Hope

Church Set Free

For a few months now, I’ve been struggling to write, at least anything new that’s been on my heart. This isn’t because I don’t have the inspiration, but more because I’m finding it harder to express this overwhelming relationship with Father, with Abba, in human terms. Attempting to write these things in a coherent, understandable way seems quite the feat. When I’ve attempted to write lately, I quickly realize that I’m only scratching the surface of what I desire to express. To explain one concept would require expounding on a dozen others, and the more straightforward I attempt to write, the higher the risk of misunderstanding. I’ve attempted to write some recently in a way that would leave an opening for further consideration on one’s own terms, but this too seems to fall woefully short of my intent.

As I’ve been discussing this more with Father, he seems to keep asking me a…

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Love’s Lost Light.

Church Set Free

My first feeble attempt at poetry :P.

Seeing now what’s always been,

another sight too blind for sin.

How it goes we’ve always seen,

repeat it does in hand-built scheme.

Insisting now the bottom found,

of love that never has had bound.

Yet words found state works are right,

still hasten on that darker night.

Joy is now as pain will sing,

lonely solace, tortured king.

Outside the inner wall was built,

strong enough to hold the guilt.

Safe is not where questions dwell,

reversed, did judge, the Hades’ hell.

For in was out and out was in,

though still insisting hatred’s sin.

Words of spirit read by soul,

spoken loud from blinded hole.

Spirit sees what soul will hide,

deceptive curse of selfish pride.

Perceive the tale whose meaning hid,

of those who plot of others rid.

While bids are lain for hope to end,

lines in sand will proud defend.

And words hold true when all approve,

but tortured…

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Bow and Confess

Church Set Free

that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.—Philippians 2:10-11 

How we see God and how we show Jesus to others can very much be reflected in how we present passages such as this. In the past, this passage reminded me of popular movie scenes where a person was dragged before a ruler, then forced to their knees against their will. Usually, the person was gut-punched, hit in the head, or otherwise forced to bow though they had no desire to whatsoever. Generally, this seems to be the type of imagery conjured by such verses.

But is that how our God of Love works? If we look at the meaning behind these words, we can see…

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Kitchen Table Conversation: Eternal Justice

My contribution to the Kitchen Table Conversation on Justice. Please visit the other Church Set Free contributors; there are a variety of styles and viewpoints.

Church Set Free

What is Justice and how does it tie to God? This question can take many paths, but I hope to present part of my view here. The approach I take is to first understand how God presents justice. How we see Father and his justice is how we tend to enact it in the world. If we think of God as a vengeful consuming fire, we may lean more towards vengeance. If we see God as a merciful consuming fire, we may lean more towards mercy.

First, I would like to address possibly the most obvious issue—Are punishment and justice correlated? At this point, I would like to say yes to that question, but further explanation will come through the remainder of this post. I may refer to punishment going forward as, often, when justice is sought, it is for reasons of punishment. Therefore, I think it crucial to understand Father’s punishments to…

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Kitchen Table Conversations – Justice

Church Set Free

kitchen table

Wednesday, February 10th 2016

Topic is “Justice”

The table is here: Church Set Free

A bunch of posts on one theme

a diversity and abundance of 

style

content

appearance

individuality

personality

life and living

Put a note in your diary – our table is big enough for everyone.

FEBRUARY 10th 2016

Conversations across the globe

“JUSTICE”

Hope to see you here for some great company!

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Christian, the Reason So Many People are Losing Faith—May Be You

john pavlovitz

Feet-walking-street-city-effects
Thou shalt not steal.
– God

Millions of people have lost their religion but they haven’t all given it up willingly. I think we Christians have stolen it from many of them.

They’ve looked at our body of work and found it far less than convincing. For all our loud, flowery talk of a God who is Love, we’ve repeatedly proven ourselves incapable of a worthy demonstration in close proximity—and so away they walk.

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus dreamed out loud that the very lives of those who followed him would become brilliant beacons pointing to God; that our collective character would be the loudest testimony of God’s goodness in the world. We would incarnate Christ’s love to a hurting humanity in real-time, up close; and they in turn would seek the source of what they’d experienced—and find God there waiting.

Consider this a wake-up call, because that dream ain’t happenin’ with nearly enough regularity.

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Listen Instead

(Originally posted at churchsetfree.wordpress.com)

Over the past few months, I’ve written several drafts. Some I’ve abandoned half way through and some I’ve written and edited until all I have to do is hit the publish button. Something has been holding me back though—or maybe I should say—Someone.
When I first started writing, it was more of an outlet to put the discombobulated thoughts in my head into a more solidified form. As I began to draft posts, I could see how skewed some of my ideas were, and so I researched and edited my writings. Eventually, the ideas I started with turned into something else entirely, and while others may have benefited from what was published, I learned a lot from what God was showing me personally, at that point in our journey, through those writing processes.
However, a few months back, that all came to a halt. While I had several posts that I thought were well articulated, and could benefit others, I wasn’t able to publish them. Now, I mean I could have hit the publish button, but God seemed to be asking me not to yet, if ever. And so, because of the relationship God has formed with me, I obeyed—not because I had to and God was making me; I wanted to because of this relationship of love and trust that he’s developed with me.
I’ve been wondering when or if I should write more while chatting with God (aka praying). Over time, I’ve come to understand more fully what God has been showing me along the way—to just listen instead.
Me: Why should I just listen though? Can’t I write and listen?
God: Just trust me.
Me: What if they’re “wrong” or abusing scripture or being offensive or hurting others or…
God: Just listen.
But what am I listening for?
We can spend so much time proclaiming our right views that we alienate the very people we’re trying to help, or think we are “further along than” and are helping by our “right” ways of thinking. We can often be right for the wrong reasons. However, much of the time, we can learn a great deal about someone, and possibly even help a lot more, when we just listen. It seems everyone wants to be heard, and the pleas are getting louder and more widespread, but very few are taking the time to truly listen.
I tend to learn something from everyone, even if it wasn’t something they intended, but what I’m starting to discover goes deeper still. I’m beginning to see more the motivation behind the words—whether fear, anger, hurt, disappointment, disillusionment, love, hate, power, control, security, etc…either for themselves or others. This causes me to want to listen more, to understand them more, to see why they have taken the stance they have—to see into their heart more…and to embrace them, in love, on their journey. And this is why I see the beauty in someone being openly honest with what’s in their heart, even if it ruffles feathers.
I think this is just a smidgen of how God sees us—how he loves us and just listens—
even on our worse days,
even when we beg and bargain with him,
even when we don’t believe in him,
even when we curse him….
He listens and sees the why. From the most bloodthirsty killer to the most holy saint, God sees our heart, he knows the whys, and he loves us eternally regardless. He sees the pain and struggle in our heart—even if we hate ourselves and everyone else, even if we have only known how to hate God because of who we think he is—he knows us deeply, behind our masks, and loves us just the same.
It’s his eternal love that I’ve come to believe in—that I’ve come to know in the depths of my spirit. It’s that relationship that Jesus offers for us to freely receive, no matter who we are. There’s no more price to pay or hurtles to jump, though we’ve been convinced there are. God has been with us our entire lives, even in our worst, most atrocious state. I can now see more clearly the journey he has taken with me every step of the way, even when I didn’t know him.
Let’s treat each other like God loves everyone fully. Let’s quit with the “love the sinner and hate the sin” mantra as it’s very hard, if not impossible, to separate a person from their experiences that have made them who they are at that point in their life. For many people, that phrase ends up sounding more like, “You have to change who you are and become who I think you should be in order for me to fully, unconditionally love you.” Often people will act just like they’re treated, especially if they’ve tried to walk our version of the “straight and narrow” and failed. Much of the time, people just need to know that they are being heard, that their heart is being seen, and that they are loved still—even at their worse. That’s the type of love that can change someone—that’s Father’s love—and it can be reflected through us.
How would that kind of love change the world and what atrocities would it prevent? Have we been failing our call to be love, yet blaming “those others?”
Perhaps, instead of the “love the sinner” approach, let’s love like Jesus has really paid, in full, for their sins—just like he paid for ours. Let’s love “them” like God loves them, and us—seeing through curses and insults and unrighteousness, or whatever label we may attach. Let’s open our eyes to see straight into those hurt and broken hearts desperate for a loving embrace.
….because if we, as Christians, don’t reflect Jesus’ love to the hurt and confused and broken and desperate and outcast and angry and hateful….who will?
Let’s love “them” like they’re not sinners—let’s love like we’ve been called to, like we are loved by Father. Let’s strive to love more and more like Jesus, so others can find that same relationship with him—
even if we don’t like it,
even if we have to complain to God,
even when we don’t feel like it,
even if it costs us our pride, position, or “right” stances,
even when it hurts,
even if it costs us everything…
….even if it means we follow Jesus all the way to the cross.