your neighbour as yourself – then your interpretation of scripture is wrong.” (Attributed to St. Augustine, probably paraphrased)

“My freedom to be me depends on me granting him [someone else with whom he disagrees] the same exact freedom to be him” – Joshua Lester

“Church these days reminds me of going to the dentist – you go there because you are in pain, they inflict more pain on you, then they lecture you that you shouldn’t have been in pain in the first place and then they empty you of your life savings and demand that you come back more often”. – ‘Barry’

“Remember that old saying: ‘Great minds think alike’? It’s correct, but not because we are great, but because we actually receive inspiration from the same Great Mind!” – Dennis Wade

“Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is knowing not to put it in a fruit salad” – Anon

“I believe [Jesus] is the exact representation of what God is like, presented in a way that we as humans can understand Him. Genius, if you ask me.” – Me

“…if it is not too good to be true, then it is not the Gospel” – Kurt and Katy Adkins

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Quotes Again

I realise that modern media love their fixation with ‘sound bites’; small quotable lines from politicians and other celebs. And it can get quite samey and predictable.

But, you know, ordinary people come out with some really good wisdom in everyday life. All you need to do is to keep your ears and eyes open, and you will see them – in films, books, songs, even (dare I say it) poetry, although I tend to avoid that like roadkill.

Remember that there is wisdom hidden everywhere, even ‘out there’ in the world – despite what Fundamentalist types might tell you about the ‘wisdom of the world’ being twisted or sinful or some other such tripe. The truth is that the Spirit can speak to us and teach us through all kinds of things, from a song to a sunset. So, here’s yet another batch of gems from various sources, that have made me think, laugh, ponder, weep and feel very smug (the ones I wrote 😉 ). Enjoy:

“The golden rule is [to] treat people how you would want to be treated.
The platinum rule is treat people how they want to be treated.” – Steven Gilmore

“Y’know, if these are Britain’s brightest families…then I’m not sure we should leave Europe” – Giles, GoggleBox

“In reducing God to a state you can understand, you have effectively made him less than a human being. Humans are complex. The God you envision is a machine, and you have the hubris to imagine you’re working the levers.” – ‘Sam’

“Have you ever noticed that self appointed heresy hunters are far more ravenous than those they call wolves? The wolf in sheep’s clothing is not the one who believes wrong. It is the one who devours. Let love be your guide.” – Barry Smith

“There is irony here; the man you fell in love with was a Klingon… There is also Grace: For what greater source of peace exists than our ability to love our enemy?” – Sarek of Vulcan, Star Trek Discovery, Series1, Episode 14

“True justice is not unilateral” – Me

“You cannot stop Ragnarok. Why fight it?”
“Because that’s what heroes do.” – Thor, Ragnarok

“Before you ever speak into someone’s life about any issue, before you utter a single word, make absolutely certain that the person feels unconditional, complete love from you. If you have any doubt about that, if they have any doubt about that, love them more and just hold off on the issue.” – Susan Cottrell 

“Part of trusting God is to let go of the things that you feel are so important that you have to sort them out yourself.” – Me

“The problem is not an interpretation of the text. The problem is [actually, that of] not giving Jesus authority over the texts. The very nature of the fundamentalist’s view of scripture is that it is all inspired equally and that Jesus is just another added voice to the mix. Jesus didn’t add his voice to the prophets but made manifest the mystery they didn’t understand. Jesus, not the prophets, is the explication of scriptures.” – Scott Bennett

“Flying…is like good music. It elevates the senses, and the experience of being alive” – Harrison Ford

“The question we need to ask ourselves as modern believers, is whether we really trust God to speak clearly and directly to someone, independent of the Bible” – Mike Douglas

“If the church wants to be something more than the mirror image of the culture in which it is embedded, it should start by ditching the idea that someone with a differing view on this subject or that, equals someone being a malevolent enabler or purveyor of evil. It could just be that they see the world differently. There’s no need to infer diabolicalness when something as simple as diversity will do.”- Jeff Turner

“Prayer is God’s way of empowering the powerless” – Me

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Even More Quotes

“Faith is not believing in creeds, doctrines or dogmas; faith is trusting the divine presence in every moment”. – John Shelby Spong

“A woodcarver creates his masterpiece, not by addition, but subtraction. The more material he creatively and skillfully removes, the more beauty emerges.

“So it is with God-talk. Sometimes the less we say about God, the more His beauty is seen. The more we remove the generally accepted mythos, the more the Truth is revealed, even without being directly spoken”. – Jeff Turner

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

I think there can’t be any greater joy in life than knowing someone else’s life is richer because you lived – Rich Mullins

“Is your relationship with your loved ones based upon a book or what’s in your heart? It should be no different with your relationship with God”. – Barry Smith

“I don’t see the Gospel as something that makes your life a sacred experience, or that gives you a sacred life to replace the one you have. Rather, the Gospel is an introduction to the sacred nature of the life you’re presently living, and as an empowering call to live in harmony with it”. – Jeff Turner

“There are bigger issues in life than girls who date girls and boys who date boys” – Anon

“In fact, I believe that the biggest sin is in trusting in ouselves to jump through all the right hoops, in the right order, and at the Pastor’s command. Oh that’s such self-sufficiency, rather than relying on He Who began the good work in us to bring it to completion”. – Me

“The cross was not some kind of blood magic ritual that released the forgiving potential of a formerly mercy-withholding god, but rather an act of human barbarity and cruelty, that allowed for the revealing of the forgiving nature of an always already merciful God.” – Jeff Turner

“Adding your works (performance) to what Christ has accomplished for us at the cross as a means of salvation is an insult to God and the cross. Think about it!” – Chikezie Obika

“If morality is your way of living, you are living way beneath your privileges. Living by love in the power of the Spirit is true living and there are no rules–there are none needed. The one who lives by love will live a life like Jesus lived which is so far above living by rules the difference is like night and day!” – Mike Rough

“The murder of Jesus is a reflection of human, not divine, justice. The resurrection and revivifying of the mangled corpse of an innocent man is a reflection of divine, not human, justice.

“We are not as good as we think we are, and God is far better than we’ve been told he is”. – Jeff Turner

“That death is no longer the end has profound ramifications. Absolutely profound. Rather than spoon-feed you, I’ll just let you think about it for yourself. Ask yourself this question: ‘What attitudes would change in my life if death is no longer the end?’ If you think about this in any great depth, the results will change your life. It did for me”. – Me

 

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More Quotes…

“You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.” – Anne Lamott

“Listen up fellow Christians. If your path to your understanding of Heaven requires you to provide a little Hell on earth for other humans, you are probably doing it wrong.” – Anon

“The only person more self-righteousness than a fundamentalist Christian is a liberal Christian who believes they have ascended above the petty self-righteousness of the fundamentalist to the glorious self-righteousness of actually being right!” – Jeff Martin

Where is the retribution in the Parable of the Prodigal Son? – Lee O’Hare

Just because everyone believes in a particular doctrine, does not mean that that doctrine is correct. Acceptance of the majority opinion does not make a doctrine true; it is simply more likely that nobody has questioned it! – Me

“Religion has made spirituality so terribly serious. Its a rather eye opening experience that when you launch out into the infinite realm of being with nothing but an open heart, a fierce commitment to truth and a steady hold on a loving awareness for whatever arises, what is actually discovered is a playful mystery seeking nothing from you, but giving to you a love that includes you in its own perfections.

“We’ve called our life “accomplishing a mission”, ” finding a purpose”, “fulfilling a vision”, “discharging a calling”, etc. Its all so gravely serious, sombre, rigorous….

“What if the purpose of your life IS your life? All of it. And what if all this internal and external landscape is nothing more than one infinite playground for your soul to discover its own participation in the delight of its own auspicious grandeur.” – Ron Wright

The only wrath in the Parable of the Prodigal Son is that of the eldest son. – Brian Zahnd

“The Bible is not inerrant, Jesus is. But don’t worry, that should only affect you if you’re a biblican (follower of the Bible), not a Christian (follower of Christ).” – Nathan Jennings

“Your questions aren’t dangerous. The people telling you not to ask them are”. – Jeff Turner

“The more you understand Grace, the more you become empowered to “be” who you already are. You’ll find yourself living more righteous by accident than you ever have on purpose.” – David Jones

‘There is no payment in forgiveness – Lee O’Hare

Religion takes away our greatest power of decision; religion tells you what to do, instead of allowing you to choose……Religion creates a slave, Love sets the captive free! – Jeff Walsh

Restoration to relationship is what the Father considers Justice. And so justice is satisfied – Brian Zahnd

I’d rather have questions that can’t be answered than answers that can’t be questioned. – Jeff Turner

 

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More Thought-Provoking Quotes

“If it’s not good news, then it’s not the Gospel” – Brian Zahnd

“The power of your own salvation does not depend on someone else’s faith being ‘wrong'” – Me

“If we choose to make understanding the goal in our relationships, it changes the way we diagnose issues and removes the limits of judgment.” – James Arthur

“You cannot reason a man out of a position [that] he did not reach through logic” – Peter Hampe

“If there is a place where God’s mercy ends, be that at death, or after a figurative “three strikes,” then there is a place where God ends”. – Jeff Turner

“But you can use it [remorse] for good, so that one day it will be a jewel in your crown rather than a stone in your shoe.” – Me

“Interesting that the more holy a person is, the more they look like Jesus, the more loving, forgiving, and kind, yet people think the exact opposite of God, that is, they say God is unforgiving, wrathful, and violent precisely because he is holy. Interesting that what people call unholy in humans they call holy in God” – Jacob M. Wright

“The narrow gate that leads to life that Jesus taught us about, is the gate of grace. Few find it because they have been so religionized to law and performance and striving that anything other than that seems like heresy. Law and not grace is the broad way that leads to death” – Don Keathley

“When people are different than you, affirm their ability to see their own path.” – Wendy Francisco

“Repentance is the ability to receive the truth that sets us free. It’s a change of mind that causes us to see as God sees and think as God thinks. Repentance is life-changing! Vital in this process is a desire to come face to face with truth. Truth is essential for there can be no transformation without it. We limit ourselves by idolizing mystery or dismissing truth as unknowable. Mystery is good. Mystery is the flavor of the universe. But behind every good mystery is a greater truth waiting to be discovered. It is the glory of the Creator to conceal things. But to search them out, to discover and learn, is the glory of kings. It’s how we grow.” – Paul Ellis

“If your love for, and friendships with, others are based on perfect mutual agreement / alignment with every theological belief, ethical issue or political view, then your love and friendships are for/with those beliefs, issues and views and not with people.” – Rudy M Zacharias

“The religious spirit longs for our personalities to be cut down in the name of good character.

“Our “good” character must be forged in a culture of freedom.

“People don’t fear freedom; they fear the consequences of freedom and how your freedom will affect them. If we really want to live out how the kingdom of God functions then we will need to start working out the consequences with all its good’s bad’s and ugly’s”. – James Arthur

“When was the last time Satan tempted you to show love and compassion towards another, in order to hurt the heart of God?” – Barry Smith

“Remember, the words “my theology” are only a single space and a letter away from spelling “mythology.” May we all (myself included) walk a bit more humbly, and remember how closely we are bordering on fiction each time we choose to assume our musings on the divine represent ultimate truth” – Jeff Turner

I view the Old Testament sacrifices the way I view my cat when it leaves a mouse at my door. It’s a nice thought on its part. It’s more than a nice thought actually, it’s showing love the best way it knows how. But in the grand scheme of things, it’s kind of gross and annoying. The sacrifices are kind of the same way, it was man’s best attempt to relate with God. God being the cool guy that he was empathized with our attempts, but they never changed the way God looked at us, or thought about us.” – Joseph Masters

If, like the issue of Hell, a doctrine bears damaging fruit, then the very least thing we should due is to research the crap out of it in order to find out if it is correct. Anything less is disrespectful both to the Scripture and to those who are affected by it.” – Me again

Grace isn’t Grace if it cost you something! Grace is free and a gift! – John J. Withington

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Great Quotes

Ok, so the header image is a geeky mashup of mis-credited quote and ill-matched picture (don’t worry; if you don’t get it, ask someone who likes Star Wars, Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings). But it sets the scene for today’s little offering.

Just for a change, then, today I’m posting quotes from various people that are pretty thought-provoking. There’s a particular emphasis on ‘heresy’, because my I nickname my blog the ‘Heresy Blog’, in that it’s a place where I explore new (to me) ideas on my faith, and often challenge the accepted status quo with regard to Christian doctrine.

Right, engage your brain. Here we go – enjoy!

cslewis_bible capon-grace-cannot-prevail

five-years-heretic

george-bernard-shaw

And…

money-is-the-root-of-all-evil-church

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The Throne of Grace

I subscribe to the Bible notes from the UCB (United Christian Broadcasters), based in the UK. It’s a booklet of daily devotions that they will send as a free regular subscription to anyone who asks. Or you can visit their website and read the devotional yourself on a daily basis.

Generally, there are some good bits and some not so good bits, as with any daily devotional, which is partly why they are no substitute for a decent prayer life and certainly no substitute for walking with Jesus Himself. And I appreciate the amount of effort it must take for its authors to generate inspirational reading day after day. It’s a mammoth task which I can only dimly appreciate, despite writing a (fairly) regular spiritual blog myself.

I appreciate that some of my readers may already read the Word for Today. For that reason, I wanted, reluctantly, to take issue with something I read in a recent devotional, namely the one for the 31st of March.* I am writing this only to re-encourage fellow believers who may have been discouraged by something that was written in that piece, and even than I may have taken it wrongly. If so, I apologise.

The piece is entitled ‘Grace’, and, as you know, I am a strong proponent of the nature of God’s infinite Grace extended towards all of humanity. However, there is not much in there about Grace as I understand it, as being the underserved favour of God. There’s a lot about ambulances, but nothing about the extravagant, generous, limitless, wild and free favour of our awesome God! But the passage that I really want to take issue with is this, near the end:

“…. He transported us from where we were to a place that has all the grace we’ll ever need until we go home with Him. One day God will sit on a throne of judgement where there’ll be no more grace, but until that day He’s seated on a throne of grace

What?! There’ll be no more Grace? Clearly this is definitely not Grace as I understand it. Grace is part of Who God is; it’s part of His personality, it’s not just one of the ways He works. Grace is a part of God; it’s not something He does, it’s something He is. It is part of His Character. God doesn’t change, and, just like God, Grace will go on forever.

I will say that again: Grace will go on forever.

To claim that ‘there will be no more Grace’ is not only completely wrong, it is also potentially the source of much hurt, confusion and doubt, especially for new believers. It’s a very dangerous statement to say that Grace will someday end!

If there is indeed a Judgement like the one the writers hint at – one of those judgements like a courtroom where people are found ‘guilty’ or ‘not guilty’ – then it too will be shot through with Grace. Grace will be fully in action at the Judgement Seat! But I personally do not believe that the Final Judgement will be like that. This is our loving God Who sent His Son to die for all mankind. I’ve written before about what I believe happens after death to those who do not yet believe in Him. We are so conditioned in our time to have this awful image of an angry, judgemental God that we can think of no other kind of Last Judgement than the courtroom style of judgement. But when the Bible was written, courtrooms were not as they are now; sure, there was public justice, but I am sure it was very different from our current ‘adversarial’ judicial system. In fact, it would have been different from one town to another; from one society to another. For us to assume that the Final Judgement will be anything like an episode of ‘Crown Court‘ is simply fallacious thinking.

But I digress. Jesus said that, “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life“. (John 5:24, NIV) Did you see that? “He…..will not be judged”. Why? because Grace extends even –  and especially! – to the Judgement Seat – despite what our devotional writer friends might think. Grace is God’s chance to show His amazing generosity first shown to us now as Grace, but then it will also be shown also as Grace and Mercy. Grace and Mercy are both attributes of God’s Character and they go hand in hand. Nothing personal, guys, if ever you read this, but those new in Christ need to be assured of the security of their salvation, not placed in any sort of fear of the Final Judgement. Because Jesus also said, “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. (John 17:3, NIV)

So, let’s not for one moment believe that Grace will ever end. There will indeed be Grace at the Judgement – because God is the God of Grace. No matter what we’ve done, no matter how far we think we’ve fallen, those whom Jesus has called will never – ever – lose all that He’s called them to.

Grace lasts for ever!!


*The piece is reproduced here for your reference, in case the original link ever doesn’t work, with the contended passage in bold type:

“Grace

The Bible says: ‘For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need’ (vv. 15-16 NIVUK 1984 Edition). Dr Tony Evans says that God’s grace is like an ambulance coming to treat you when you’ve a medical emergency. First, it dispenses immediate grace to your most serious symptoms. Then they slide you into the ambulance, which is equipped with more grace – more medical facilities to deal with your problem. Then the ambulance races to the hospital where even more grace awaits. And once you’re admitted, the hospital keeps dispensing grace until your need has been addressed and you can go home again. In the words of John Newton’s beloved hymn: ‘‘Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far and Grace will lead me home’. One day Jesus heard our emergency call: ‘Lord, be merciful to me a sinner’. He came to earth, found us dying in sin, and reached down to save us. And as our High Priest, He transported us from where we were to a place that has all the grace we’ll ever need until we go home with Him. One day God will sit on a throne of judgement where there’ll be no more grace, but until that day He’s seated on a throne of grace. So anytime you fail or falter, you can ‘approach the throne of grace with confidence’ and receive God’s mercy and forgiveness.”

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Gehenna

One of the words which we nowadays translate as ‘hell’ is the Greek word ‘Gehenna’. In the context of Jesus’s day, it was used to refer to the rubbish dump outside Jerusalem, which was situated in a place called the Valley of Hinnom; ‘Gehenna’ is the Greek translation of that idea. Gey Ben Hinnom – The Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to give it its full (anglicised) title – was used in ancient times for idol worship and vile practices such as child sacrifices, as such it was seen as an unclean place of wastage and decay. It was of course known as somewhere to be avoided!

I’m not going to go into the whys and the wherefores of the existence or non-existence of hell, or any other discussion on the concept of the eternal destiny of human souls. Today, I want to talk about hell which is present today in real life. The concept of Gehenna is seen wherever human life is wasted, wherever precious souls are consigned to the ‘rubbish dump’ as being worthless. It’s seen when sufficient value is not attached to human lives, when people are not appreciated, where people are abused, in the bondage of slavery; either real slaves, which does go on today, let me tell you – or just people who are underpaid and whose work goes unappreciated, or people who are subjected to unjust working conditions such as zero-hours contracts.

So, I think a lot of what Gehenna means is the hell of wasted lives. There’s a bloke I know, who wrote this:

Just a little context before you think I’m getting all Southern Baptist Preacher on you…When Jesus uses the word ‘Hell’ he is referring to a place called Gehenna.  This place was known and was significant to the people of Jesus’ day – it was the rubbish dump outside of Jerusalem and was known to be always smoldering away. Really horrific things had happened there in the name of other gods and it was considered cursed. This image represented destruction, wastage, oppression.

Whatever your view on faith, I can tell you Gehenna exists. If you look around – it exists and it exists in front of our eyes.

Everyday I see lives wasted.

I see people oppressed by addiction.

I see people shackled by fear.

I see relationships stifled by insecurity or scars of the past.

I see dreams put on the shelf for another day.

I see mistrust that breeds mistrust.

I see abuse.

I see bitterness.

I see lies.

I’m not being judgmental, I’m really not – in fact, if I was to ignore these things I would be lacking in integrity and compassion. I would be shying away from responsibility by sticking my head in the sand.

Where we see the existence of Gehenna in the world, we need to lean over, stretch out a hand and drag others out of the pit of wastage and into freedom, opportunity, relationship.

We should be so close to the edge that we smell of smoke!

URL for this quote is here

(It’s worth reading the whole article too; it does have some bearing on this current post.)

I personally believe that the reason Christians are on the earth (else why not let’s all just go off to Heaven now!) is to bring the Kingdom of God forward from the future into today’s life.

Let me tell you this: ‘Life in all its fulness’ is not pie in the sky when we die, it’s grace on a plate while we wait.

It’s bringing in Jesus’s healing (physical, spiritual and relational), forgiveness and just total restoration to those who are sick and need the Doctor. I’d call that Good News! I have seen this in action in our church where we minister to the homeless, addicts and those locked in vice, and to see these people’s lives restored is nothing short of breathtaking. With all the different giftings in the church, which mesh together and provide supporting and cross-linked, God-built ministry, we really are leaning over into Gehenna and plucking them out of it and into the restoration that Jesus brings.

I have personally seen addicts’ lives restored from the brink, lives transformed, people healed and restored and delivered into fulness of life. This is really happening today in my church. Gehenna is being raided and plundered and people are being rescued – for real.

Wow! It’s brilliant what Jesus does!


Note: The header picture on this post is a shot of the Valley of Hinnom as it is today.

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The Ultimate ‘Bad Witness’

One of the main stipulations that was laid on me as a new believer was that I was not to be a ‘Bad Witness’. Emphasis on the capital letters, please – a Bad Witness. Oh, Heaven forbid that any of us should be seen to be a Bad Witness! A Bad Witness was, (somewhat loosely, and never adequately defined or explained), where the believer did something that those outside the Church would see that would somehow cause them to disbelieve that Jesus is alive, that He lives in His Church, in me, and that I walked with Him. So I had to be so, so careful to ‘avoid all semblance of evil’ (1 Thess 5:22)*, especially when in the presence of unbelievers, in case they saw something that was a Bad Witness!

But actually the very worst Bad Witness is seen when Christians try to portray God in any way other than in the Love of Jesus. By being all judgemental, superior and condemning, by hating gays, by looking out for sin in others, they are being a Bad Witness. (The cartoon at the top of this post sums this up rather nicely!) We are not actually called to act in this way towards people; we are, however, called to be Christ to the people we meet. This is one reason why, at least for the sake of the ‘witness’, if you like, it is so important a) to be Christlike and b) to let Him do the transforming to make us like that, not to try to attain it by our own efforts. Trying to do things in any other way except for Jesus’s way is not going to bring Christ to those who need Him. It’s going to be a Bad Witness.

So, how do Christians manage to be such a Bad Witness?

Essentially, we do it by portraying the wrong image of God. Let me quote from a book I am reading just now, called Saints in the Arms of a Happy God’, by Jeff Turner. I have included a few illustrations too which I think emphasise Jeff’s points. Be warned: some of this reads quite negatively, but there is a purpose to this.

“Jesus Christ’s life of others-centered love and forgiveness was meant to do much more than give us a goal to shoot for. It was meant to unveil God. The Grace extended to us is the Sun that rises, giving illumination to His character. This revelation, according to Paul, does not elicit some sort of plastic, pseudo righteousness, nor does it cause us to burn ourselves out with the fever of religious performance. Rather, it brings about true, lasting change in our hearts. It motivates us to real Godly living, simply because in the light of Grace, God looks way too good to run away from, and far too friendly to fight against. When we see Him in the light of Jesus Christ our fear, anxiety, terror, and trepidation all melt into pools, and we find ourselves wondering how we could have ever been afraid of such a beautiful Father.

“Grace causes us to run from the tar pits of legalism and religious slavery, straight into the arms of a Father who, despite what we’ve been told, has never disdained or despised us. We may not have the Pharisees, with their man-made additions to the Mosaic Law among us today, but we have many teachers and preachers who have rushed in to fill the vacuum left by their absence. The same misconceptions of God abound today, though they look a little less Jewish, and a little more Evangelical.

“The sad truth is that we have all inherited a portrait of God that looks far more like Mt. Olympus than Mt. Zion, and it’s an inheritance that most are too terrified to discard. In our Western traditions God is often presented as being cold, austere, distant and judgmental. We imagine Him surrounded by dark clouds, with a scowl sprawled across his angry mug.

angry-god-wtf

He’s very eager to be pleased, but, unfortunately, extremely difficult to please. He is a hermit that is notoriously difficult to coax out of hiding and even harder to keep around because the slightest scent of sin can send him bolting for the hills in a rage. In fact, one of our imagined deity’s greatest weaknesses is His sin allergy. Wherever there are humans behaving badly, you can be sure he’ll be absent. Where there are broken people doing broken things with their broken lives, God will not be present, for in our mythology human sin works like Kryptonite against him, forcing Him to retreat and separate Himself from us.

“He is mostly sad andAngryGod1 mad, and rarely, perhaps when his enemies bite the dust, glad. He is heartbroken over our lack of devotion and disinterest in prayer, but is himself quite disinterested in the everyday events of our lives. He is a demented Santa Claus of sorts, who tightly clenches the naughty list – which we’ve all landed on, by the way – and dreams of filling our spiritual stockings with the burning coals of judgment. When he looks at [a nation], he doesn’t see individual people who desperately need love and mercy, but a widespread, faceless blob of darkness, deserving judgment. He’s sickened by our lack of fervency, repulsed by our spotty church attendance records, and gets all up in arms when our summer vacation extends over a Sunday morning. To put it simply, He’s angry.

“The God that a large percentage of us imagine and pay homage to is disgruntled, disappointed, and disapproving. While some may be fortunate enough to have imagined Him in His true state, my experience has been that 9 out of 10 people, myself included, do not see Him rightly. We’ve been subjected to hours of teachings that have subtly sown into our minds the idea that He is primarily a legal deity concerned with rights and wrongs, and this subconscious programming is absolutely killing us. I would even venture to say that it is the leading cause of anxiety, fear, discontentment, and depression among Christians. In all of this fear, turmoil, and mythology, however, Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, still stands in our midst, combatting these false ideologies, and seeking to shine the light of Grace upon the face of His Daddy.”

Saints in the Arms of a Happy God: Recovering the Image of God and Man, by Jeff Turner

I know that some of this sounds really negative, but I have included it to illustrate that this is in fact exactly how many people – both inside and outside the Church – see God. Isn’t it terrible? Isn’t it tragic?

So, how and why does that awful picture of God get transferred to being the way that those outside the Church see when they see certain Christians? I believe it is because those kinds of Christians portray, and represent, God in that way because that is how they believe He is, and they try to imitate Him or at least try to be His ‘representatives’, or ‘agents’ in the world. Which is, actually, exactly what the church is called to be – each of us being Jesus to those around us – but of course the actuality is a sick and twisted version of the reality that it should be. Many Christians can’t stand to see others having fun, precisely because they believe that because God is an angry fun-sucker, who is completely concerned with making sure that nobody has fun and is obsessively repulsed by our ‘sin’, then they should represent that to the world, and so of course that’s what the outside world see.

puritans

But as Jeff Turner says in my quotation above, Jesus came to show us what God is really like. He went to parties. His first miracle was to make some really strong wine, that, yes, people probably got drunk on. The religious authorities complained at Him for precisely the same reason as today’s fun-sucking religious types did: they saw His disciples having fun! In Mark 2:18-19,  we see this story: Some people came and asked Jesus, “How is it that John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not?” Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? They cannot, so long as they have him with them”. They thought that being acceptable to God meant being all serious all the time and following strict religious observances, whereas actually we can give God no greater honour than to enjoy, and be thankful for, all the blessings He showers on us each day.

As I have shown in my post Graven Image, Jesus came to show us that the image of God we have picked up by reading the Old Testament, and that the people of His time also believed, was incorrect. The religious authorities of the time had fallen into the same trap as many of the believers of today, the trap of believing that God is angry and must be placated by us making all kinds of sacrifices, including sacrificing the enjoyment of life itself, and the religious authorities of our time too fall into the same trap. It’s all behaviour-based rather than relationship-based. God simply wants a relationship with us! However, when we persist in perceiving God as an angry dictator, we portray Him entirely wrongly.

And so, because we serve an ‘angry god’, we try to act towards others in such a way that be believe he would act – in other words, we try to point out sin, we are bigoted and intolerant, we definitely hate gays (because God says in Deuteronomy that He hates them, doesn’t He?) and we believe that anyone who believes things even slightly differently from the things we believe is destined for eternal punishment.

This, then, is the essence of the Bad Witness!

To come back, then, to the original stipulation of not being this Bad Witness, then, let’s look at what we’ve achieved so far. We don’t do things like partying, drinking, or anything else that others might see as a Bad Witness. What should be our walk of faith is reduced to a set of do’s and don’ts. But, you see, by having such a list of do’s and don’ts, which we then expect as ‘normal behaviour’ for Christians to the world around us, we reinforce in outsiders the belief that ‘Christians don’t do these things’. And so begins, and persists, the vicious cycle of legalism that puts off those people who would so love to have all the benefits of faith in Christ, but don’t want to become like us as the price of obtaining all those benefits. We live under the rules taught by other fallible men, we impose those rules on those in the Church, those outside see those rules and (quite rightly) want no part of it, and we are a Bad Witness. Isn’t it funny? Those ‘outside’ know perfectly well that we are doing things in the wrong way; we just don’t realise it ourselves!

Dont_Follow_Rules_Taught_by_Men

And so people in the world have expectations of what they think Christians should do, look like, behave like, and believe. And even then, that opinion varies from person to person. So it’s actually impossible at best, and destructive at worst, to try not to be a Bad Witness, only except by portraying God as a loving, benevolent Father like Jesus portrayed him.

It must be almost completely apparent by now that it’s time we stopped, as a church, trying to please humans. Because of all the above, you can’t please men. But if instead we please God, by displaying the qualities of Jesus to others, by being Jesus to others, then that will be the opposite of the Bad Witness.

Jesus said ‘by this shall all men know you are my disciples, that you love each other’ (Jn 13:35). Love each other. Love those both outside and inside the Church. Live a life of freedom, not of bondage to man-made rules and regulations.

This is how others will know we are His disciples. Not by our trying to avoid being a Bad Witness!


Jeremy Myers, of the blog Redeeming God, has published an article in which he frames this concept as an apology to the world outside the Church. Click the image below to go to that article:

Redeeming God logo


*Although actually the Scripture says ‘avoiding all kinds of evil’ – somewhat less useful to the legalism brigade!

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The Fruit of the Spirit

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
– Galatians 5:22-23

I wanted to share today about the Fruit of the Spirit, the Holy Spirit. If we allow the Spirit to live in our lives, to live His Life through us, we will become more like Jesus, (2 Cor 3:18 and Romans 12:2), and incidentally we will also become the people we should always have been. (On an individual level, this means you becoming more the person you always wanted to be!) That is, good, decent people who live in the power of the Kingdom on a daily basis, loving God and loving others. In short, we exhibit the Fruit of the Spirit.

So, how do we grow this fruit in our lives? The really interesting thing is that, just like soaring on wings like eagles, it is really effortless. You only need to spend time walking with Jesus in order for this fruit to appear virtually without you noticing it. The really odd thing about this fruit is that it usually takes others to recognise it; we generally do not recognise it in ourselves, unless we one day look back at how far we have come, and how much we have changed. And even then it comes as a surprise.

C. S. Lewis once wrote a similar thing about the quality of ‘humility’ (which does not mean being all mousey and submissive, but instead means having gentleness combined with strength). Here’s what he wrote:

lewis_smDo not imagine that if you meet a really humble man he will be what most people call ‘humble’ nowadays: he will not be a sort of greasy, smarmy person, who is always telling you that, of course, he is nobody.

“Probably all you will think about him is that he seemed a cheerful, intelligent chap who took a real interest in what you said to him.

“If you do dislike him it will be because you feel a little envious of anyone who seems to enjoy life so easily. He will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all.”
– C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

“…he will not be thinking about himself at all.” That’s the key. It’s probably why he doesn’t notice the Fruit in his own life; he’s looking to God and outwards to others, and not at himself at all.

And let me tell you something else: the Fruit of the Spirit is the strongest and most compelling evidence for the work of God’s Grace in the believer’s life. I can think of many people I know, from homeless people ministered to by our Church, to members of my own family, whose lives have been radically infused with the Fruit of the Spirit. They didn’t try for this to happen; they didn’t strive for perfection; they didn’t suddenly decide one day to start following a set of rules or adopt a certain formula. They just walked with Jesus, and the Fruit appeared naturally all of its own accord.

And that’s the way it should be. Walk with Jesus, and you will become the person you always wanted to be, and that you always should have been. And you’ll bear the Fruit of the Spirit.

Which is no bad thing….

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