Love and Labels

Church Set Free

I’ve been on quite a beautiful journey lately, though it has had its frustrations. An ongoing conversation with God for the past few months is starting to reveal more of what he has been trying to show me. The simplest I can boil it down into one concept is: love trumps theology—every time.

I continue to start at the point of what I’ve come to know, and while what I know might work for drawing me deeper into Father’s love, it may not be the same for others. One of the things I’ve come to realize is it’s always harder to truly love someone that doesn’t see eye to eye with us. It doesn’t take much looking around to see the divisions—us vs them, reps vs dems, Christian vs atheist, straight vs gay, etc…For some reason, we always have to be the winner, even if it’s not us playing in the game…

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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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Maybe I’m Actually Not a Christian After All

john pavlovitz

160126120633-jerry-falwell-jr-donald-trump-january-16-2016-large-169
I’ve always thought that I was a Christian.

I’ve simply assumed that since I believed myself to be and strived to be, that this was enough. Though I’ve devoted my days to emulating Jesus and to reflecting his character in the world, this seems to have been a woefully errant path leading me far afield of righteousness.

Over recent years I’ve spent countless hours debating with those who contest my claims of faith; self-professed believers who debate my authenticity, my theology, my conduct, my motivations. They make dire assessments of both my moral worth and my eternal destination, chastising and condemning with great conviction.

It’s difficult to quantify just how much time and energy and mental bandwidth I’ve expended attempting to justify inclusion in their heavily fortified faith fraternity and to prove my personal spirituality valid and genuine in their eyes.

But these days I’m looking at what alleges to be Christianity in my country and I’m now almost certain…

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Broken Prayer

Church Set Free

I don’t really pray anymore. At least not in the way that is currently considered prayer.

In my former life, when I did pray, I offered God lists of things that I wanted to see changed—circumstances in my life and the lives of others that I wanted set right. On the rare occasion when things went the way I expected, I felt as though God heard my prayers, and those of others, and granted our request. When things didn’t go right, I felt I was the one to blame. I didn’t have enough faith, I had some unseen sin, or enough people hadn’t prayed along with me.

It was quite a setup. Never was the system itself considered at fault, probably because it was good and holy and right. And if anything was to blame, it was us for our lack of faith or purity or stamina or conviction, or…

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Sheol and Gehenna and Hades, Oh My! – Redux

Church Set Free

I was asked to retool this post some time ago for this site, but haven’t been free to do so until now. My hope is that this writing helps clear up some possible misconceptions of what the Bible originally stated about hell. Through translation and otherwise bad interpretation, the concept has been severely skewed and held so adamantly as a core belief that it can cause discomfort when questioned (aka cognitive dissonance). Generally, anyone challenging the belief is excommunicated by mainstream Christianity and upheld as a heretic, false prophet/teacher, etc… Knowing this, I humbly and hesitantly present my findings as I journey with God. As I’ve stated in other writings, please research these things for yourself with the Holy Spirit.

Overview
The traditional meaning of hell I was taught centered around: a place of everlasting, conscious fiery torment where any human that dies without becoming a Christian will end up. The exact methodology of this “becoming” was always a shifting target…

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