Enemies of Our Own Making

For years, centuries even, we Christians have continued down the same destructive path. We’ve twisted scripture to justify our prejudices and outright hatred in order to feed our self-righteousness. We’ve surpassed the Pharisees in our arrogance. While they studied the scriptures (John 5:39), many didn’t understand that Jesus was the Messiah. Today, we readily acknowledge Jesus, yet still insist on following tenants we’ve developed, claiming they reflect the scriptures and the “Big Ten.” The religious of Jesus’ time pursued their own righteousness in the same way despite Jesus’ clear explanation of what the prophets and the commandments were teaching (Matt 22:37-40).

With the knowledge that history often repeats, we’ve continued to create the same environment of religiosity that Jesus seemed so distraught over (Matt 23, Matt 13:15). Repeatedly seeing religion built and then collapse, we still insist, as all before us have, that this time we’ll build our earthly kingdom better…that this time, our laws will control others’ actions, and that our religion will force God to be more adamant about defending our worldly assets.

At times, this incessant methodology is almost too disturbing to bear. Our continued blaspheming of Jesus’ love—instead persisting in violence, fear, manipulation, and outright hatred—has alienated much of the world from Christ. Yet, we still continue to double-down on our religious obligations despite a hurting world that is desperately in need of the compassion of our Savior through us.

Most often, what Jesus demonstrated, and what we seem to continually fail miserably at, is pure, unadulterated, LOVE.

Jesus offered no defense at his trial, willing went to his execution, and forgave those nailing him to a cross to demonstrate the depths of his love. Even when stripped of everything, his only retort was LOVE.

We, as Christians, have failed miserably in our calling to follow Jesus’ love. We continue to insist that we have a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness regardless of Jesus’ call to lay down our lives in service to others. We continue to place our hope in politicians that use God’s name vainly. We continue to adorn the red-faced, bigoted banter of talk show hosts that tout war and violence as the way to Father’s heart. We continue to pursue evil to destroy evil in a perpetual cycle of hatred. We continue to look for a modern Messiah to save us from our own wicked creations and destroy those “other” evildoers that we wag our fingers at; those same others that we’ve refused to be love to as Jesus demonstrated.

History Repeating

Today, and for much of the past 1700 years, we’ve paralleled the same false religion that ancient Israel relished in. We’ve continued to build a worldly “church” that we insist is based in Jesus’ teaching yet demonstrates none of Jesus’ love. We continue to insist on prayer for our benefit, making long winded speeches with repetitive words (Matt 6:5-7). We continue to perform our “righteous” works for public accolades instead of in silence for the delight of Father’s heart (Matt 6:1-4). We continue to violate God’s commands for the sake of our traditions (Matt 15:3). We continue to blindly lead others into pits of hatred (Matt 15:14). We continue to define the Kingdom as our worldly constructs instead of what Jesus described (Luke 17:21, John 4:23Matt 18:20).

We’ve traded in robes for suits, Sabbath for Sunday, and synagogues for sanctuaries. It’s the same false religion re-purposed for our modern society, yet we insist that in must continue. Meanwhile, our hatred only alienates the rest of the world and makes enemies of those Jesus won with love.

Failing Temptation

We continue to follow methods of bedazzlement, religion, and war—the same methods Satan tempted Jesus with in the wilderness…yet Jesus chose to pursue love.

Satan tempted Jesus to dazzle people to him by side-show miracles. Jesus’ miracles were to help others, not to make him a “prayer” fueled vending machine of worldly desires.

Satan tempted Jesus to rally the religious Temple-dwellers to his cause, thereby having a clerical army backing a religious campaign. After all, if Jesus could convince the religious that he was the Messiah, it would be easy to get the rest of the populace to fall in line. Yet, both then and now, religion fails because if often sucks the love out of people and replaces it with dogma and duty.

Satan promised the world to Jesus if he would just bow down…if he would just do things his way. Jesus could have conquered the world by force. He had 10,000 angels at the ready, yet he chose to win the world by love. Today, this is probably our most susceptible temptation—to conquer the world by force…and we’ll use any excuse to justify force of arms instead of love. We’ve lost the ability, if we ever had it, to love our neighbor.

But who is our neighbor?

When a lawyer asked Jesus who his neighbor was, Jesus makes a Samaritan the hero of his parable above both a priest and a Levite—the two most religious jobs under the Old Covenant. While we’ve associated Samaritans with “good” in our day, to Israel, they were the epitome of vileness. Jesus making a Samaritan the hero would have been a severe plot twist in his parable—so much so, that the seething lawyer wasn’t even able to say “the Samaritan” (Luke 10:36-37).

This is another fallacy we perpetrate as Christians—the ideal that only certain people are our neighbors that we’re required to love. American Christians tend to only demonstrate love to their fellow American populace, elevating “our” country, which we created and own, above the rest of the world. Even so, any “neighbor” who doesn’t fall in line with our agenda, we demonize as “not really American,” continuing the dichotomy of elitist Christianity. Jesus was fairly explicit in his statements against these things (Luke 22:25-26, John 13:35).

Still today, in spite of Jesus’ teaching, we only love those we deem worthy to be our neighbor by our religio-political agenda. And we’ll make any excuse feasible to refuse to be love and instead propagate the satanic agenda of hatred while attaching God’s name to our actions.

As Jesus stated (John 8:44), this father we’re representing more resembles Satan than God.

When does it end?

When will those claiming discipleship to Christ actually start following him? When will we, as Christians, stop creating more darkness by attempting to destroy evil by evil methods? When will we, as Christians, stop performing for the accolades of our constituents (John 12:42-43) and instead live in a relationship of love with God?

I truly believe that love wins fully and completely in the end, but it may be thousands upon thousands of more years of a handful of Christians consistently being love before that happens. In the meantime, we’ll continue to repeat the same dark history by following the same religious mandates that seek subjugation in the place of love.

Why so harsh?

I realize these words may come across as harsh, but, like with Jesus’ dialogues (many linked above), I believe hearts hardened by years of religious indoctrination need sharp words to penetrate that callousness. Otherwise, we dance around with false pleasantries but do those trapped in theological gymnastics a disservice by not speaking the truth.

My hope is that those claiming Christianity come to know what love is, so they can actively seek Father’s heart and pursue the type of life Jesus lived by the power of the Holy Spirit. Only then will we truly be able to spread the Kingdom, in love, to the rest of this hurting world!
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Residual Guilt

This is something the Holy Spirit has been slowly pointing out to me as I could understand it. I read a phrase, over two years ago now, that has stuck in my head. The gist was, “You may be gone (from religion/the institution), but you’re still playing the game.” In a way I knew this was true for me, but I had no idea how not to play. Our society seems trapped in the idea that we need man’s approval in the way we follow Jesus.

It seems we all play even after we’ve been on a new journey for some time with Jesus. Freedom is most often a long and slow process of letting go of the past ways that bound us from seeing clearly, from being fully alive in Christ. For me, I’m still learning (or unlearning) a lot on this current journey. It seems we’re often discouraged to seek such a relationship directly and instead, taught to rely on an earth-bound, human liaison to commune with God for us—and even be our Shepard in lieu of Jesus.

This leads me to a current discussion (one of many) I’ve been in with Jesus. The residual guilt has diminished over time, but was still something that bothered me often. The majority of this guilt was applied externally. Constantly, I’d been told, especially from the pulpit, that to leave the congregation would be grounds for eternal damnation. Often, this wasn’t communicated directly, but ever so subtle with phrases like, “If you aren’t under the consistent teaching of ‘the gospel’ (as we define it), then you will fall out of favor with God.” Though I’m seeing more and more how that gospel isn’t the Gospel Jesus taught, it’s a discussion that is hard to communicate to many stuck in dogma because they don’t want to hear or see. Fear rules here—the fear of questioning what has been mandated to be believed under threat of eternal torment.

Still, there was some guilt that Father has been slowly draining away over time. I wasn’t consciously trying to hold onto this guilt, but now I realize my very thought patterns had to be changed, much to religion’s dismay and undoing much of their work, in order for that guilt to be fully released. In this way, my mind has been renewed over time.

There are many steps that this process has taken. The current one was guilt over not doing more. It seems the religious regime was always pushing for more and more investment into the institution—whether it was time, money, obligation, or blind following. This step in the process slowly came to light over the past few days after I heard a phrase and researched it a little more. I know all of this is kinda vague right now, but hopefully it makes some sense at the end.

I’d heard a statement that the common life expectancy of a 1st Century Jewish person was ~40 years. After researching this a great deal online, this seems to be the general consensus based on the historical records of the time. This, of coarse, could cause arguments as there were always exceptions to the rule with a handful living until their 70’s or 80’s, but the average life expectancy seemed to be 40 (and that’s at the distant end of the spectrum). Likewise, it seemed a generation, by the Bible’s own definition, was ~40 years, the general expectation that the majority of a new populace would be in place within that time.

But why is that important?

Jesus started his public ministry when he was 30, in a society where people weren’t expected to live until the age of 40. Jesus lived a full life before he ever entered public ministry, and then his ministry was a total of three years.

Now, there are a few factors to consider based on the canon we have today.
First, at the end of Luke 2, we catch a glimpse of Jesus at age 12 in the temple courts. It appears he already had the knowledge necessary to pursue his ministry, but he doesn’t, that we know of, until age 30.

Next, we see another glimpse of what Jesus was doing during his years prior to his public ministry. At the beginning of Mark 6, he travels to his hometown. The people there seem to know him as but a carpenter and are amazed at what he could do. It’s interesting to note that, based on their reactions, he hadn’t displayed the knowledge or ability he had, in his hometown, until this point. As he says himself at the Cana wedding, “My hour has not yet come.” (John 2:4b).

Here we see Jesus purposely holding back from what he could do likely because of the Father’s plan.

Okay, so where am I going with this?

We’re taught to devote our life to religion, yet, we see the Savior himself only spending three years of ministry at what was close to the end of his life expectancy. Perhaps he lived a full life as a human, though having the power of God, to truly know what a full life as a human was. He had already demonstrated his knowledge on the temple grounds and that he had the ability at the Cana wedding though it wasn’t his time.

Crunching a few numbers, this would be the equivalent of entering “ministry” (however that might be defined) myself at the age of 60 after 3/4th of my life expectancy had passed.

Now, my point isn’t that we should be complacent and just live our lives. My point is that we often assume that a life of religion is what Father wants when this wasn’t what Jesus’ life demonstrated.

We can live our daily lives while at the same time experiencing life in Jesus. While we could be called to do something great, we often pursue changing the world through religion instead of just living for God, trusting that his plan will unfold in our lives at his timing.

I’ve been made to feel guilty still even though I am no longer part of the institution because I wasn’t doing enough for God. It seems this is just another guilt tactic though. “Okay, so you aren’t attending a church service regularly anymore—what are you doing for God then?” These types of questions only seek to bind us back to a religion instead of freedom of relationship with God. These questions still keep us playing the religion game. Though we may be gone from attending, we’re still trying to live up to others’ standards and expectations.

Slowly, I’m learning to live for God, with God. I’m learning from Jesus little by little. He’s teaching me to let go of the guilt and shame and just trust Father’s plan even in the mundane—especially in the everyday, mundane—minutia of life.

This life isn’t about religious crusades to force Christianity on others—it’s about bringing the love of Father, through the Son, by the Holy Spirit within us—to one heart at a time as we live out our life in him. It’s that life of love that Jesus died to give us. It’s that love that overcame the confines of Sheol forever. It’s that love that sustains us daily where religion drains us. It’s for, and by, that love that we live a full, or (as the Bible states it) everlasting/eternal life.

All

This is a concept I’ve been considering writing about for awhile. It can go quite a bit more in-depth than this, but I only want to focus on the basis of what I’m seeing in scripture—a plan too beautiful to ignore.

“All,” just like the word “soon,” seems to be one of those words we have to twist far out of its’ original context in order to make ourselves appear more righteous by our religious pursuits instead of relying on Father’s plan. We stretch “soon” to mean then and for unknown centuries in the future. Likewise, we attempt to contain “all” into a narrow box that only means a select few. In doing this, we deny Jesus’ very words. We’ve made a god in our image so we can justify exclusion of others that won’t conform to our doctrines of power, control, finances, politics, “justified” war and hatred, etc….

Okay, so where am I going with this?

Colossians 1:15-20 (Emphasis Mine)
The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

The above passage is so beautiful, I couldn’t just boil it down to 1 or 2 verses. Here, Paul goes into detail of God’s plan—for ALL. We can twist and bend this amazing passage, we can add or take away words, we can throw around thoughts of heresy and blasphemy, or we can just ignore this passage all together since it doesn’t conform to our preconceived notions.

However, if we can so easily throw out or manipulate such a block of scripture, there’s nothing Biblical we can enforce. In other words, if Paul could be so wrong about God’s plan for all of creation, what can we trust in the Bible?

For centuries, passages like this have been ignored or twisted to mean something other than the direct meaning that they imply. If we truly taught this, our man-made power structures would crumble. We would have to actually love and include everyone. Then, the good news would actually be good news.

How do we incorporate such a glorious message into our current system of religion? I honestly don’t think those old wine-skins can hold this new wine. For centuries it has been tried and for centuries, both have been ruined.

We’ve repeatedly tried to reform the system. While on the surface, it may seem better, we’re only treating the symptoms and not the disease—we’re only changing external features so we look more compliant from the outside while we rot away internally. We continue to push obligation, agenda, accountability, participation, mandates, politics, etc…as relationship with Father. All the while we miss out on a relationship with him ourselves because we refuse to believe and live by what he has already stated. We don’t allow people to be in a relationship of freedom with Jesus; we attempt to force them through guilt and manipulation no matter how subtle and politely we try to present it.

How do we get to that place of loving others without the structures we’ve created, whether physical or otherwise?

Perhaps we just trust that God has already succeeded with his plan and has all under control.

The Letter

Dearest church,

I write to you because there are matters of utmost concern that have come to my attention. You seem to not understand the importance of the mandates that have been prescribed.

Fellowship
I understand you have based your services on fellowship with one another, however, you seem to have neglected many of the other obligations that have been given to you. Fellowship is fine, but it has its place. You must focus on the aspects of the services. You can fellowship a few minutes before and after, and perhaps during an interlude, you can shake hands with a few people you haven’t spoken to yet, but you must keep the service in proper focus. Fellowship has its place, but you must strive to make the service of utmost importance.

Services
Please remain attentive to the speaker and do not interrupt with questions. Doubts and questions are the foundations of sin. I know you have read of the apostles’ answers, but it is time you started to learn how to be reverent and respectful of the anointed ones in your meetings. Questions cause division, and you must remain in unity.

You must be in attendance every Sunday. There are no valid excuses for tardiness or absence. Do not underestimate the importance of being under the teaching of the word and correct doctrine. You will easily fall out of favor if you are not consistently sustained with the words of these leaders.

In addition, you must give your tithe to the proper authority figure for use in continued services in the future. There should be no more of this sharing among yourselves as the funding for future services is severely lacking. Submit to the leaders and they will do what is appropriate for you.

Also, remember to stick with the service format and do not allow variation. Change is always bad. If you advance pass the format presented here, you will alienate each other from consistency and familiarity. Remember how good it was in the past and always strive to uphold that ideal. Ensure everyone upholds those past traditions so you remain compliant to the faith.

Sacrifice
I have noticed that while you are more than willing to sacrifice yourselves at the hands of the political authorities, you must consider the spreading of the gospel. How do you intend to spread the word if you’re dead? Do not throw your life away by such useless sacrifice. Instead, you must strive to become a force within the political arena. Christianity will die if you do not actively involve yourselves.

There are other ways in which you can sacrifice. You can sacrifice your time and assets to build the institution so it can become a force in the world for good. I know you are eager to place your efforts into a pursuit, and I can think of nothing better to spend your time and resources on than building the church in the world so there is a shining beacon of morality in which to base your lives around.

Submission
You must submit yourselves to the authorities. They know what is best for you. You can trust that they will not mislead you. They already know all that I am writing in this letter, so submit yourselves to them so they can direct you in the word. Without leadership, you will be lost and fall into error. These leaders have been strategically placed and trained so you can be comfortable in your salvation. They are masterful at pointing out sin and will guide and encourage you by specifying the rules you must live by in order to be a good Christian. There will be many examples of worldliness they will point out along the way to show you how righteous you are in comparison. Take note of these things and be confident in your salvation because you have done what is right.

Rituals
You must perform the rituals as prescribed. Every born again believer must be baptized with water as has been mandated. I will leave the methodology of this to you, but all assemblies must come to an agreement and use water in these rituals. Baptism in the Holy Spirit is not enough. How else will you recognize each other as Christians if you don’t perform the prescribed mandates regularly?

Division
No more disagreements. You need to come to a consensus on everything so that no one falls into error. Differing views will cause division. It is important that if anyone disagrees with the majority, they must be cut off from the congregation lest they confuse and distort the message. Unity in everything done is the most important aspect of keeping your congregation healthy and active. If you follow all of these mandates, unity should not be a problem. Remember, separate yourselves from any dissenters so they cannot distract you from the path laid before you.

Remember, also, to abstain from sin. Do not allow yourself to be exposed to others. In doing so, you will cause controversy and be shown as weak and unworthy. The focus is on the worship service and not you individually. It is shameful to bring up your short-comings in such a holy place.

Warfare
Remember, you are at war so everything you experience outside of proper religion should be considered an attack. There are forces that will attack you financially, politically, and morally. When you suffer lose of these things, it is a spiritual attack. Remember, anything that causes you discomfort is bad and must be upheld as such.

Additionally, the errant dissenters have already been lost so you must separate yourselves and attack them with any weapon you can forge. Wielding scripture and prayer, you can do grievous harm to these aggressors. When all else fails, just ignore them and continually repeat what you have been mandated to believe.

Closing
I know the old system continually got these things wrong, but I believe you can do them right. Do not associate with those who will not conform to your corporate worship. In the future, you would do well to construct signs outside of your buildings to let the rest of society know how wrong they are through shrewd adages. There is no need to associate personally with those outside other than this unless it is to ask them their spiritual state. In this, you may cause them to come under conviction and persuade them that attending your congregation is the way to salvation.

The time is short as you can deduce from all the evil signs around you. You must get these things in proper order as quickly as possible lest you suffer the coming judgment. Just remember, hold on and one day everything will be okay.

I applaud you in advance for your devotion to these mandates. You can know that I will always be near when needed to help guide you back onto the appropriate path.

Sincerely,
Luci F. Er

Sin

What is sin?

The answer can be varied depending on who is asked.

Mostly, what I was taught to believe is that sin is breaking a list of rules that God has established. Again, that list can vary.

When we get down to it, it seems we uphold the Ten Commandments as the basis of our sin dichotomy. However, if we go down that list, we quickly see that much of Western Christianity is not holding up those rules, especially when we look at Jesus’ definition of righteousness by law such as Matt 5. Another example: the Sabbath is from Friday at sundown until Saturday evening. If we aren’t remembering the Sabbath and keeping it holy, we’re already breaking one of the rules. And if we break one, we break them all.

In this, we get a rather subjective list that is easily open to interpretation based on other parts of the Bible. We toss aside or change/justify what we don’t care to uphold and weaponize the rest in an attempt to beat others into submission to our standards. If we take a step back and look at this process, it’s all just comparative righteousness. We have a scale by which we weight our righteousness against others’. This is also known as self-righteousness and is prevalent in the institution we call “church” today.

So if the list is so undefinable, what is sin? If we don’t know what sin is–if there is no list that won’t contain holes—how do we avoid it? Is this even the appropriate question we should ask? Perhaps what we’ve been asking is the wrong starting point.

So let’s look at “original sin.” What was Adam and Eve’s sin? Looking at Genesis 3, it seems they wanted to know what good and evil was by their definition instead of trusting in God. This is how the serpent deceived—trust in self instead of God. Again, righteousness by human means instead of relationship with Father.

Perhaps this is the root of all sin—our trust that our way is right because of our insistence that it is, even when we state the Bible backs our conclusion. This same methodology was used all throughout the Old Testament, yet, we see constant failure by man to avoid the sin condition. Interestingly enough, it seems that even if we’re “right” about our statements, we can still be in sin because of our self-righteous attitude about it.

So far it doesn’t seem quite clear what sin is and how we avoid it.

How I’ve come to see it is, sin is anything that separates us from being in relationship with Father. Jesus came to end that separation:

“The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”—Mark 1:15.

In effect, it seems Jesus was trying to get people to stop attempting a relationship with Father by rules.

If fear separates us from God, it is sin—even fear of hell.

If we believe that our rule-following justifies us, we no longer trust in Jesus as bridging that separation, or if we add addendum to Jesus’ completed work, we in turn nullify the effect of his accomplishment in our personal life.

If we try to force mandates, accountability, obligation, etc…on others, we are only propping up man made agenda and become separated from Father.

If we use intimidation, fear, guilt, shame, etc…to try to force others into a “love” relationship (what sense does that make?) we are separated from a relationship with Father.

If we’re trying to summon the Holy Spirit into our meetings by long-winded/extravagant prayer, rituals, speeches, music, etc…we deny that the Holy Spirit has been given to live in us and in turn are separated from Father.

If we trust in politics, power, finances, military might, etc…we in turn are separated from Father.

If we refuse to engage others because we consider ourselves “right” and consider them as “wrong,” we are separated from Father.

If we insist that our behavior justifies us/causes God to act—negatively or positively, we in turn are separate from Father. Example: I’m a good person so why is God punishing me with this?

None of this is Father separating us from him, but, like Adam and Eve, it is our insistence that our ways are right, and we remove ourselves from relationship with Father. Thereby, we justify ourselves because of our doings and not the completed work of Jesus. We trust in our own knowledge of good and evil and not in Life itself, which is Jesus.

In conclusion, my view of sin is anything that inhibits our relationship with Father—whether we label these things as secular or sacred. In addition, what inhibits my relationship may not inhibit another’s. Attempting to force a standardized list of religious mandates and obligations can in turn separate us from relationship with Father because of our insistence in our own righteousness by what we achieve. Jesus never forced—he invited any who would come, into a relationship with Father. This, too, is our calling as Christians—not obligation, fear, shame, hatred, accountability, religion, manipulation, mandates, etc….but just a simple invitation for others to come to know our Father through Jesus and by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

10 Ways American Christians Are Compromising Our Own Testimony In The World

Great article!

john pavlovitz

Not listening

If this were a prize fight, organized Christianity wouldn’t quite be knocked out yet, but it would certainly be on the ropes and we’d be way behind on points coming to the bell.

It’s no secret that people are leaving the Church in record numbers and although they may not all be rejecting Jesus, they are surely saying no to the faith that bears his name—and for many good reasons.

I spend a great deal of my time each day listening to many of these good folks and they educate me. Based on what I see from where I am and what I’ve learned from nearly two decades in church ministry, here are some ways we Christians are obscuring Jesus and hurting people, and severely damaging our testimony in the world in the process:

1) Vilifying non-Christians.

In the face of attrition and growing public ambivalence, too many Christians and Christian leaders lazily lean back on attack language…

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The Bible as we know it

Here’s a post I wrote for Church Set Free. Please have a look-see. Note: the site is still under construction.

Church Set Free

How do we see the Bible? Is it a love letter, historical record, rule book—all of these?

Why do we strive to prove our view of the Bible as “right?”

Are we really in love with Father, or are we just paying fire insurance premiums by our rituals and traditions?

Love or Fear?
First, it’s beneficial to consider—Are we viewing the Bible from the perspective of God’s love for us or our fear of him?

If we’re afraid of God, we may see the Bible as a rule book, full of threats if we don’t comply. If we choose to fall ever more deeply in love with God, we may see the Bible as a companion guide through which the Holy Spirit can guide us in growing spiritually.

Digging a little deeper into this, in a church service during my teenage days, the pastor asked the congregation a question—Are we serving God to avoid hell or because…

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Continuance

It’s been a tumultuous few weeks. I’ve been much busier at work and exhausted, though in a good way, when I get home. On top of this, I’ve felt God prompting me to decrease, and maybe eventually stop all together, caffeine consumption. I was having some headaches that seem to have stopped with the stepping down of caffeine lately. Also, while scatter-brained, I’ve been more physically productive. I suppose I know I have to keep moving in order not to pass out asleep.

On top of these things, God has brought me to some realizations. Basically, I’ve written the majority of what I needed to “get out in the open” through my blog. Questions I’ve had since as early as I can remember have been answered by the Holy Spirit while writing. Things like hell, death, suffering, prophecy, and free will—God has given me answers to in light of his love, grace, and power. He’s also taught me a crucial lesson from this journey—I can’t take others where they’re unwilling to go. Some people will hold stubbornly to what they’ve been conditioned to believe until, if ever, they are willing to allow the Holy Spirit to guide them. I know, I was that person until one day I prayed, from the depths of my being, that I had this relationship with Jesus—no matter the cost. And it has cost me—but it’s a price I gladly pay and would pay over and over again.

Many seem to assume these views, these hopes to help others see a way to freedom in Christ, are an attack on “the church,” God, religion, etc…This is not an attack on those things specifically. Rather, this is an attack on the chains that bind instead. Anything, any doxology, and religion, any view of God, Jesus, or the Spirit, that binds instead of liberates, is what I can’t propagate.

Systems that are based on fear and/or obligation are not part of the Kingdom Jesus established and built, regardless if God’s name is attached to it, regardless if a building is constructed and a steeple erected. Obligation may grow out of love, but it can’t produce it. Obligation only produces a need to continue to be obligated. Without obligation or fear, man-made systems just fall apart. These are poor substitutes for a real love relationship with God and others.

So where do I go from here? God has laid so much on my heart, I honestly don’t know. These are things I can’t necessarily write about, at least at this time, because it seems counterproductive (I don’t know a better way to explain it). I have a lot of material I wrote prior to my blogging days that I may go through and retool. However, everything I wrote was by God’s prompting as he beckoned me deeper into his love. I’m unable to write much of anything unless it is by the Spirit’s prompting. In large part, this blog seems to have served God’s purpose.

God seems to have hinted towards some ventures, but I never know where those hints may lead, and my assumptions have proven wrong often in the past :D. Not really knowing what the next steps are can be a good thing! To be totally at God’s disposal when he directs, not forcibly walking a direction I, or others, might desire, is a beautiful state of relationship to exist in with Jesus.

This is the state of being that these writings have brought me to the edge of (but I ain’t there yet)—a state I couldn’t have imagined over a year ago when I started writing here. This is the place I hope others can begin to find also—the freedom in Jesus to be who we are, to fall in love with Father over and over again every day, and to be guided completely by the Spirit in this amazing journey we call life. This is my hope in everything I write!

Truth

I’ve seen a common theme lately. Possibly, this has always been around, but God has only recently called my attention to it more implicitly. It seems many use the word truth, whether speaking of the capital “T” Truth that is Jesus, or the truth as related to what the Bible states, as evidence that what they believe is factual.

Much of what I’ve seen is the repeating of a common concept, sometimes at length. When we consider why we believe what we do, it most often results in tradition and popular opinion—“this is what we’ve always believed.” Likewise, the Bible is often pointed out as the source. Jesus dealt with the same kind of culture—popular belief (John 12:42) and tradition (Matt 15:3, 8-9). As well, he redefined what the scriptures meant (Mark 12:30-31).

With respect to the Bible, if we are going to even attempt to uphold a concept as fact or Biblical, we first need to test our beliefs to see if they are indeed true. If we just repeat what we’ve been told, we could easily end up guilty of alienating others from Jesus. Everything I’ve written here, especially recently, has been considered and prayed about with the Holy Spirit to see if it holds truth. Am I always right? Nope! But, I make sure I’ve dug for all the facts as relevant to what I’ve written about instead of just repeating what another human insists I believe.

Often, even if I point out Biblical concepts that don’t sync with a specific stance, my thoughts are either ignored or the subject is changed. Sometimes, though I’m use to it now and have come to expect it, I’m threatened with damnation, heresy, blasphemy, etc…However, repeating cliches about a subject that hasn’t been tested for truth can easily cause stubbornness, stagnation, and/or self-righteousness.

I welcome testing of my beliefs because it’s a win-win for my spiritual journey. If I’m wrong, I’m led to understand the truth. When I get comments that challenge or threaten me, my faith in Jesus only grows. However, it doesn’t matter how well I can back my beliefs—if I fail in love, and instead attempt to force my views, no amount of “correct” doctrine will help.

I don’t write any of this to chastise anyone. I’m just tired of seeing God blasphemed to “outsiders” by those professing to following Jesus (Romans 2:24). Then, the blame is shifted to “the world” though it’s the Christians not following Christ propagating the society in large part.

Until we actually start following Jesus instead of just extrapolating random phrases from the Bible to condemn others with, the world will continue to get worse. Until we stop using threats of damnation and finger pointing, we will never reach those in the world that we cast blame on.

Think about it—who did Jesus’ ministry reach the most—the insiders sitting in a church…synagogue on a Sunday…Sabbath or the outsiders who soaked up his love and mercy like a sponge? Who is it that enters the Kingdom first—us with the slick looking morals or the ones we condemn with pointing fingers (Matt 21:31)?

We can go around in circles debating among ourselves what the “truth” is, or we can start living in the Truth and reaching out to a hurting and broken world we’ve traditionally condemned. Our words of obligation, threat, and condemnation continue to fail and alienate. If we truly lived and loved like Jesus, our impact on the world would be unimaginable.

More Pieces of the Puzzle

I’ve been contemplating a lot of differing thoughts and experiences over the past week. As I stated in a prior post, there are some lessons I’ve learned the hard way, as we humans always seem to prefer. These had me at somewhat of a standstill of what to do next.

As I prayed more over this, God said, as he has oh so many times before—just follow the Holy Spirit. I’ve been learning to do this more and more, just go where the Wind takes me though I don’t know where it’s going (John 3:8).

Over the past several weeks, many good things have been happening in my personal life. This isn’t so much because God is specifically blessing me. It seems God is always pouring out his love on us, it’s just that we want to do things our way and often end up hurting ourselves and others in the process. When trusting him, though the journey may be rough, we find he always has our best interest at heart.

On a similar note, I was talking with a fellow Christ follower this week who I know in my personal life. While there is much I wanted to say in regards to the faith, I kept feeling the Holy Spirit holding me back. I could have still said the things I wanted, but it most likely wouldn’t have been productive. In the end, I remember only saying one sentence that I felt the Spirit leading me to say—just a hint of words and nothing more. In this approach, I’ve felt a huge burden lifted of trying to lay out, in conversation, everything in my head. This approach seems to have made him contemplative, and, in these scenarios, I can go as deep as a person is willing to at any given moment.

The Assembly
There’s another couple of topics that have been on my heart, however.

I still constantly see a bombardment of obligated “church” attendance, laid out as rules of conformity.

Our gatherings have become about control, mandates, submission to the “leaders” (those that have been ordained by men), etc…

We see the early church coming together for fellowship under the most dire of circumstances because of the joy and intimacy of those relationships. Today, however, we mandate attendance under threat to maintain our kingdom—worse, we state that is the way God wants it.

Many churches today have become the same as the synagogues and temple during Jesus’ ministry. Though, because of the ineffectiveness of that system, Jesus came to establish a New Covenant. This isn’t because of the system itself, but because of the human stranglehold that had ensnared it.

Jesus even tried to teach in the synagogues and temple but was often ran off and threatened (John 8:59, Luke 4:28-29). The very sheep he came to rescue from that system instead rejected him (Matt 15:24, 21:42).

Today, we repeat the same things. We’ve rebuilt synagogues and call them churches. We view the Bible as a set of rules to run our churches and seize control of others—the same way the religious leaders imposed their view of the Old Testament, though Jesus redefined that also. Likewise, we continue to miss out on the main point—the Bible is to help us draw closer to Father, with Jesus, by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

Note, in a “healthy” congregation, the fellowship can be stellar. Unfortunately, I’ve not been privy to witnessing any, pursing the obligated approach, that are truly growing spiritually as the early church was.

For example, the early Christians were known to be singing praise to God when dragged into the Roman arenas for execution. That extravagant love that is joyful even in the face of death eventually broke down even the most powerful empire on earth.

We don’t see that in much of Christianity today.

Instead, we see churches pushing political agenda in an attempt to strengthen their control over others—not at all what Jesus’ intent was for the Church. That same type of agenda seemed to disturb him greatly (Matt 23).

I know, I’ve probably said these things before in one way or another, so I won’t go into any more detail here. Maybe I’m prompted to say it again so that one day that freedom and life Jesus promised (Matt 11:28-30, John 10:10) might start being truly pursued, if only by one person that is tired of being bound by endless mandates and man-made traditions.

That singular hope alone is worth any and all effort.