(Originally posted at churchsetfree.wordpress.com)
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.
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 4:23, Matt 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.
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!
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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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Here’s a post I wrote for Church Set Free. Please have a look-see. Note: the site is still under construction.
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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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!
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.