Currently Reading (Again) – So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore

After some amazing chats last night, I felt compelled to share this book that I’m reading again. I use to rarely read but, as the Holy Spirit has led me on this journey, there have been many books I’ve been prompted to dig into. This will be my fourth reading of this book in the last 2 years, and I find new and amazing concepts with Jesus every time.

When I first saw the title of this book, I was a bit turned off by it. I was invested in a local congregation at the time and didn’t really consider “the Church” to exist outside of the Sunday morning walls. Of coarse, my viewpoint has radically changed. I see the title now as a play on words. The Church isn’t something we “go to,” it’s who we are. Aspects of the Church may exist in the well known congregational settings, but it also far, far transcends that.

I’ve also had a chance to (indirectly) correspond with the primary author (Wayne Jacobsen) via email and a few podcast comments. He is the one I mentioned last night to those who were in that conversation. Wayne intimated not to worry about finding a church, and that every time I went back to the old congregation, I would find less and less there spiritually (though he wasn’t discouraging me from going). He also stated that as I walked out this journey with Jesus, others would find me and begin to walk alongside, and that it would most likely happen all of a sudden.

I can’t recommend this book enough. It’s one of my three “if you were on an island” books. It’s written as a fictitious story so it’s fairly easy to digest while still having meaning that can astound veteran believers.

This book can be found online for free (everyone’s favorite price) in PDF format at http://jakecolsen.com/contents.html.

Also, for convenience, here’s a link to the amazon book if anyone would like to read the synopsis and other reviewers’ commentaries.

A Week of Much Reflection

I’ve had a lot going on recently, all good stuff. It seems Jesus is guiding me into a whole new depth of knowing Father. There have been many, many thoughts and nudgings over the past week especially. It’s like a flood of new and astounding beauty has been revealed, and I’m, again, tumbling end over end trying to get my bearings. It’s always amazing that when I start to gain a decent footing of what Jesus has revealed through the Spirit, he then shows me an entirely new and wonderful dimension that I never could have conceived of until my prior understanding had solidified.

Gone but Not
One of the major concepts Jesus keeps pointing out to me repeatedly is—I may have left the religiosity I was indoctrinated into, but I’m still playing the game. I’m still seeking approval from other professed Christians. As long as I can be controlled in this way, then I’m still subjugated to some extent. Note, I believe religion to be a good thing. It’s one of those words I’m striving to reclaim as good though it’s been abused and manipulated to something else entirely. As a recent statement I read intimated—the only religion I’m interested in is one that loves like Jesus. If my religion still has venom and vitriol, I’m not quite there yet. Likewise, if I’m still upholding an “us verses them” mentality, I’m not really following Jesus whether I use his name or not.

Yet, for some time, I was still hoping that I would have been approved of by others. It’s truly awesome how God continues to chisel me out of that mentality.

The Standard
Whatever label is used, it divides us. This goes for atheist, abortionist, democrats, immigrants, tax collectors, prostitutes, adulterers, etc… I will say, I don’t like abortion. However, I often wonder if a better approach would be, instead of spitting venom, spending that time and energy helping those women that are considering abortion. Our “Christian” society has forced into being much of the very things we protest against. As with abortion, we’ve forced guilt, shame, and condemnation down peoples’ throats. We’ve told them that they’re already sinful for getting pregnant. If they’re already damned by our standards, then why not just do what they have to? After all, we tell them that they don’t deserve our tax dollars. They don’t deserve food stamps. They don’t deserve to leech off the government. They are liable to pay for their “mistake” on their own, alone. We’ll welcome them into our church and give them some leeway of grace, but sooner rather that later, they must subject themselves to our schism or else they’re still just adulterous sinners—and our disapproving gazes will ensure they know it! We talk about the value of human life while at the same time devaluing anyone who won’t conform to our standards as less than human, condemning them to an endless hell.

How easily we throw away their lives by our standards. Is it any wonder why some consider abortion?

Now, yes, there may be those who would have an abortion anyways, but how many more would benefit from our love (that little four-letter word Jesus was trying to teach) instead of our condemnation?

This is just one example. What if we represented the Jesus that loves everyone instead of a Jesus that hates atheist? Perhaps atheist don’t believe in our religion because we don’t live our religion out in a believable way that would inspire others to follow Jesus. Those “others” make easy scapegoats for a religion that we have to sell under threat.

A Chance
One of the beliefs I’ve held myself to recently is this—if I just had the chance to explain how I came to this relationship with Jesus, others would understand and begin to live in that freedom of the Spirit. If others would just listen, they would see my point of view and begin to draw closer to Father.

I was wrong!

Most seem content to uphold the beliefs they’re taught whether they make any sense or not. I’ve been striving, at the Spirit’s guidance, to make sense of scriptures that always contradicted one another. It seems, no matter how well I can explain this to others—no matter how much proof I present—there is never enough to convince others to let go and just live, unburdened, with Jesus. This isn’t an insistence that I have all the answers. In fact, it’s just the opposite. I’m realizing no amount of proof will suffice to those that have convinced themselves otherwise.

It seems we can only walk this life of love with others. In a way, I knew this—or I should say Jesus kept telling me this—but I stubbornly had to try and fail first before I could fully accept it. In turn, this has affirmed that I can only truly rely on the Spirit for guidance and not my own process.

Like with the religious elite during Jesus’ ministry, many will insist that they’re right despite any evidence to the contrary. At that point, I can only hope that seeds of love planted by the Spirit will one day be cultivated. Until then, I can only walk alongside if that is where God wants me.

Continuing
These are just a few of the basic things Jesus has helped me understand better. Now, he’s guiding me into another vast and uncharted space that is blowing my mind and challenging me spiritually in entirely new ways. I’m excited that every plateau is just the beginning of another amazing leg of the journey.

At the Cross

There’s something that’s always bothered me about the traditional view of the cross. I could never quite wrap my head around why Father had to punish us, or Jesus in our stead, for sin we were born to commit. How could our sinfulness ever effect the most holy God?

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately but there was one piece I couldn’t see. I reasonably accepted that, in the old ways, there were many rules to maintain to be pure enough to reside in God’s presence. If the rules worked, what was Jesus’ purpose?

Often, we consider Jesus’ sacrifice a payment for our sins—all of humanity’s sin. This, too, is a reasonable conclusion, but I still felt there was something I was missing. It seemed God kept prompting me to dig deeper.

It is reasonable to conclude that Jesus took Father’s wrath at the cross, that he completely drank of that cup. This led me to conclude, based on concepts I’ve learned from others, that Father’s wrath is the antidote for our sin. While that antidote did the job of cleansing people, it also destroyed them, as can be seen throughout the Old Testament.

So what happened at the cross?

Our older brother, Jesus, the only one truly righteous enough, indeed took our punishment for us. Not only that, he created within his spirit the “antibodies” we needed, that we can handle without being destroyed, and sent them back to us in the Holy Spirit.

And that’s not all—Father was with him every step of the way!

At first glance, we may not accept this conclusion. One of the most popular scriptures that upholds the idea that Father would turn his back on Jesus is Matt 27:46:

About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”). (NIV)

However, we also have the contention of verses like John 16:32:

“A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.

So which is it? Did Father abandon Jesus? Did Jesus expect Father to be there but he wasn’t? Had Jesus became so blinded by our sin that he could no longer feel Father’s presence? Even if this was the case, would the Messiah so easily have mistook what he felt over what he knew to be true—that Father would never abandon him or any of his children?

Yet, Jesus seems to ask why Father had forsaken him.

Here we see something that we can easily miss. Jesus was stating a snippet of an entire book—the first verse of Psalm 22! This would be similar to how we often hear quoted, or may even quote ourselves, “Yea though I walk through the shadow of the valley of death…” (the very next Psalm – 23). When we hear this phrase, we know a greater meaning is intimated, but not the meaning that the speaker has been abandoned to death. Likewise, when we read through Psalm 22, we see a much larger picture of what Jesus was intimating, including the prophetic undertones:

v15 – they pierce my hands and my feet.
v18 – They divide my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment.
v24 – For he has not despised or scorned the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help. (emphasis mine)

In the final verses of Psalm 22, we see the culmination of Jesus’ accomplishment:

All the rich of the earth will feast and worship; all who go down to the dust will kneel before him—those who cannot keep themselves alive. Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord. They will proclaim his righteousness, declaring to a people yet unborn: He has done it! (v29-31 emphasis mine).

We see throughout this Psalm that Jesus wasn’t abandoned, that Father did not hide his face!

Father and Son faced the cross together. They felt the pain of the antidote of wrath and the burden of sin. Father stood with the Son in his affliction as any loving Father would in the midst of their child’s suffering.

And we all know what happened then—sin lost!

Wrath did not consume Jesus as it had destroyed so many previously. Jesus lived long enough to create the spiritual antidote we needed and on that great Pentecost, Father began to get his family back! No longer were his children estranged because of the Father’s holiness, man’s sinfulness, and the volatile fate of any such human who hadn’t gone through the most prolific, though temporary, forms of rituals to maintain cleanliness so they could draw close. It was finished at the cross, and now we have the gift of the Holy Spirit so we can forever live in the Father’s presence!

And yet, there was still another most exquisite gift. Not only was separation abolished forever, but Jesus rose from the grave to prove that it no longer had the power to contain Father’s children! The mighty plan of Father, Son, and Spirit, to restore the family, has forevermore succeeded!

My Personal View—The Heresy of Heresies

I want to state outright, this is a personal view I hold and possibly one of the most hesitant posts I publish. This writing is meant to be primarily informative to help others understand how I think and where I’m coming from in my views. It’s not intended to force anyone to my viewpoint or insult anyone. I fully admit that I could be wrong about certain things, and that I don’t have all the answers. This view has helped me grow closer to Father, and for me, that is the most important thing.
General
My view mostly resembles what is commonly known as “full preterism.” However, I don’t strictly consider myself a preterist as there seems to be a whole lot of baggage associated with that label. When I say I lean more towards this view, it is only that I believe that all of the prophecies of the Bible have already been fulfilled. I want to explain how I came to these conclusions but also keep this post reasonable in length as to not write a book. My point is that this will not be a very comprehensive writing, but, hopefully, only hitting some main points. Further discussion could be made for those interested.
First, it would seem all the language used pointed to a 1st century fulfillment. I’ve already written about some of this here as well as a series of posts linked here. I’ve placed a lot of info in those links, but to sum everything up—the early churches were seeing the signs of Jesus’ Second coming, just as he said they would if they weren’t “asleep.” One quick example is Hebrews 10:25—as you see the Day approaching.
History
The next big concept is the historical parallels. I listed some of these out as relevant to Revelation in the above links, but I wanted to point out why these seem much more legitimate to me.
First, we have the Jewish historian Josephus. The short story is that he originally led Jewish forces against Rome during the war that started in 66 AD. He surrendered, but was kept alive by Vespasian. The reason—based on the Old Testament prophecies, he predicted that Vespasian would become Emperor. It’s important to note that Josephus would have had little to no knowledge of the Revelation written by John (if believed, like I, that Revelation was written before or around the 66 AD time frame). It also seems, interestingly enough, that he never converted to Christianity despite what he recorded. This, to me, would make his writings more legitimate as he was only recounting what he witnessed and not collaborating with Christians.
One opposing view to this might be that we can’t trust historians over the Bible. However, when historians attest to what’s in the Bible, especially relevant to the specified time frame, it makes the Bible even more legitimate. In addition, confining God’s workings only to what he did in the Bible, that he has no power outside of those stipulations, would limit him to not being able to work in all of his creation, including our world today.
With that in mind, I wanted to point out just a few historical parallels recorded by historians such as Josephus, though there are many more.
Rev 16:21—Great hailstones, about the weight of a talent, * came down out of the sky on people. People blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail, for this plague is exceedingly severe.
Josephus: Wars of the Jews, Bk5, Chpt6—the stones that were cast were of the weight of a talent…it was of a white colour…(during the 1st century siege of Jerusalem)

Rev 1:7, Matt 24:30, Matt 16:27-28—Jesus coming in the clouds/with angels.
Josephus: Wars of the JewsI suppose the account of it would seem to be a fable…before sunsetting, chariots and troops of soldiers in their armor were seen running about among the clouds”
Tacitus: Histories, Bk5, v.13—In the sky appeared a vision of armies in conflict, of glittering armour.

Matt 24:21—For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now–and never to be equaled again.
Josephus—The slaughter within was even more dreadful than the spectacle from without. Men and women, old and young, insurgents and priests, those who fought and those who entreated mercy, were hewn down in indiscriminate carnage. The number of the slain exceeded that of the slayers. The legionaries had to clamber over heaps of dead to carry on the work of extermination.
Additional reference—WARNING!!! Explicit. Do not view if easily offended!

As stated, these are but a few parallels and there are many more that. Along with the Bible’s own internal time statements, this led me to believe 99% of the prophecies were completed in the 1st century. The only exception would be the 1000 years in which Satan is released afterwards. I have detailed my view of this here.
Considerations
Now, this brings up some questions that I would like to touch on shortly. Note, these are my views and, again, I’m not forcing anyone to agree with me.
What happens now if Jesus’ Second coming has already occurred? For me, I believe it’s possible for Jesus to return again, though the Bible doesn’t detail this. It details his 1st century coming, 1st and 2nd. God can, of course, send Jesus a third time as he is God. A more likely scenario, again imo, is that the Kingdom has already been established. God has gone through great lengths not to violate our free will choices while also working behind the scenes. In the Bible, he seems to have given explicit instructions and warnings from Genesis through Revelation as pertinent to the timing and culture. No such implicitness has been given to this aion (age).
In addition, the 1000 year reign doesn’t state that there will be total peace as we know it from our human perspective. Instead, if we look at history from a wide angle, when Satan was bound, the world became more and more peaceful until he was loosed. The effects he had set in motion continued while he was bound but lost power overtime. Like with a tsunami, the temporary thrashing of the earthquake causing it may have long ceased, yet the tidal wave continues on until it has completely dissipated. Similarly, I see this as happening first in Rev 12:7-9, 12-13—Satan kicked out of heaven then thrashing about because he knew his time was short. Likewise, after a thousand years, we see, as referenced in the link above, Satan’s post-millennial thrashing, from which we still see the subsiding of that today. Note, the 1000 years seems to reference Satan’s binding, not the limits of Jesus’ rule. He still rules today!
I believe the world is getting better overall. We see billions more people in the world today, though, slowly, people are learning to treat each other better. We see the sensationalist drama on the news, and I agree we have a long way to go, but I believe God is working things behind the scenes. Perhaps, heaven and earth are getting closer all the time and one day, when all hearts sing in unison, “Come Lord Jesus, Come!” we will see the Kingdom fully substantiated in our reality.
Phew! Okay, I know this is quite long and apologies for that, but I wanted to hit the major points. This is the short version. I know this goes waaaaaaay off the reservation, but it’s something I felt I needed to share in respect to full disclosure. As stated, this is not to cause dissent or arguments but simply to present my thoughts so others might understand how I’ve come to the conclusions I have. Feel free to toss all of this aside if it has no relevance to your journey :).
A few final questions to wrap up. If the constant though of “holding out” until death or Jesus’ return was no longer the primary focus, how would your life change and how would you live in this world now? Would you desire to work harder knowing that this world could go on for countless years to come or would you relax since you were no longer under threat? In other words, are we working in the world out of fear of God or out of our beautiful love relationship with him? Which does he prefer?

Life and Death

Yet another day where I have miscellaneous thoughts floating around in my brain. Here’s just one.

I heard a great couple of questions/statements yesterday from “The Shack” author WM Paul Young (Here is the link if you are able to view it).

If God has gone through such great lengths, because of his infinite love for us, to ensure our ability to say “no” to love, life, joy, hope, relationship—what would make us think that suddenly ends, that something changes God’s mind, at death?

I know some of the proof texts for this thinking, but I wanted to delve a little into my thoughts on this. The first is Hebrews 9:27:

Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, (NIV).

First, if we only take this verse alone, out of context, we can attempt to skew it into a threat that states—“You’re gonna die and be judged so you better do what we say to avoid torment.” However, there’s a comma at the end of this verse, signaling a continuance. Likewise, “Just as” starts off this statement, denoting something is about to be compared. If we hard stop at the end of the verse, then we can see how easily individual scriptures can be skewed to form doctrines that don’t sync well with other passages. This in turn creates chaos and confusion. Additionally, if we just see the words “face judgment,” we immediately default to our Westernized forms of punishment. Often, when a crime happens, the first reaction we see is a cry for judgment/punishment, under the guise of “justice.” This is a far cry from the grace Jesus showed to us while we were still sinners. Taking this verse alone and out of context, we can make illogical leaps that create just what we see in our world today.

If we look at some surrounding verses, we begin to see the broader picture of what this author was stating. Here’s a more full context of this passage: Hebrews 9:25-28.

We see that Jesus offered himself once for all sin. He took the eternal punishment once and for all for everyone. In context, this verse seems to imply the opposite of what is often implied, that we must continually cleanse ourselves of sin lest we die suddenly and are judged eternally for a minor slip-up or “un-confessed sin.” Is our all-loving Father really that bipolar?

This leads to the second proof text: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,“—Romans 3:23 (NIV)

Again, this verse brings us to a dead stop, quotable sledge hammer that we attempt to pound others into submission with. As with the first proof text, we see a comma at the end of the verse, denoting that their is a continuation. If we take a look at verse 24, we see another comparison: “and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” In this, we see more of a complete thought from Paul instead of an out-of-context snippet. All have sinned and all are justified freely by Jesus’ redemptive grace.

We’re taught from infancy that we must submit ourselves to someone else’ insistence of right/wrong with all the sociopolitical bindings and financial implications that entails. Such doctrines of deceit, along with threats of damnation if you bother to research the context and question, have long been the foundation of much of religion.

When we take scripture out of the context of Father’s love and life in Christ, we in turn base all of our decisions on a single instance of time—our death. This causes us to ignore much of life and base all of our decisions on that moment. In turn, without even realizing it, we are controlled by death instead of living life that has been established by Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection.

I was going to write on a couple more topics, but the words flowed freely enough that this post is already long, so I’ll stop here for today. As always, please study these concepts for yourself as pertinent to your personal growth in the Spirit. These are my personal views that have helped me to fall deeper in love with Father as I walk and talk with Jesus.

The Sacred and the Secular

I know this may be an offensive subject for some. It’s something that’s been in the back of my mind for some time that I’ve been talking with God about.

Normally, I only have nonsensical dreams. The way my brain works by default, I need a whole lot of subconscious release. Last night, however, I had a dream that I felt I should share.

I awoke at about 2:30 and felt wide awake though I still felt physically tired. I considered with Father if there was something that was preventing me from sleeping but didn’t seem to have any answer at that time. Once I fell back to sleep, I had the following dream.


I was at a Christian award show as one of the nominees. I’m not much of a singer, and the only acting I’ve done is in some local skits (though many said I was good at it), so I’m not even sure what I was nominated for. There was also a famous actor/singer at this same award show. He ended up winning the award but just as he was starting his acceptance speech, the committee realized his song and lifestyle wasn’t specifically “Christian” and took the award from him. I saw the joyful glee that his song was making an impact on hearts in the Christian world quickly turn to shame and sadness as he returned to his seat.

Next, the presenter called me up to receive the reward. After what happened though, I had no desire to accept; I had no desire to “win” at the expense of someone else. I called up the original recipient and handed the award to him, placing one arm around his shoulders. Then I gave a speech that was something like this:

“Often in our Christian culture, we place the terms on which something or someone can be redeemed. Like with this, we judge what is specifically sacred and what is secular. Though his song touched many hearts, we rejected him. We see in our own Bible that often God is found in the oddest of places. We find Jacob stating, “surely God was in this place and I didn’t know.” We see the “cursing Psalms” as people pouring out their hearts to God in some of the most passionate, yet irreligious, ways. In this, like with this “secular” song, we see something deep within our own struggle that we can relate to and say, “Yeah…me too! I feel that same way sometimes.” Paul states that God’s plan is to redeem all of creation through Jesus, even those we, as Christians, may despise. Today, we showed a great deal of love for a fellow human being in this same earthly journey we are traveling. Then, abruptly, we smashed him onto the rocks. This wasn’t very Christ-like of us.”


At one point, where I was reasonably far away from God, I had some secular music that I listened to often. This music relayed messages like with the cursing Psalms and ultimately helped lead me to Jesus. I found God in the most unlikely of places—a place that I would have formerly rejected and condemned based on my religious upbringing. It seems we, as Christians, often suppress our own feelings that we consider unworthy to bring to Father. At the same time, we tend to condemn others for openly expressing their struggles and questions because they’re not “one of us.” God already knows our deepest thoughts, and he waits patiently for us to bring everything to him, though he loves us too much to force us before we’re ready.

Now, I know this post might be quite “out there,” but I felt compelled to share for any who may glean something from it. I believe more and more in God’s power to redeem anything. May we treat our fellow human beings as Jesus did. May we tear down the walls that separate us from embracing others we’ve deemed as secular…or worse.

Let’s be the salt and the light.

What Could it Mean?

I originally started this post as a follow-up to my recent Revelation commentary, but God had me to think things through a little more thoroughly over the past few weeks. I’ve compiled what seems to be many of the common objections when trying to see things from the perspective I’ve presented. As always, I would like to note these are my personal conclusions as I’ve studied the Bible more. I could well be wrong, but viewing the story of the Bible as a whole, it seems to be the most straightforward message being communicated.

There are several issues that can cause the scriptures to be bent to traditional views. Many religious leaders are just trying to keep their position whether for financial, power, or pride issues, or some combination of these. If we start with traditional assumptions though, it can easily cause us to ever so subtly bend scripture to fit those views. Over time, we get what we have today, a house of cards that collapses as we begin to pull away the layers of misconceptions holding it up.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve tried to lay aside my traditional bias as much as possible to see how, or if, everything in scripture aligns. To my surprise, I’ve found the story being communicated that makes too much sense, in view of God’s love, to just toss aside and accept alternate meanings. This isn’t because I have something to gain by holding these views. It’s more because once this truth was known to me, it was impossible to just close off my mind to it again regardless of the worldly consequences of shunning, shaming, and condemnation.

So the primary conclusions I’ve been led to are these:
God is good, just, and merciful. He is all powerful, all loving, and all knowing. Any conclusions I make stem from these.

From here, I’ve came to many conclusions in light of some of the otherwise atrocious events in the Bible. The main premise here is God who delivers justice tempered by mercy. While this, to some extent, may offend our worldly sensibilities, it tends to make sense when considered.

Would God destroy a society just to torment those people eternally? Or, was the destruction of that society an act of temporal wrath in order to punish them in the physical so their spirit wouldn’t become wholly corrupted? As we often reference, God is all-knowing. Therefore, he knows how to punish those appropriately to save them spiritually. Considering, even in the tumultuous Old Testament world, the punishment always fit the crime (i.e. an eye for an eye and a life for a life). However, once the punishment was doled, there was no more a price to pay. We see this with Jesus’ sacrifice at the cross, and we see that God’s wrath comes to an end (Rev 15:1, Ezekiel 5:13). In any event, the rest of scripture contradicts the idea of a never-ending torment. Was God angry? According to scripture it would appear so. However, his anger came to an end!

With that stated, we can consider why the soon references to the coming judgment of Israel would have been in reference to the 1st century Jewish people. God’s wrath for a society insistent on the curses of the Old Covenant, in light of Jesus’ payment, was granted. Compare the curses of Deut 28:15-68 to the enacting of Revelation. When we stretch the soon terminology to mean something far-future, we in turn bind ourselves to Old Covenant punishment, which is exactly what Israel was doing. In that case, we deny Jesus’ establishment of the New which does not contain such punishment under the law because Jesus has already taken that punishment!

The next consideration is the Lake of Fire. We see Hades (the original concept of a burning torment) tossed into the lake along with Death—that is the state of our spirit being perpetually contained in the grave, or a Sheol-like place, after physical death, as was a common concept in the Old Testament.

The question here is, if the prevalent ideas of the afterlife are thrown into the Lake of Fire, what would the lake be for in regards to us spiritually? The Lake of Fire (imo) is for spiritual cleansing. As mentioned previously, God, in his infinite wisdom and mercy, allowed corrupted societies to be destroyed before they had become completely spiritually corrupted. If completely spiritually corrupt, the lake would wholly consume them and nothing else would be left. The second death is essentially a death of the corruption our spirit has accumulated. I believe this to be why Rev 2:11 and 20:6 mention that the second death (synonymous with the lake) has no power over those who have already been perfected spiritually.

So, if all of this is true, what’s the point of making a decision for Christ in this life? Unfortunately, this question relays the very concept that has so woefully corrupted Christianity. The question is the epitome of selfishness. In other words, the question states—If I don’t have to be a Christian to avoid eternal torment, what’s the point of being a Christ follower? Why not just do what I want until God takes me out and burns away the corruption I’ve caused myself (and possibly others) spiritually? This is the very definition of a backwards way to relate to Father. If we only follow our concept of Jesus to avoid hell, we aren’t really following out of love but self-preservation. This leads to an escapist mentality. If God is going to destroy the world, why make it better? Again, this goes back to skewing the soon terminology into a far-future event. Perhaps one of our main purposes in this life is to make this world better for those who come after us so their spiritual journey is more fruitful (hint, hint—like Jesus did through his life). When we’re just maintaining the status-quo until we’re “taken home,” we defeat the entire purpose of God creating us to be creators ourselves.

In respect to the length of this writing so far, I will stop here for now. I don’t want to scare anyone away with the word count :D. Again, I would like to annotate that these are my views. Please research them prayerfully to seek relevance for your personal walk.

Grateful Disillusionment

Grateful – feeling or showing an appreciation of kindness; thankful.
Disillusionment – a feeling of disappointment resulting from the discovery that something is not as good as one believed it to be.

This is kind of an oxymoron when thought about. It’s like saying “happily disappointed.” Why would anyone ever be happy to be disappointed?

When I first started seeing “behind the curtain” of the institutional congregation I was a part of, my first reaction was severe disappointment. There wasn’t much gratitude. However, this was exactly what my spirit had cried out to God for—to be drawn into a deeper relationship with Jesus. In order for this to happen though, my eyes first had to be opened to what was really going on, even so far as hearing it directly from the leaders’ mouths.

I really don’t want to inflate this post with all of the things that I witnessed. I’ve written plenty of other posts denoting those things. In short, it was a far cry from how Jesus ministered.

It’s been a little over two years since my eyes were opened. For about 6 months after that, I was just going on fumes and was finding fewer and fewer reasons to even make an effort on Sundays and Wednesdays anymore. Eventually, my wife and I decided together that it was time to move on.

I searched through other congregations, but found, through their public statements and members’ views, that the same type of things were going on in all of the local congregations that I knew about. Somehow, this 1st century itinerant Jewish Rabbi of the Bible had become a white American conservative republican patriotic figure. And if you didn’t believe in that Jesus, and didn’t submit to that religion, you were labeled as sinner, backslider, heretic, doubtful…or worse.

It still amazes me how Christians attempt to cram the Bible down others’ throats without much understanding of Jesus’ teachings. Eagles and Flags are placed around Jesus and crosses in an attempt to amalgamate him with the American Dream. The American Dream was never remotely part of Jesus’ teachings though. In fact, it is mostly contradictory to them. We can’t serve two masters….

As may be evident above, I’m still working through much of my disillusionment. Though, day by day, I grow more grateful that Jesus allowed those blinders placed by religion to be removed. I’ve read many peoples’ stories that have gone through this same process. First, a shunning, shaming, or silencing when they try to speak to the things they begin to see. Then, a hesitant abandonment of the manipulated forms of love they’ve been subjected to. When walking away from man-made love towards the astonishing love of Jesus, a gratefulness infills and brings about waves of exponential spiritual growth. This is, often, much to the disdain of many of those who are no longer able to bind these by their forms of religiosity.

For me, while I’m still working through small pockets of bitterness, I can promise to any who have embarked on this journey—it does get better! This beautiful relationship of freedom in Jesus is far more filling than anything I was ever led to believe I could experience—in this life or the next. Human endeavors to replicate this from within a religion have, for centuries, fallen far short.

Only a direct relationship with Jesus will ever fulfill that emptiness that religion promises to fill week after week in the institutional settings. The fleeting and manipulated emotional injunctions do not compare with a direct love relationship with Jesus.

I pray for all those who’ve been sold lies in order to maintain a worldly business. I pray that we can all find the boldness to seek Jesus directly and cast off the shackles that we’re constantly bound with.

May you be gratefully disillusioned through the love of Jesus Christ and the filling of the Holy Spirit to know Father’s heart of love for you!

A Recent Email

Today, I felt led to share this email I received a few weeks ago. Please note I am only sharing this as the sender gave permission and seems to want to remain anonymous. As promised, I will not share the name or personal information, and I believe the info is generic enough not to be personally identifiable. I only edited the formatting to clean it up a little as either the contact form or my email had it kinda choppy. This seems to be in response to my post Confessions.

Comment:
I too have’nt attended a church service on a regular basis for a couple of years. I was in a church for over 20 years until 2 years ago. I have been a born-again christian for approx. 26 years. I take issue however with your statement that you like (approve of?) Rob Bell…this man claims there is no literal hell which shows me he has not read the true word of God at all; either that, or he sees in the word only what he wants to see. The other issue…not knowing if homosexuality is a sin.  You claim you just want to “love people”, yet you coddle them in the midst of a grave offense….anytime homosexuality is mentioned in the word, it is ALWAYS in a negative way. You think loving people is tickling their ears, obviously, when true love, God’s love, confronts sin and stirs people to repentance. You can “love” someone right into hell (yes, it does exist and it’s a literal place, not a figment of someone’s imagination). The word of God says so. Please get a backbone and reallly love people the way you claim to. My not going to church has caused me to desire purity even more in God’s eyes….it did not free me to “just be myself” with regard to His word. Remember, the bible says in the last days men will gather around those that will “tickle their ears”, saying what they want to hear instead of giving them the word of God that leads to life. Any sin is wrong, but to say that you don’t know if homosexuality is wrong is error; loving people is warning them and praying for them to turn to Jesus. Anything else is heresy.

Would you like me to share your info with others through the blog?
(Note: I will never share your name or other personal info, only your question or comment): Share with others

Response:
Hi (edited out name) and thank you for your email.

Please don’t take my word for anything that follows but research for yourself to see if these things have any significance.

Jesus also called divorce wrong and anyone who marries someone divorced is considered an adulterer (Luke 16:18). Yet, divorce seems commonly accepted today. I’m not saying we should shun divorcees, but we tend to make homosexuality our sin of righteous comparison similar to the Pharisee and tax collector. “God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of men, extortionists, unrighteous, adulterers, or even like this tax collector” (Luke 18:11). So when I say I don’t know if homosexuality is wrong, it’s because I don’t want to fall into the trap of comparative righteousness. No one is perfect and everyone has fallen short. Our call by Jesus is to love and not condemn. I understand what you are saying by confronting people with their sin in love, but is that the way Jesus approached those same types of people (tax collectors, prostitutes, adulterers)? He loved them first, set them free from their shame by forgiveness, then they were able to “go and sin no more.” We often seem to get it backwards today by trying to force people out of their sin first. We try to make people clean themselves up before they are worthy of our Jesus. In addition, God knows a person’s heart and how to get them out of that state better than we as humans do. Our job is to love them in the midst of it as Jesus exemplified during his ministry.

As far as Rob Bell, I don’t agree with everything he says, but I’ve studied the doctrine of hell and it has often been misappropriated. The words Gehenna, Sheol, and Hades were often translated from the Hebrew and Greek to state hell. However, even in Old English, hell meant “to cover or hide.” If you want to know more of my take on it, you can view my post here.

As far as the “last days” go, I’ve been studying the end times scriptures (eschatology) a lot lately. It seems we assume that these things haven’t happened yet. However, from what the Bible says, these things were to happen soon—for example, Revelation: 1:1 1:3 1:19 16:15 22:6-7 22:10 22:12 22:20 2:5 2:10 2:16 2:25 3:3 3:10-11 3:20 all use soon terminology in reference to the end of the age (aion), another word that has been translated poorly in many cases. As with the “itching ears” verse, this comes from 2 Tim 4:3. Interestingly enough, Paul seems to make mention of this same “soon” timeline in verse 1—“in view of his appearing and his kingdom.” It would seem that the apostles all believed what Jesus said, that some of them would still be alive when Jesus came in his Kingdom (Matt 16:27-28). I’ve also written much of my current thoughts of this here.

I will have to say, there are some assumptions I’ve had to make such as:
1. that when Jesus said soon, he meant soon.
2. that Jesus spoke in a way the disciples could understand (though their mindset had to be altered) and he wasn’t intentionally trying to confuse them or be evasive (Mark 8:17-18, 21).
3. that the apostles were inspired by the Holy Spirit to tell the 1st century Christians that Jesus was returning soon.
4. that neither the disciples, apostles, or Jesus would give false hope to the Christians that were under such severe persecution during this time.
5. that the Bible is a trustworthy resource that can (mostly) be interpreted within its’ own pages.

Again, I truly do thank you for you thoughts. You can throw all of this out as heresy if you would like and I would understand. A couple of years ago, I would have considered all of this heresy myself. In any event, I encourage you to research these things and not take my word for it. I admit there are things I can be wrong about, but as Jesus has led me, through the Holy Spirit, to study the Bible more to know Father’s heart little by little, it all begins to make sense as one overarching story of his love for us, his children.

Thanks and much love,

John

Additional notes not in the email: Please see “The Day of the Lord” post for additional references of #3 above. If anyone else would like, please send questions or comments through the contact form. I try to reply to all email but it may take some time depending on the depth of the question(s). As promised here, I will (try 🙂 ) not to take it personally and I will keep all personal info anonymous, only sharing the comments if requested.

Torn

I often struggle with engaging people with the stances they take. Much of the time this seems to be because God holds me back and not so much because of my personality. I can talk with someone for hours on end that is willing to listen even if we don’t see eye to eye in the end. I often learn something from these encounters. Those that only want to propagate cliches, though, or dominate a “conversation” with a monologue of rhetoric, I rarely learn anything from.

I’m willing that my faith and beliefs be tested often, but many seem to only want others to accept what they believe as fact because it’s what they’ve always been told. This type of faith is often shallow though.

An example is the often quoted Rapture. The scope of this writing isn’t for pre or post-trib debate etc…it’s more of the general premise of why people use such phrases often.

The common expression I hear more and more is along the lines of: “Jesus is coming back…” Often this is followed up with guilt or condemnation against someone else such as: “…and I will be gone” as opposed to the other “evil” people that will be left behind.

What ends up happening, whether intentional or not, is an abuse of the Bible in an attempt to frighten others into submission to worldly religious leaders. This is in the same way the religious leaders were loading burdens onto others in the 1st Century (Matt 23:4). Fear, intimidation, condemnation—these all lead to hate, both the religious hating the non-religious and vice-versa. Anyone who doesn’t agree with the popular religious view is literally damned to hell. Jesus flipped this damnation on its head in the parable of Lazarus (the outsider) and the rich man (the self-righteous Jewish leaders—Luke 16:14). He placed the rich man in Hades while the outsider was placed in Paradise at Abraham’s (the Jewish forefather) side. The outsider inherited what was though to belong to the insider.

Our approach to others may be better received if it’s without condemnation, no matter how far in sin we might think they’ve fallen. It’s often at the bottom where people find Jesus. Such is life in the upside-down Kingdom. Many elevate themselves above others to say that they will be whisked away while “those others” will be left behind. We see in this instant, in order for me to be qualified, I have to compare my righteousness to that of others, the same as the Pharisees were doing (Luke 18:11). If my scorecard is better than theirs, if I’ve checked all the right boxes, then I get to proclaim that I’m “in” and therefore, since they aren’t playing by our rules (Isaiah 29:13), they are “out”. This leads to self-righteousness, that we’ve done all the right stuff to be qualified, and we have the right to decide who else is in or out.

Many may do this without realizing it because this methodology is all they’ve known and been taught. They hold up the Bible as the way to live while ignoring how Jesus lived.

I’m really torn. I desire to go to these people, yet they don’t want to listen to anyone except those that affirm what the want to hear. Jesus seemed to have the same problem and the same reaction (Matt 23:37-38). Paul likewise wished, for the sake of his fellow Jewish people, that he would be cut off from Christ (Rom 9:2-4)!

Paul’s statement above use to confuse me until I realized he wasn’t wishing himself to hell in their place. He would rather have suffered the coming judgment himself than for any of Israel to have to suffer it. This is quite a powerful gesture and this is what Jesus did at the cross. He was cutoff from the Father and suffered the wrath we were meant to for our sin.

Today, instead of having such a passion for others that we would be willing to suffer in their place, we condemn others to tribulation, or worse, eternal torment. How sadistic is that? As if there isn’t enough hell on earth now, we only look forward to torment and destruction of others as long as we can say our own hides are safe.

How is this “good news” of damnation and exclusion seen by those outside of our religion? Is this really the message Jesus delivered to these types of people?

It seems Christians use many fear tactics like this today in an attempt to scare people into righteousness. However, this only makes people conform externally and compare their level of righteousness to others, or it scares people away from wanting to know Father altogether. Either way, the result isn’t bringing others to Jesus.