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.
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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!

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.

Correct Doctrine, Faith, and Inerrancy

In some iteration, this is one of the focuses I continually hear or read as the basis of a disagreement between views.

A discussion may start out quite pleasant, but when a viewpoint doesn’t align with tradition and popular belief, the “dissenter” is often labeled as heretic and threatened with things like hell fire.

It’s truly a sad state when we believe we have to threaten people into a love relationship—or that our threats somehow even remotely resemble Father’s love.

Church and state
It seems, at least in the US, we are continually trying to merge church and state—despite the fact that this was probably the biggest downfall of Christianity. When Constantine legalized Christianity, it ironically lost much of its potency. Church and state combined became about human power constructs. Today, we are still trying vigorously to merge church and state so that “Christians” have worldly power. We do this through blaming “secular” society for anything that doesn’t align, again, with “correct doctrine.”

It’s ironic and more than a bit sad that the Kingdom Jesus presented was completely counter-cultural to the worldly power regimes of Rome and religion that were prevalent at the time. Jesus offered a completely new kind of Kingdom that existed based on a love relationship with Father and each other.

Note: Jesus presented a counter-cultural Kingdom that was opposed to relationships of power and control. He didn’t present a sub-culture that slapped a “Christian” label on pop-culture and politics to justify hatred and injustice.

Likewise, popular doctrines seem to completely drain the love from relationship by placing them under obligation.

How do we force someone to love? It is no longer love when it is forced by threat.

Often, though, instead of two or more people existing in a love relationship, the association becomes about power, who is right, and who gets to lead. This seems to be where things go off the rails. Love is replaced by a power structure of submission to man-made authority. We then, as subtle as it may be at times, have to threaten people from growing spiritually to keep them under our control.

Faith
“There’s some dangerous things out there,” is one of the threats I’ve heard on more than one occasion. This belays a severe lack of trust in God. This exemplifies faithlessness.

Faith isn’t about knowing absolutes. If we did, it would no longer be faith, but knowledge.

Faith is about trusting God each step of the way. Again, this goes all the way back to the Tree of Knowledge. Adam and Eve wanted to know for themselves instead of having faith in God. Here we see our doctrines are based primarily on eating from the tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil instead of relationship with Father.

Wrong
This leads me to a point that’s been heavy on my heart for the past month or so. I’ve stopped trying to convince people of a relationship with God through words—I’ve stopped worrying about being “right.”

I can point to every proof that God wants relationship and not religion, but many seem not to care because they’ve been made afraid to seek outside of what they’ve been told God is—a monster ready to pounce and torture us endlessly.

Why do we continue to hold up Eternal Love as such maleficence? Why do we add “buts” to Father’s love? That’s not a representation of unconditional love.

It’s truly a sad state when we wrap our Savior in political agenda. His ways were, and are, completely different than our human methods of power and control.

Inerrant
Yet another technique I see often is the upholding of a claim that the Bible or Jesus never makes—that the Bible is somehow inerrant.

We know all scripture is God-breathed, yet, we also know humans are God-breathed—and we all readily admit that humans, God’s grand work, are far from perfect. The scriptures are all filtered through man’s view of God, which can easily be misconstrued. Again, we have to consider that God wants us to have faith in him, not absolute knowledge of everything—because then we have no need of him and we become our own gods—much like the state of religion today. And again, this is what Adam and Eve sought—to have their own knowledge of good and evil to be like God.

Further, we tend to worship the Bible as our god. We’ve even twisted the phrases of the Word of God (Jesus) to mean the Bible.

If anything is “heresy,” it would be that, though I don’t write that to badger anyone. It seems we’ve established religious idols and have long lost what it means to be in relationship with Father. We continue to extrapolate rules to conform us externally, while ignoring any vestige of the type of relationship Jesus offers.

Conclusion
Again, I say all this because I’ve been learning to just exist in relationship with others. Some, even/especially the zealous religious types, will be repulsed by that because it undermines their institutional power structures—just like Jesus did. When those who wield power begin to see their grip and financial security slipping, they react vehemently with even more mandates of obligation. This goes back to faith versus knowledge—being secure that God has everything under control instead of our own human securities—even those religious ones.

I hope this helps and doesn’t come across as mean spirited. Much like Matt 23, I’m only trying to free others from the political, financial, and even religious restraints that have alienated them from a real and faith-filled relationship with Father.

This is what this entire existence is about—-entering into the joy of relationship with Father, Son, and Spirit, then inviting others in through the love we share with God.

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…

View original post 646 more words

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.

The Spiritual

I’ve had many topics in my head lately that I considered writing about, but it seems God was showing me some other things instead. Similarly, I’ve ordered some books that I wanted to read, but by time I received them, I’d seemed to have already spiritually outgrown much of their content. It isn’t that these books are boring or don’t have a powerful message but just that I’ve discovered deeper things with Jesus. One phrase it seems God often repeats to me lately is, “Come up here.” This isn’t so much to be above others, but rather to continue to grow spiritually and leave my physical holdings behind.

Of coarse, we exist primarily at this point in the physical, and we aren’t able to instantly leap to the pinnacle of the spiritual in a single bound. It’s more of a progressive journey where we daily delve deeper into the love that is in Jesus Christ. The journey itself is quite beautiful, and it’s intriguing to see glimpses of the how and why of God creating us in this realm of existence to grow into the spiritual.

As I read the Bible more, I see that Jesus was prompting people to live by the spirit and not the flesh. He tells the woman at the well:

But the hour comes, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such to be his worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”—John 4:23-24

Note here that the message is rather direct in stating spirit and truth. Spirit and truth are together. If we claim that our Sunday worship is spiritual, yet we refuse to dig deeper into the truth, we get what we have today—many congregations that are just going through the physical motions because they don’t know what else to do. Interestingly enough, when we look at the Greek definition, we see that this truth is pointing to a greater reality than the physical.

We see this same type of relationship between law and grace, the old and new covenants. The physical law is but a shadow of the spiritual realities in Christ Jesus (Heb 10:1). Yet many today still live in the insistence that the physical law that brings death is the standard to which we hold ourselves and society instead of the spiritual law of love. We have campaigns to place the physical law in courthouses, while the way to redemption is through the spiritual life of Jesus. If anything should be pronounced in such places, it should be something to the effect of Matt 22:37-40: Love God. Love you neighbor (which covers everyone). This fulfills the law and prophets.

Mostly, we try to uphold ourselves and society to a physical standard of the law. In other words, the letter which only brings (spiritual) death instead of the Spirit which brings life. So many Christians seem spiritually dead because they continue to insist on the physical standards of the law while missing the point. Prayers are often made by such standards to, “bless my friends and family.” Whereas Jesus, living to the spiritual, calls us to bless our enemies (Matt 5:44). What good is it to just love those that love us (Matt 5:46-47)?

The interesting thing to note here is that we can’t live to the spirit of the law by physical means. We can only live by the spirit by living in the Spirit. The more we try to live by physical means, the more we alienate ourselves from Jesus (Gal 5:4, 18).

When living by the Spirit, we begin to see like Jesus—beyond the physical constraints of worldly interpretations of the law. We being seeing everything in spiritual terms and begin to live our lives and make our choices based on that—much to the confusion and disdain of those living by a physical religion. Once that spiritual life is tasted though, it can’t be set aside for man-made mandates.

This is something that I’ve been striving to communicate to others, but it seems the physical mind cannot understand the language of the Spirit. Much of the scriptures speak of this but seem chaotic and glossed over because a physically minded religion cannot understand them.

We also speak these things, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches, but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual things. Now the natural man doesn’t receive the things of God’s Spirit, for they are foolishness to him, and he can’t know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he who is spiritual discerns all things, and he himself is judged by no one. “For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he should instruct him?” But we have Christ’s mind.—1 Cor 2:13-16

I’m beginning to see many who are waking up spiritually, and it’s a beautiful thing. We seem to be on the verge of a great spiritual awakening though many may call us heretic, blasphemer, backslider, demonic, etc…because of their fear of losing their physical empires. However, the true Spirit of God cannot be stifled by the physical pursuits of man.

A Beautiful Experience

First, I want to state that this isn’t bragging on something that I did. This is stating something that I happened to experience with God. It had little to do with my actions other than I’ve been seeking a deeper relationship with Father, Son, and Spirit. I will keep the details generic as to not bring attention to those that may not want it.
I was talking with someone recently about the Bible. The things we were discussing wouldn’t be allowed in most traditional congregations and would probably be labeled as heresy or something. I don’t want to discuss the details of the question that came up because I’m still trying to process the answer we received myself. When the question was raised, a question I had contemplated but had no real answer for other than the standard line most know, I found myself giving an amazing answer that I had to struggle to comprehend. Profound words that weren’t mine, coming from my mouth. We both set in stunned silence for a few seconds as neither of us was expecting what we heard.
Now, the answer itself was amazing, but equally awesome was that the Holy Spirit spoke through one of us in such an amazing way. I’ve experienced this personally in bits and pieces, but never so profound. I was both humbled and thrilled to experience that. The words could have just as easily come from the other person’s mouth in the conversation.
It is amazing the place God has led me. More and more I find myself ostracized from popular Christianity but experiencing an ever growing relationship with Jesus. I don’t say these things to brag on myself, but to present the type of relationship that Father wants with us, his children. A direct relationship where he is free to move and be among us even if it is only 2 or 3 that are gathered.
Now, anyone reading this can throw out anything I’ve just written. I would half expect it as I probably would be skeptical of someone claiming the same thing. I would only like to say, whether this story can be believed or not, that God does and will speak through those that are willing to let him lead them, and it will likely be shockingly beautiful when it happens.