Living Endearingly Free In the World
Living in the love of the Father changes gently shapes everything about the way we relate to those around us. Wayne takes a stroll through the God Journey Forum and answers some questions that people have posed there about evangelism, boundaries, depression, and whether or not the teaching of grace should be mitigated by warnings of eternal consequence for our selfish behaviors. Learning to live free of the need to manipulate others, and free from others' attempts to manipulate us leads to a life of freedom, compassion, and generosity with others. Even when people are only living to please themselves and using grace as their excuse, the most compelling and endearing entreaty we can make to them is not threats, but living examples of lives well-lived in relationship to him.
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Thank you Wayne. Having a place like the forum, warts and all with it‘s real life limitations, has been a overall blessing in my journey. I hold it lightly in my heart knowing this online expression may one day transition into other opportunities. Looking forward to meeting and gathering with you and others in August. 🙂
This podcast has touched me in so many ways – especially the topic of boundaries (as a temporary crutch) and the freedom to say no, learning to listen not only to Father’s nudges but also to my own heart, to respect my limitations – I am not responsible to talk to everyone, to “save” everyone but I can learn to be open to what Father gives and leave the rest to him… this sounds really freeing (and at the same time easier said than done)
I also like the priority of feeding the hungry, walking those out of pits who want to instead of trying to motivate (which, as heard in the last podcast, often comes out as manipulation) those who don’t want to (yet) – being gracious to those around us, sharing ourselves and our homes with those who need us (for a while) – thank you Wayne for these practical examples how it looks for you – I find this a lot more helpful than “one-size-fits-all” type principles.
Can’t wait for the end of August – not only because it’s my birthday but also for the next podcast 🙂
Thanks again for a great podcast. Lots of food for thought. A couple thoughts came to mind as I listened to this:
1) You can’t both set a boundary and take care of someone else’s feelings.
2) Grace is not a license to loaf, but the power to perform.
Have a great vacation, and God bless.
I’m very curious about something that is causing me some confusion, and it relates to this podcast and warning people about their behavior.
I’ve grown so very much in my relationship with God, and have learned more and more to relax into his love for me. I also am recognizing that the only real change and transformation in my life is a result of God working within me. As I put more and more of my faith and trust in him rather than my own efforts change does really happen. And it happens in a relational way, which is the most amazing part.
Here is where I become confused though – especially when I start reading Paul’s exhortations to the Ephesians, “But among you there must not even be any hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people….For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person – such man is an idolater – has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.” Or to the Thessalonians, “Finally, brothers, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus…..The Lord will punish men for all such sins, as we have already told you and warned you. For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, he who rejects this instruction does not reject man but God, who gives you the Holy Spirit.” Or Titus, “An overseer is entrusted with God’s work, he must be blameless – not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. Rather he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined…”
I have to say, I read these words and I have a mini freak out and start thinking of how I need to manage my behavior better and get my ducks in a row, and get “serious” about my faith and my example to others. And then all my short-comings and failures start coming to mind and well, then I’m pretty sure God has no use for me because I can’t possibly meet these standards of perfection.
I have listened to the Jesus Lens series, and I think perhaps that when I’m reading these scriptures I’m missing something essential, but I can’t reconcile Paul’s words with what I’m discovering about God and how he is bringing me into a greater likeness to Christ. What am I missing? Because I read Paul’s letters to the churches and it appears he is warning of eternal consequences for certain unacceptable behaviors. Is there a way to sort this out that doesn’t involve behavior management?
I saw your comment and thought I’d post something up here. I really resonate with what you shared and have (and still do at times) really struggled over passages like that. This is by no means conclusive, but one thing that has helped me in this is the idea that perhaps these scriptures are more descriptive than prescriptive. I think we tend to look at scriptures like these through a prescriptive lens: “You need to do this, and this, and this…” usually followed by some sort of reward or punishment “so that you will get X” or “or else X will happen to you”. But what if these are more descriptive in nature? So it is more like “WHEN you live in the Father’s affection, here are the types of fruit you will see” (like healthy sexuality, generosity, etc.) not “to get into Father’s affection you need to …”
I know that gridwork has helped me a lot to relax personally AND even recognize something that may be out of sync around me. Perhaps in an individual or even a whole group. There have been times I’ve been in a group where there was sexual immorality happening and it really showed that there were some far deeper struggles and issues beneath the surface. Places those folks were really struggling with their view of Father. And by looking at those symptoms honestly, we could really walk through some healing together.
Maybe symptom is a good word to bring in the mix. Hope that helps a bit. John
Lots to think about here! I will certainly be putting these glasses on for a while and trying this new viewpoint as I read through scripture. I can also see how this would be a helpful way to filter through situations and relationships as well. Wow! I feel like this is a piece of the puzzle and I’m wishing it would just snap into place, but I think it’s a piece I’m going to have to sort out with Father for a while until I can get it in the right spot and turned in the right direction. I know it fits, because in my most intimate experiences with Father he has never wagged his finger in my face, but instead has held me close and explained things in the most compassionate, patient, and tender way.
Thanks so much for chiming in. It is very helpful!
I am not sure if this will help but one the revelations I have had is in regards to the prodigal son and his relationship with the father. The father did not stop the prodigal son from leaving him and he did not reject him while he lived a life of debauchery. Instead the father watched for his return and when his son chose (by himself with no coercion) to return, the father ran to meet him and welcomed him back, bestowing honour on him with robes and rings and a feast. There is no judgement at any stage in this story except from the older brother who failed to understand love. The father knew the prodigal needed to go and live a life apart from him and he let him go and continued to love him.
Father knows our hearts and he understands our inner workings and motivations and sometimes we make decisions that would have our brothers judging us but the father continues to patiently and lovingly wait because he does not stop being a father. The relationship remains.
This supercedes all the “thou shalts” and “thou shalt nots”. That is the basis of the older bother’s arguments and the father reprimands the son because he fails to grasp relationship. We cannot judge the heart of another or even our own when we trust in and respond to the love of God. He knows each one of us so intimately and he knows that sometimes we “feel the need” (selfishly or through brokenness or stubborn arrogance) to live lives that do not conform to his standards and norms but as we remain in relationship and in his love, his love will win us back because it is far superior than any wilful or “wrong” experience.
It is a challenge to accept this all encompassing love of God as we tend to gravitate towards rule bound judgments but if we stop for a moment and just be honest with ourselves, we do not feel better or behave better when we faced with a stick. And if we are truly honest with ourselves, we will admit that love brings out the best qualities in us. Why feel guilty about that?
I have been watching this discussion, Jacqueline, and waiting to see if Wayne will reply. Wayne has already said what John said- that some of the instructions in the Bible are descriptive of how we will be as we are conformed to the image of Jesus – not something we have to do ourselves. When I first heard of dying to self I chose to give up things like ice-cream and stopped wearing makeup etc. Now I know that it means dying to SELF and Father chooses how to help us as we are willing. Self was becoming stronger when I was in charge and I felt very righteous as well as becoming judgemental.
When we try to obey every word in the Bible I think we are in danger of becoming legalistic. I try to hear Father’s voice and ask Him to confirm if it is something He is about to do in my life or if the words are for the Ephesians. I think Titus was writing to the church leaders about qualities they were to look for when appointing bishops. ie qualities the Father had already developed in men. If you hope to be a bishop He has time to develop those qualities in you.
The words you quoted that talk about inheritance maybe refer to rewards or maybe responsibility when we reign and rule with Christ but don’t mean losing eternal life. There is so much I don’t understand. I just trust Him.
I’m sorry I’ve been tied up for a few days and haven’t been able to jump in here, and I don’t have much time now, unfortunately. One thing that might help is to remember that by the time Paul gets to his better-shape-up admonitions he’s already had a significant amount of writing to set people at ease in Father’s affection, to realize transformation is a process, and that righteousness is a gift from God not a work of man. But he still wants them to know that sin is still a destroyer of the human spirit, and we dare not mistake God’s love as an excuse to perpetuate our sins. In other words they’ve lost sight of the transforming work of God and contented themselves in their failures. He wants them to know that sin has dire consequences. We could argue whether that’s sin’s own punishment, or whether God punishes sin, but I would lean toward the first because he is the rescuer in this story, not the bully.
I think Paul’s point is that God’s grace doesn’t change God’s desired outcome. He still wants to draw us into his holiness, it only changed the process from my performance, to his gift. But we do have a role in leaning into that grace that transforms and for the body of Christ to have an ideal in mind even as they are real about the process to get there…
Thank you so much for the conversations and responses. There are some days where I do truly “get it” and am so amazingly grateful that Father has given me something to hang on to. Sometimes through personal dialog with him, sometimes through other people (such as the podcasts and discussions here), books I’ve read, or scripture that resonates.
But, and this is a big But…Why does all of this seem so simple on the one hand and so darned complex and opaque on the other hand? Maybe it’s just me, but what I don’t get is why the Trinity who through the work of Jesus solved the problem once and for all hasn’t made it easier for people to understand and grasp????
It seems to me like we live in a war zone filled with land minds and snares, things that get in our way of seeing clearly. Land minds like Christians who shame and condemn and blow other Christians up as well as blowing up anyone of a different faith, etc. And then snares, very often put in place by religious institutions that we get caught up in and we end up spinning our wheels without ever growing more in our relationship with God. Sometimes the snares are of our own making – assumptions and expectations of what faith in God should look like.
Why is it so hard? The only explanation I can come up with in this moment is that we need to be like little kids riding piggy back on the very broad and capable shoulders of Jesus and let him carry us through the war zone. Depending and trusting Him to help us sort it out. That what it boils down to, is that in order to see clearly we have to completely rely on Him. Maybe the times I struggle are when I feel like I’ve become a burden to Him and insist on getting down and navigating the mine field on my own.
Just my thoughts, maybe others get as frustrated as I do with the lack of clarity…
Thanks Jacqueline (and the others) for an encouraging “e-discussion”. Jacqueline…I love the questions you ask. I share the same “angst” and at times become so tired and exhausted at trying to see these things with clarity. It seems that the only comfort I can offer right now is…you’re not alone. I have more questions than answers and have had this dialogue with Jesus also. “Why is it so hard to come into this life of rest and trust?” He has invited me to keep asking the questions and has invited me into a space where it’s not “He said…I said” but rather questions being answered over time. For me this time has turned into an emotional roller coaster b/c there are times when I can sense Him holding me very close or sense His tears with my pain. Then other times it seems as though He’s ignoring me. For me there is something deeper than I can explain in that I WANT to keep going back and back to Him. Maybe like Peter I know there’s nobody else to go to. I see examples of others who live this life in Jesus and know that there will be greater maturity and with greater maturity and wisdom in this life in Him…I think there will also be the fruit of greater quietness and contentment. I love the word picture you painted of us being like children on Jesus’ capable shoulders as He walks us through the “war zone” or “mine fields”. This process of producing fruit/harvest sure seems to take time. Blessings, Sue
My heart goes out to you Jacqueline. I have shared your struggle for longer than I care to admit. My comments below are not to you but to this forum in general. I hope you find what you’re looking for or minimally the freedom to trust your experiences without having to feel like you need to conform them to some other standard.
The Jesus Lens, the view that the NT reveals a face of God that was unclear in the Old, has always been something I’ve found difficult to understand. Theoretically, it sounds beautiful and I would love for it to be true; however, I can find little support for such a theory in the Bible. In my opinion, the NT and words of Christ are just as troubling, if not more, than the OT.
The attempt to redefine what the Bible seems to clearly say in places to make it more palatable is exhausting. If it’s truly so clearly there, why all the confusion? Sure, we all come to it with a certain lens but I find it highly unlikely that our lenses have jaded our view so much that faulty interpretations that have dominated church history for the last 2,000 years are simply a result of the fact that we’re not able to discern something easily that is supposedly the very crux of the New Covenant and therefore the entire story of the NT.
It is much more likely in my opinion that it’s so difficult to see because it’s not there. Despite the fact I find so many of their conclusions repulsive, I believe traditional evangelical theology, with the exception of a few things, reaches very little when it comes to interpreting the Bible. Their view of hell, the holiness of God, punishment, sin, etc. is not so much an interpretation as much as it is taking the words on the page at face value.
To think that I’m seeing something in the Bible that’s not there as a result of my supposed Western lens or shame/guilt lens because I choose to give precedence to what seems to be clearly there, would be to disregard the manner by which I use to discern truth from error in any other category and would ultimately lead to a distrust of my reasoning capabilities in all other areas of my life. As much as I may want this to be true, I simply don’t see it there. For instance, 2 Thessalonians 1:8. How is this to be interpreted in any other way other than that God is a god of vengeance; not just on sin but on individual people, and not just for things such as murder and stealing, or lying and coveting, but primarily He takes vengeance for not knowing Him and not obeying His gospel. The specific context of this passage is discussing people persecuting the Thessalonian believers but this is not a theme exclusive to the book of 2 Thessalonians. It is a theme reiterated throughout the entire Bible that is mentioned here again to comfort the Thessalonians in the midst of their persecution. They are to look forward to the fact that God will avenge them.
If the God of the Bible is real, regardless of how this is sugar coated, we are not really free. We are free briefly in this life but must ultimately determine to conform to His standards and love Him or we will suffer dire consequences at the end of our life at His hand; consequences that he knew we would suffer when He created us yet chose to create us anyways. The God of the Bible is a God of vengeance, both Old and New Testament confirm this.
I have seen firsthand the shame, guilt, and unnecessary emotional turmoil the Bible has put people in. Sure, it’s done good for people, I’ve seen that too, but it has a dark side that is very legitimately there. I’m not talking about theology, or teachers or teachings, I’m talking about the simple text on the page. I’ve seen the words on the page put people who have been trying to take them seriously in a tremendous amount of emotional bondage, myself included. Nothing is more offensive and downright insulting to struggle like this for years and then have somebody come out and say the reason you don’t see it is simply because of a broken filter or wrong lens you’re using to interpret the Bible.
This adds insult to injury. Now, not only do not I have the peace and relationship with God that you supposedly have, but now it’s also my fault. It’s my broken filter or lens or shame or guilt or fear or whatever. The only solution beyond this is to distrust myself, to distrust what I am understanding the text to clearly say. Beyond any mystical experience, if you just take the Bible for what it says, the reason we struggle with seeing “this” in the Bible is because the Bible itself can be pretty disturbing.
I am back online and found Buster’s comments to be both challenging and transparent. I appreciate that you see the bondage this “lens” places people under. First I want to say that I appreciate we can have open discussions here and be respectful as we share our thoughts. I have found that the focus of the “Jesus Lens” and the majority of the podcasts and material here is not our own emotional reactions but Jesus and knowing Him. So there is not more guilt heaped on…it’s all your fault b/c you have a faulty lens…rather it’s let’s take a look at how we’ve used these words and ascribed things to Father’s character or Jesus that was never in their hearts. I know from my own home that as I continue to come to Jesus, read Scripture that I can begin to see that He’s not responding like my earthly father. Even to read His words on the page…we already come with a picture of his facial expressions and tone! When we can approach Him as a Person to get to know, let Him open the Scriptures to us…it’s a different “tone” that comes across. That process of unpacking our automatic assumptions takes a long time and there’s no formula or systematic theology for making that happen. It’s my understanding that it’s this painful process that Jacqueline is referring to. This process of standing back from all of the work we want to do and rather watching Him do the building or re-building of our lives. There’s life in what He does and the pressure to conform undermines the life that He builds. I have seen that He will do the building anyway…it’s not as if we have the power to stop Him. It’s more the recognition that when it’s our ego at stake and when we have an agenda to conform ourselves to or conform others to…His voice is much more difficult to hear.
Buster I can certainly understand how and why you have come to your conclusions and I in no way want to say anything that would add insult to injury. I can only share my own experience and how it has allowed me to come to a different understanding.
Sue I love how you have expressed this so well, and opened up the conversation even more. I just got back from my daily run and the piece of the puzzle finally snapped into place. The crazy thing is it has been right in front of me all along, but it took this conversation to connect the dots.
About a year ago our 19-year old, unmarried son came to my husband and I and told us he was going to be a father. Through a series of terrible mistakes and a dramatic and ugly situation he found himself in trouble. Over those prior 19 years we guided him, advised him, explained right and wrong, warned him of dire consequences, etc. Because our dreams for him were to have a whole and healthy life and to keep him from harm and from harming others. We recognized of course that he would leave our home and have the freedom to decide for himself what kind of man he wanted to be, and the freedom to make his own choices and mistakes.
He came to us probably fully expecting our wrath and punishment. Instead he was met with our love and compassion. Because here is the deal, he was already experiencing the punishment of his choices. And if we would have piled on the lash of our wrath and anger it would only have left him feeling more alone and isolated, and never again would he come to us when he was in need. In our heartbrokenness we grieved with him, we hugged him and held him as he went through months of panic attacks. As he wrestled with the decision to either walk away or be involved with this child we told him we would love him whatever he decided. Knowing full well that either decision would come with its own set of consequences and punishments. Again giving him freedom to make his own choices. And when he decided to be involved and be a dad to his little girl, we have embraced our new granddaughter, choosing not shame or condemn him for this whole unfortunate mess.
In the middle of all of this I kept feeling God’s reassurance that everything was going to be okay. Not in the pollyanna sense of denial, but that God has us all in the palm of his hand and that our mistakes and brokenness aren’t big enough to keep us from his redemption. In the middle of all of this my husband and I have forged a stronger relationship with our son. It also opened up a conversation where I shared with my son my own mistakes as a young woman. It created a much more authentic and connected relationship. And the redemption ripples continue. I guess my conclusion is that God reacts to our mistakes and bad choices in a loving way and that Paul’s warnings relate to the consequences already inherent in our world and our brokenness. God is very aware of our limited humanity and already knows where we are going to falter, and he grieves for us because his dreams for us are so much better.
Thanks for sharing some of your story Jacqueline. My story is that of growing up in a very religious structured home where the overlay of fear was very prevalent. As Jesus is gently inviting me and walking me away from that fear, there’s an opportunity to know Him for who He is. I am finding that this process of walking away from what I knew exhausted me….is very slow (according to my timeline). I have defaulted to a position of needing to protect myself b/c this environment was so harsh. Jesus is gently clarifying for me that I can lay this defensiveness down and again it’s not a “magic wand” and done in a moment. Interestingly part of this transformation is learning to love differently. As I am learning to love the way Father does…it’s changing my relationships with my family also. I think that this process of relationship is so very different than the structures of religion and I never knew how deep these layers went.
I am enjoying being part of this conversation where people are finding a loving heavenly father. I think 2 Thessalonians 1:8. can be translated ‘granting justice’ rather than vengeance. The KJB chose the most terrifying words in order to frighten the masses to obey the church and several other translations followed suit. King James required the translators to reinforce the authority of the King and church.
Many of the evangelical teachers didn’t know Jesus as we do. It was a harsh unloving religion in many churches. As I came to really know God as a loving heavenly father some of these passages are hard to understand but He reminds me of that verse ‘Shall not the judge of all the earth do right’.
However the Bible does seem to clearly promise destruction to those who chose not to accept Jesus’ gift even though many people think it promises salvation to all.
Hi Eve. 2 Thessalonians 1:8 is translated vengeance or a different word with practically the same meaning in almost every literal translation not just the KJV. I am no Greek scholar, but looking it up in a lexicon, vengeance or avenge does indeed seem to be what the word means. That said, I am not entirely closed off to other possible understandings. I like what you say about ‘shall not the judge of all the earth do right’. I’ve often felt it to be only logical that if God created us, there is a way in which life was meant to be and if he is ever to restore this world then there must be a separation of sorts by those who choose not to participate in the universe the way he intended it to be.
However, if this was all the Bible said it would make perfect sense; but as I mentioned in my previous comment, 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9 with an abundance of other texts seem to indicate that a whole lot more than just separating will be happening. As you admit, the Bible does seem to promise destruction to those who reject Christ. This makes no sense to me. We as a society don’t even do this to our criminals. Even for the worst of crimes we are now beginning to question whether the death penalty is ethical. Yet, God destroys those who reject Him. How are we free to love Him if the only alternative is destruction?
This stuff never bothered me until I had kids. I realized then that no matter what my girls ever did to me, I could never stop loving them let alone inflict pain of any kind on them. Even if they come to hate me some day I am forever theirs. God, according to the Bible, may do different with His children, but I could never bow a knee to such a God let alone love or respect Him. If people said to their kids in this world the type of things God says to us in the Bible, using the same language, no doubt many people who believe in that God would be repulsed and see it for what it is. There would be no defense that he really doesn’t mean what it sounds like or that the kids really deserved it, so on and so forth. It’s like the abusive parent trying to convince their child they do it out of love.
Thanks Buster and Eve for your comments. Buster I appreciate having a deeper sense of where you’re coming from..”if human ppl were to say things to their children like God says in the Bible..” yes on a surface appearance it appears that He says “Love me…or else!!!” and truthfully nobody finds a figure like that endearing. Again I have more questions than answers at this point. What I have learned out of my angry, fear based home life (growing up years) is that if I’m responding out of fear, then I am misunderstanding His heart. Yes the words are there that rejecting the grace of Jesus leads to terrible consequences and I would never white wash them (then reading Scriptures with integrity is gone). Along with the consequences goes the heart of a Father who pursues His children (like you want to win the hearts of your girls). This then means that I can see the consequences not as God throwing an angry temper tantrum b/c He didn’t get His way but rather His love invites me to draw near to Him and He will sort out the consequences. This gives me greater freedom to love ppl rather than trying to get them “on my team” or using “turn or burn” approaches. Father sees their hearts and can sort that out w/out me having to convince them of who Jesus is and the need for His grace. Since Jesus asks me to look at Him (not at other teachers, humans or even family members) I can hear more clearly His words and invitation to me. Then under that umbrella, the other things sort out.
Sue, I appreciate your gentle tone; it’s what this sensitive heart needs.
I’m sorry but I can’t help but see what you’re saying as an example of saying something doesn’t mean what it clearly seems to mean, but I will continue chewing on it.
I think there is some truth in this approach. In light of the recent Zimmerman trial, regardless of where somebody stands on their opinion of the whole thing, I think we can probably all agree that this was a good example of how people come to certain situations with a conclusion already in hand and then see what they were looking for. Unfortunately, as with many headlines that dominate the media, few people seem to be able or willing to discern objective facts outside of preconceived notions. This is speculation on my part, but I feel like very often our identity is wrapped up in our assumptions/conclusions and an objective evaluation of them is threatening to the thing which we base our existence and sense of self on.
Emotions, though not bad in and of themselves, are not the best means to determine the validity of something and can drastically affect our perception of things. This is perhaps one of the reasons I have become skeptical of interpreting the Bible based on ‘experience’ versus a critical evaluation of the text. In any other category of life, ‘experience’ or feelings can be wrong just as often as they’re right; critical and objective evaluations are usually the safest way to discern truth from error. Otherwise, whose whim is correct?
I realize I am no different and in light of this conversation as it pertains to the Bible I am still not entirely sure exactly of which way I am approaching it, though I think I am trying to be as objective about it as possible. I am certainly not alone in thinking this appears to be the clear meaning of much of Scripture; I believe I have the majority of church history standing behind me, unfortunately. Nonetheless, my point is that I see the potential to distort things either way and I will chew on this some more.
I grew up with the idea that God punished people for their sin, and thus the “love me or suffer my wrath” conclusions. In my journey, I’ve landed in a very different place. I see wrath as the full expression of the Father’s affection, seeking to rid us and the whole world of what sin has done to destroy humanity. In that sense, sin is its own punishment, and it culminates in our destruction.
God loves us deeply and our whole lives seeks to rescue us from the path of destruction we are on and that will totally consume us if we don’t embrace that affection. I don’t think 2 Thess undermines that conclusion. In one of Paul’s earliest letters he’s encouraging the people not to be in despair over those that are trying to destroy them because Jesus is coming again and the whole world will be set right. That’s how I see judgment. It’s not God “punishing” the way we think of it, but God setting right and for some that will mean that sin finally has its way with them. So in some sense, that judgment hasn’t come yet is that God’s grace still keeps the door open even for those who are doing great harm to others. But that will not last forever.
This is why I think it critical that we look at Scripture as a story of God’s unfolding revelation and not interpret any one “proof text” of a conclusion in a vacuum. When we read Paul’s letters in chronological order we see the movement in his own perception of God, church life, and how we are to live in him. When we made the Bible a legal document and each verse proof of some principle we had to live to, we distorted it far worse than those who dismiss it out of hand. I don’t blame people for not seeing Scripture that way, because that’s how it’s been taught when we were more concerned about inerrancy than trustworthiness.
I think the Bible in its entirety is entirely trustworthy to help us get a glimpse on who this incredible Loving Father is. The interpretations contrary to that were developed by religious leaders who found it easier to manipulate people in their fears than to set them free in the Father’s affection. All we can do is help people see the truth of it when they are ready. Because without the distortion of human interpretation, I think the Bible as a story of God’s unfolding revelation is incredibly clear and allows us to know God as the most endearing presence in the universe.
But that doesn’t mean he is a big softie that doesn’t care about the destruction in his Creation. His grace is not our excuse to treat sin lightly, but the portal into a different way of living that sets us free from its power and its destruction. That’s the good news as I see it.
Thanks Buster and Wayne for your thoughts. Buster I appreciate the hurt that you’re feeling as you sort through this. I agree that this is not something “get it now or else” but rather these discussions and evaluating of what Scripture says and how do we see the character of God…is a product of thoughtful reflection. Thanks for noticing my “gentle spirit” …glad it came through in my writing. I am a thoughtful and reflective person. These are very sensitive and profound concepts to wrestle with and my goodness when we add the dynamics of our growing up and how we were shaped…whew!!! It’s a wonder any of us come to any clarity or healing (smile). That healing process is also Father’s work and Jesus said it’s His work to reveal Father to us. Maybe I’m back to…I have more questions than answers right now and at least what I can offer is “you’re not alone”. There are many of us in the same process. I prefer coffee and direct communication…that being said, there are times when e-discussions can add a lot too!
How does your take on sin being its own destruction play out after this life?
I think I understand what you’re trying to say when you say that God is not a softie on sin. But if He does not destroy people, take vengeance on, or punish, then what exactly does He do with people who could care less and where in the Bible does it say this?
There are plenty of loving and caring people of other faiths or no faith that have either disregarded the Bible as truth or some who are even opposed to it for the reasons we’re discussing here.
Are you implying that you think there may be some evolution in Paul’s perception of God where his later letters are more accurate than his earlier ones?
Thank you, Sue.
Buster, I’ll try to answer your questions briefly, since I have to leave shortly.
I don’t think we know how sin’s destruction plays out in the after life. I’m still trying to figure out this one. 😉 I hold loosely any view of what eternity will look like since Scripture speaks of realities I’m not sure we can comprehend with any certainty in this life. I am convinced that hell is the culmination of sin, and though it seems to be eternal as a holding place for angels that are fallen, it doesn’t seem to be an eternal spot for humans, since we are not immortal until we take on immortality at the resurrection of Jesus (I Cor 15). That may be why the lake of fire is called a “second death” in Revelation. In that since I’m more of an annihilationist.
At the end of the age, God sets everything right, by finally destroying sin and death for the whole creation. That’s his judgment. We celebrate that hope because this world is a mess. The wrong people hold power and wealth for the most part and the wicked are often rewarded by our world systems. Those who have not found salvation in Christ will be consumed along with the death, sin, and sickness of this broken creation.
I don’t think the point is that people have to regard the Bible, only learn to follow Jesus. I think there are people of other faiths or no faith, who have followed an inner voice they never identified as Jesus, though they followed him nonetheless. If the Pharisees could follow the Devil, thinking they are following God, then it’s not real important what name we put on him, but what reality we embrace. As in CS Lewis’ the Last Battle, we will be surprised at some people who are there. As Aslan said to the kids when a follower of the devil-figure, Tash, ended up in Aslan’s country. “Oh, he called me Tash, but he was really following me all along. Reality matters, not words we use.
As to your last question, evolution is a trigger word. I’d say Paul was still growing in the knowledge and love of God throughout his life. But I wouldn’t say the later books are more accurate than the earlier ones, because there is Truth in the earlier ones too. But where we see movement in Paul’s thinking we then get to reconsider where he might have not had a more complete understanding as he continued.
Without saying it, most people believe that God dictated these books to the authors, instead of them writing out of their experience and insight. God saw to it that the collection of books unfold the truth of himself, not that every detail is necessarily accurate. We see that in the Resurrection accounts. The four gospels don’t have all the same people at the same place. They were writing what the remembered, and their memories were faulty. But the important realities of the Resurrection is still intact. I think that’s a more honest reading of Scripture than to argue inerrancy and infallibility.
As one man say when asked if he believed in the infallibility of the Bible, “I believe in the infallibility of the God of the Bible.” Me too! Scripture unfolds a progressive revelation that culminates in Jesus himself who showed us a God of love even toward his enemies. (Luke 6). That’s got to make us reconsider some of the conclusions advanced in the Old Testament. Remember, those who understood the Scriptures the best when Jesus was here, couldn’t recognize God when he sat in the same room with them. That ought to make us all pause with a bit of humility before being too certain about our interpretations of Scripture…
Hope that helps. THE JESUS LENS contain a lot more detail about all of this.
Hmmm… These are good thoughts; thank you for sharing. Some stuff for me to think on…
Thank you, Buster, for responding so graciously. My Greek is a little rusty. I just looked to see how the Greek word had been translated in other verses and found it had been translated justice sometimes. I guess those Christians suffering persecution wanted to hear that God would avenge them.
When I became a Christian we just accepted that God was angry with sinners and felt righteous that we were saved. Now that I have adult children I have started to see things through their eyes. I can imagine my son saying, “If God is like that I don’t want anything to do with Him.”
I have been trying to reach an understanding of the gospel message that portrays God as a loving father not one who reacts out of anger when He doesn’t get his own way.
Wayne’s teaching has opened my eyes. I have always accepted the fact that my little human brain is unable to understand everything God may want to tell me. I have been a teacher most of my life and know that children cannot understand many new things until they have the previous knowledge to build on. God reveals things slowly as I get to know Him. I continue to pray that Father will reveal things to me as I have found everything comes to me by revelation not reason
I can relate, Eve. I accepted a lot of things without question too. Between having kids and other things, circumstances kind of forced me into seeing things from a different perspective. It’s been tough but good. I think the truth, whichever way one comes upon it and no matter how difficult the journey there, is always worth it; especially when it comes to the beliefs which we base our entire life on.
At this point, for me, there’s really only two options. I will either come to a place where I’m honestly able to see things like you, Wayne, and others here, or if I end up never being able to see anything else in the Bible, I will have to move beyond it. Accepting the Bible and God the way I used to see it is no longer an option.
There are probably more options than that, Buster. We really can’t see them all. I trust the Spirit of God in you to lead you to God’s truth. That’s his job, after all. One of my great laments is that we taught people to “know” God by believing a set of principles that academics collected from their study of Scripture. But all of that had a bent to toward controlling people to fear. It would have been so much better to actually introduce people to Jesus and let them get to know him as a personality in the universe and through him to know the heart of the Father.
But it’s never to late to start again and get to know God through the Son, rather than the principles of Scripture. You’ll find in time that they both coincide quite nicely. We not only get to have the book, we also get to know the Author, and the two will blend together in a seamless reality.
You have my prayers and my blessings on this journey.
Wow! I feel like this is really the deep end of the pool! And exactly what I meant when I feel so frustrated by the complexity and opaqueness of the Bible, and religion, and having a relationship with God, and people’s experiences of God vs/in addition to what the Bible spells out. I’ve had to read through the conversation here at least 3 times just so I could tread water in the deep end. I wish we could all sit down in person, maybe over a delicious meal, and continue this conversation.
What I really appreciate about this forum is the respectfulness and humility and the willingness to hear one another out. I don’t “know” any of you, but it seems to me that we are all, in our own way, searching for truth and trying to make sense of things. Yes, I felt I had a moment of clarity the other day, but I know full well I will have many moments of struggle and wrestling with it all too – most especially with passages in the Bible.
However, I can not discount the supernatural experiences/visions/conversations that I have had with Jesus. They most likely don’t make sense in any objective, rational sense, but they have answered the very deepest things in me. My heart and soul have responded in the part of me that recognizes goodness, beauty, justice, mercy, love, belonging, connection. And so when I read passages in the Bible (in Ephesians, Thessalonians, Titus) that started this conversation I am faced with a disconnect, and doubt starts creeping in again, and it feels like I’m back in the mind field.
How could any of us come to any understanding in the normal cookie cutter, prescribed fashion? As you all have said – we come with our own experiences, childhoods, baggage, church experiences, parenthood (and all the eye-opening that occurs there), sins, expectations, stories. So as Buster says if the God who created us and is omniscient, and knows us better than we know ourselves, punishes us for that….well, that is a hard pill to swallow.
Again, I’m just thankful for the conversation and people willing to jump in the deep end!
Wayne, I’ve met very few people who stand outside the structure and forms of typical responses within Christianity and encourages people the way you do. It’s a breath of fresh air.
Jacqueline, I agree that it would be nice if this conversation were happening in person. And again, I very much can relate with you. Perhaps the strongest thing that’s carried me this long through all of these struggles is the fact that I ‘experienced’ something when I first came to believe in God that to this day, that ‘feeling’, I cannot explain. It impacted my life in a way that almost nothing else has and I am not comfortable discarding that.
Even now, I find myself in moments of stillness, or looking at my kids, or witnessing something beautiful, experiencing the same feeling I had then. Sometimes I’ve gone through struggles and in exhaustion unable to say anything, I’ve felt a very strong impression that I was not alone and that I was loved by what I still hope to be God.
The hardest thing for me has been to make sense out of the Bible in light of these experiences. Some days I find myself more wanting to trust the experience while other days I’m ready to discard both and pursue a more ‘rational’ way out. But that disconnect you describe, I absolutely understand. I think you probably summed up my problem better than I’ve ever been able to. And like you, I also have many moments of clarity where I suddenly think I get it! I’m done! only to then have it fade away a few days later with a new doubt or struggle or passage in the Bible.
What Wayne said about reality mattering and not the words we use really resonates with me. I’ve often thought many of these things but when you think you’re alone in some of your ideas there’s a tendency to doubt them. I don’t know… the Bible is definitely a stumbling block for me but this gives me a lot think about.
Thank you all. This has been good.
I love these last two responses. It’s sad that we so easily discount our experiences with God because they are not in synch with something we’re perceiving from Scripture. Now if your experience is drawing you to murder or neighbor, cheat on your spouse, or betray a friend, then you’d to well to re-consider. But if your experience with Jesus has drawn you into his care and affection, has helped you recognize beauty and grace in the creation, and drawn your heart to know him and be more like him, then that must be celebrated. Where Scripture seems to different from that, gives us space to take a closer look at Scripture and see if we’re getting it right. Because in our religious age we’ve twisted the Scriptures in a way that disfigures the God of the Bible. He’ll show you how to work those things out, but don’t discount rich experiences with him especially if they draw you into more meaningful and gentle space. That would have him written all over it…
Yes, I guess not discarding the experience makes sense to me. But going back to the reason we started this discussion in the first place, my experience is part of what first caused me to doubt the Bible.
I think the furthest I could ever get is a hopeful agnostic but I’ve wondered if perhaps there is some truth in a God who transcends all religion, including Christianity and the Bible, yet still operates within and without all of them. I suppose this thought is similar to Aldous Huxley’s perennial philosophy or William James’s “Varieties of Religious Experience”.
For instance, I have a friend in AA who isn’t a Christian but bases every day of his life and sobriety on his experience of God. When I first left the church and was explaining to him some of the things I could no longer believe about God, he was shocked people believed such things. His exact words to me, which I’ll never forget, were, “I don’t know, that could be God but that’s never been my experience of Him.” He ascribes to no religion or scripture of any kind but rather takes truth wherever he finds it and discards the rest. The closest to a Bible is perhaps his AA Big Book. For the most part, all he knows of God is based on his experience of Him in his life. This same friend when attempting to read the Bible ended up discarding a significant portion of it as it didn’t line up with his experience.
He had the same problem, the same disconnect as we’re discussing here, but since he didn’t have a history with the Bible or Christianity he didn’t think twice about discarding whatever didn’t fit his experience and as far as I know he has never lost any sleep over trying to make sense of the Bible. And he is not a casual believer. When I say he bases his entire life on what he believes to be his experience of God that is not an exaggeration.
This goes against everything I mentioned in my previous comments about objective vs. subjective evaluation, etc. but I don’t doubt that my friend is genuinely free. His metric of true or not true when it comes to God is his experience. He is an encouraging example of somebody who is following what he perceives to be God without any fear.
Perhaps he is experiencing a reality that does find it’s truest explanation in the Bible. I don’t know. He doesn’t think so and, while I hope so, I’m obviously not convinced yet either; but he’s been an interesting encouragement about the possibility of having faith and experience outside of any religious expression or dogma. He doesn’t have almost any answers when it comes to “theological matters” but he undeniable has something that is working for him.
Getting back on line and like Jacqueline …so appreciate being able to “jump into the deep end”. : ) Buster thanks also for sharing some of your wrestlings and questions. I agree that this life comes more by revelation than intellectually grasping Scripture. Seems that in order to celebrate when we’re being invited into a more gentle space and to ask about the character or “heart” of God we need to be able to step back and take the time to see if we’ve got Scripture right. This is where my impatience trips me up…but the encouragement is “like a breath of fresh air”.
Thanks to everyone for sharing. I also appreciate jumping “into the deep end”. Buster thanks for your sharing of your struggles and allowing us to share some of that with you. Taking the time to see the heart of the Father and then to see if we’ve got Scripture right seems worthwhile. The encouragement is helpful!
I have been thinking about this all day. I am in NZ which is a different time zone (6:15 pm Sat night) I think that first we choose to believe that Jesus died to restore our relationship to God. We choose to receive Him and then we ask Him to lead us into truth. We then read the Bible as He directs. Trying to understand the Bible without Him can lead to confusion.
Back on line again…thought my first comment never went through so now I see I left 2 comments…oops (smile). Eve-Loraine welcome from NZ and a different time zone! I relate to what you said about confusion. I’ve been thinking a lot about the e-discussion (it’s now a day later here as I’m back online) and the tension seems to be that as Buster said it’s dangerous to try and make Scripture say things it never meant or to try and make it more pleasant. On the other hand when we’re given the lens of the angry God, a Father who “throws fits” when He’s offended then we’re also seeing Scripture through a distorted lens (like a fun-house mirror that makes you look odd). I appreciate the respectful way ppl here have commented and had a courteous discussion while sharing different questions and points of view. It seems that thoughtful engagement of these questions is more helpful (and closer to Jesus’ heart) than an arrogant demand for instant answers. To be patient with our questions and patient as Jesus walks us through this to show us the correct way to see some of these things.
Great dialogue in the comments posted. It’s interesting how we so quickly forget that the Bible in printed form for the masses has only been readily available for the past 150 years. Some would have you believe that you can only know God through the scriptures.
Probably the greatest aspect of the New Covenant is that God has chosen to take up residence in our hearts. Hmmm, wonder why He wanted to be that intimate…that close to us? I’d suggest we get back to spending more time talking with God directly in a dialogue, not just monologue, and experiencing Him outside the Book. Isn’t that how people have relationship with others, through interpersonal interactions? If I had to choose between developing a relationship through “face to face” encounters or by reading a book that person wrote about themself, I’d choose the former any day, and actually I do nowadays. That’s not to say the Bible doesn’t have benefit for us but it’s time to get it off the pedestal we have elevated it to. I used to think the trinity was Father, Son, and Holy Word. I was even counseling a woman one time where Jesus showed her how the Bible had gotten between Him and her and He meant that in a corrective way. She was shocked at first He would say that to her, stormed out of our session only to return 15 minutes later, apologizing that she had made the Bible an idol in her life. Been there…done that. A question to consider, how would you (could you) describe your relationship with God to a total stranger, without using the Bible?
Great question Tom.
My answer would be God is very personal to me, my experience of Him very relational and intimate and that is what holds all of me and my life together. I tell people I converse and share with God like I would a person in the room (one who understands me completely and accepts me so I don’t have to hold anything back), and I leave plenty of quiet listening and pondering time, and from that a very solid sense of God’s presence and caring for me develops.
And this is in actuality what I do share with people and it opens up some interesting conversations – as well as an open type of quietness from others themselves as they ponder what I have just said.
If I were to use the Bible, I would add the Holy Spirit to the Father and Son and bring in scriptures about the Holy Spirit being our guide and teacher
(about the Father and Jesus, and the scriptures themselves)
as He dwells in us.
Thank you Sue for the welcome. I am enjoying this conversation. So often I want to share what Jesus is doing in my life but there is no-one interested. I long to share how wonderful a walk with Jesus is – talking with Him throughout the day. Truly trusting Him seems to be the key. He faithfully answers my questions- though not all of them. I can understand that. Sometimes children ask questions where the answer is far beyond their understanding.
I agree with Tom. The Bible is not to be studied like a textbook; though Jesus frequently answers my questions through the Bible where the Spirit quickens verses.
Busters experience I can relate to, ‘For instance, I have a friend in AA who isn’t a Christian but bases every day of his life and sobriety on his experience of God.’ I have some good friends who live very successful lives as atheists or following some spirit of their own. They show no interest in getting to know Jesus. But as for me I have chosen Jesus although my life has probably turned out more difficult than theirs.
I agree with you Carol. People don’t want to be bashed with a Bible. I do get a little nervous that I will get locked up when I say that Jesus talks to me but I think that is what He wants from us to share life with Him more than work for Him.
Sometimes people don’t seem to want to listen to me either.
Overall I have become more comfortable just sharing my experience rather than theology. And that includes pleasant things as well as difficult things. I have found people who do appreciate me just being real and down to earth even when it is about spiritual things that are not easy to explain.
Mostly I check with Jesus before I say anything but not always. You can see people close their ears when we get onto theology. I do agree that people appreciate us being real. It is so nice to share with someone.
Yes! Praying about sharing, or before or during helps me remember it’s not all up to me but it’s about what Jesus wants. It’s His work and our availability – to Him, not to certain expectations. And I don’t always think to pray either but I know it’s Him that I depend on.
Outstanding discussion. I have always enjoyed Cory Ten Booms response, “Don’t wrestle, just nestle.” She learned that in Auschwitz. My learning came through being a former Pentecosal minister who’s wife had major clinical depression, suicidal, then left me. I found myself in a treatment center as every time you poked me I had a Scripture. When I get in a time of self doubt, wondering about my place, business, etc. I stop focusing on me and my feelings. Serving others, out of a sense of wonder rather than guilt or reward thinking has set me free. Seeing Jesus in others, no matter how flawed, helps me as well. A bent branch he will not break, a smoldering wick he will not put out.
I have also had the police to my home more times than I can count. My sons have been in and out of jail many times, but it did not stop me from loving them. (of course, I didn’t bail them out either. Sin has it’s own consequences as Wayne says.) I have many stories about these times, but I can assure you there is a God who will help you. And it wasn’t me. You either……. And yes, they are fine now but it has taken decades. Never give up. He doesn’t. Prayer works. Jesus loves you, and there is nothing you can do about that! He is completely trustworthy. Let go and go on the adventure!
And if you want to feel close to God come on up to Oregon and go drivng with me. My driving sucks, you’ll be closer to God than you’ve been in years……..Turned Newberg’s self proclaimed biggest atheist into an agnostic in only 6 blocks…….Should have picked a farther away restaurant and might of had a convert……
Don’t wrestle, just nestle – what a wonderful phrase!
Thank you Buster for your honesty and thought provoking questions. I have not read all the responses as yet. I am not used to thinking this deeply about the issues you raised so it will take me time. You expressed yourself simply but efficiently so I am keen to follow this thread. Thanks to all involved for using everyday language. I can follow this discussion with ease. When folks use too many large theological terms (ie penal substitution etc) I feel like I am negotiating a foreign language and my brain gets too tired to follow the conversation. This has been a great discussion.
The aspect that Tom brought up about God being close to us and intimate would imply that He comes to where we are in a way we can understand. I thank Him for thIs!
At the same time I know He understands when we don’t understand and has an eternity of patience .
He never gives up working with us as and where we are.
Eve, I’m glad you mentioned your friends who are atheists and your acceptance of their experience. Somebody who has had a significant and helpful influence on me is Christopher Hitchens. He is a well known public atheist who spent the last portion of his life boldy and publicy debating religion and its usefullness/danger to society. He is most well known probably for a book he put out about how “religion poisons everything”, his exact words. By the time I finished his book I was shocked that with the exception of a few things I agreed with almost everything he had to say. But more than this, I was nearly moved to tears by this mans love and compassion for people. He can be bold, even vulgar and vicious at times, but this is based in what I perceived to be ultimately a love for people and an outrage at how religion is ruining and has ruined many lives and societies both physically and emotionaly.
In my opinion he was an extremely compassionate and courageous man. He gave me courage at a time when I needed it to not only question but to stand boldly against things that I perceived were wrong in Christianity and the BIble. He gave me confidence to trust myself and my own reasoning abilities. Like me, while disagreeing with Christianity for “religious reasons” too, he ultimately had problems with the Bible because of what the Bible itself said regardless of religion. And like me, he too struggled with the NT and words of Christ just as much as the OT. In fact, I’m pretty sure there’s a chapter in his book stating that he thought the NT and some of the words of Christ were worse than the Old in how it treats people especially in light of some of the things it says about our eternal destinies. But regardless of all this, after reading some of his work and listening to many of his debates and lectures, I am convinced that if there is a God, Hitchens was and now probably is closer to Him than many people claiming His name.
Buster, what I am saying is that these friends live very successful lives, they can be very loving and compassionate and become great humanitarians BUT I’m not suggesting that they are hearing Jesus and have eternal life. They may or may not. We are free to choose to follow anyone we like.
Gently, gently. Hearts have been exposed and must be cradled in love, creating security and a knowing that they are completely accepted and loved just as they are. God adores all of us, even those who do shocking things, like murdering others for what they believe (Paul). Trust God and do not fear for other’s salvation. Trust God. He has all of us in his hands including the child molester and the angry person who shoots, rapes another. There is none that God does not love. His love goes beyond our understanding and his compassion is never ending. Trust him.
I found the observation of Buster regarding his AA friend interesting. Is your friend perhaps living according to principle rather than love? Is that perhaps the lack you see in him?
There is an indefinable quality to love that permeates a person and emits an aroma that leaves an indelible print on our hearts. Love is so powerful, truly beyond what we can grasp with our limited thinking. In fact it moves beyond our comprehension and is something to be responded to like a father opening his hand for a child to place his own in. Trust and freedom. Trust love. Above all else. Trust love.
As we first allow ourselves to be loved, love then has the freedom to flow through us to others. Be selfish. Take the love that is given. Wrap it around yourself. Play with it, like a child in a puddle of rain water, oblivious to all else but the pleasure to be gained from the experience. Lift your face and feel the warmth of love bathe you, soak it in and let it trickle down into the very essence of your being until you know love…..intimately.
You will never be the same again and all doubt will fade away for doubt comes from a striving after an intellectual understanding of something that has NOTHING to do with the mind but with the spirit of a person. The beauty is that once love has transformed you, your mind is in a state of bemused wonder and awe that such a thing exists. It ceases to try and understand and, learns to rest in love even in the midst of events and circumstances that should be bring fear and doubt. Love has the power to still all fears in a real and very tangible way.
Love knows how to discard that which would hinder it. Trust love. Love knows how to love. Forgive them for they know not what they do. Love is powerfully simple. Like the wind or a breeze, it moves us either with force or as a gentle stroke along our cheek, reassuring us, it is here and like the warmth of the sun allows us to live, so too love allows us to live in the fullness of who we are, in the midst of our circumstances be they pleasant or adverse for love knows how to hold a tender, bruised heart so that it may become whole. Trust love.
It is not the name you hold. It is not that you are Christian or Atheist or Agnostic or … These are names mere humans with limited understanding use to define people so that we can relate to them in prescriptive ways, because we dislike the unknown. Yet a Christian may not KNOW love, in all its beautiful and delightful intimacy and those we, as Christians, deems lost, may well know this love that sets you free in a way that not even the mind can understand it. Love does not pick whom it will respond to according to what the person thinks or believes. Love, loves unconditionally and it responds to those who are receptive, humble, bold and brave to let love, love them regardless of their religious standing. Trust love.
Sorry everyone. This is a long, somewhat rambling comment. Perhaps I just needed to express myself or perhaps someone needs to read this.
The Bible is a book of contention for many but there is one thing that I love about the Christian message. It contains something that I do not think any other religion offers and that is the permeating truth of unconditional love that has. potentially, very real transformational power that alters our very existence in this flesh body we inhabit.
For me, the bible has universal truths that are contained in fallible recordings of very real but also subjective human experiences with a living God. Human beings with limited, subjective thinking sought to record their experiences, trying to capture in words an experience that they did not even fully understand themselves and so they sought to explain what they “thought” they had experienced and within their very fallible understanding, they none-the-less managed to capture the essence of God but we need to look beyond their inarticulate records of a sublime experience. God is in the Bible but he is in the jumble of fallible and very human experience.
Today so many of us wrestle with the concept of God and try to “understand” him with our minds, just like the writers of AD 30 upwards, tried to do. I am grateful for the men (pre-suffragette days) who sat in the synods and those other funny named meetings and argued about which books should be in the canon and even though they may have made mistakes in their choices based on their limited understanding, they none-the-less gave me a book that contains powerful truths that has the potential to change my life radically even as my life has already changed. I would not have known love today, if it was not for the Bible but God in his majesty had to shake me loose of the form and the structure, so that he could reveal himself as the living, loving God that he truly is. For that I am truly grateful. The bible remains precious to me but it is not celestial or holy. It is just a book with words in it. But it is a powerful book because the words contain the stories of fallible men, having spiritual experiences with a living God and within their fallible and very human stories, are deep eternal, life transforming truths about a love so strong that it transcends understanding.
It was with delight that I noticed a co-incidence in the Bible. Or God-incidence as some may say but it is neither here nor there but just delightful to me.
Put John 3.16 together with Ephesians 3. 16-19 (I thought it delightful that these two powerful truths were both located by “3.16”). For me Ephesians 3.16-19 is a further revelation of John 3.16
Ephesians 3.16-19 (NIV)
16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
King James Version (KJV)
16 That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; 17 That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; 19 And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.
When I read John 3.17-19 which speaks of condemnation for those who do not believe in light of Ephesians, I see almost a conflict between verse 16 and 17-19. After all, why should there be condemnation if Christ loves us all and died for us all while we were yet sinners and there are heights and depths to his love that go beyond our understanding. And then I think, perhaps vs 17 to 19 is just there to highlight that there is a life apart from love and that was the author’s way of writing about his understanding of it. When I relate it to myself, I cannot imagine a life without the love of God. I cling to his love as if it is life itself. I could not bear a life outside his love. Does he in fact, condemn those who choose to live outside of his love? Um. I cannot say. The WORDS say he does. But those words were written by a human being who was having a spiritual experience which remains subject to his human nature.
We have spiritual experiences that take place within our limited capacity. We then try to explain what we are experiencing and sometimes in our explanations we fail to accurately convey what we are experiencing and often explain it from within our understanding of our belief system.
Example: Some writers wrote about God condemning people who sacrificed their children to Molech yet Abraham records how God asked him to sacrifice his child to him. A contradiction yes. Should we with reject the bible, offended that it contains such contradictions? I think we just need to read the Bible differently. Both stories were written by people who lived lives in a cultural context and that would influence how they behaved and saw things. What is more important is looking at what is the story is telling us. What truth is the writer trying to convey using his limited understanding of his spiritual experience.
Why do we get angry with our children when they fail to obey us especially when their disobedience places them or others in danger? I am sure that in biblical times, the writers also got angry with their children. Human nature is universal across time and so from within his limited understanding, a biblical writer may subjectively write of a spiritual experience and interpret it as God getting angry with his children and “punishing” them. Spiritual experiences are always subjective. Understanding this, is one of the steps that freed me from pedantic interpretation of the scriptures and also from the zeal and fanaticism that often punctuate spiritual experiences. We remain fallible and everything we experience is subjective. God exists. Nature declares it. Our very being testifies to it. His nature is evident if we could but discern it through our cluttered limited understanding. He transcends our understanding. Love is not understood. Love is experienced in the very essence of our being…..beyond understanding. Paul finally “understood” this and wrote about it in Ephesians 3.16-19 God is love. John in 1 John 4.8 had the revelation and he declared it, simply, with no cultural embellishments. 1 John 4:8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. God is in the Bible. You just need to read it differently.
Michelle, I find your comments most helpful, especially your last one. I’ve read it now multiple times and it makes a lot of sense to me. Thank you very much for sharing.
I never noticed v. 19 in Ephesians 3 before.
I love you people! : ) I go away for a few hours and BOOM, more awesome sharing!
and Mark Warner – I laughed out loud at your description of your driving.
After reading all of this, I hesitate to add anything because it is all so well said. Yet I walked away from the computer and felt led back to mention a few books to Buster… Have you read, “Letters from a skeptic” by Greg Boyd, or “Case for Christ”, by Lee Strobel??? I mention those because for a long time, I read the scriptures through the lens of what I learned in “church”. Yet I always felt a contradiction in what the spirit seemed to say to my heart. When I read those 2 books, the way it explained many things… especially hell, seemed to resinate with what I personally concluded from the scriptures (in contradiction to what religious leaders preached to me). It seemed more in line with what I believe Wayne just mentioned his view was. I had a hard time reconciling a loving father with punishing his children by making them burn forever. I didn’t realize what a stumbling block it was for me until I read these books and realized that I wasn’t the only one who believed this… many scholars and theologians believe this. For so long, I was encouraged to trust what the leaders taught, not that still small voice inside. When my sister passed away at 20 years old, I held on to the fact that God, her creator and father, loved her even more than I. Then I lost the need to know any more because I was able to rest knowing that she was in the most loving hands in the world. When I get all confused with scripture, I just go back to that basic conviction and then let go and trust dad’s loving character.
Oops! I have to correct something that I wrote in my last comment… When I said, “I didn’t realize what a stumbling block it was for me until I read these books and realized that I wasn’t the only one who believed this… many scholars and theologians believe this.” What I meant by “this” wasn’t the view that people would burn forever… Dante’s view of hell, because that was the only view I’d ever heard of. These books however, were the first time I’d ever heard of the annihilationist view of hell, which happened to agree with the conclusion I had come to, but thought I was alone in that view.
Hi Michele, thank you for the recommendations. I have not read those books but have heard of both of them. Again, what you said about your sister and how you dealt with that really resonates with me. That’s the way I used to feel too, a long time ago. Before all of this there was a time when I did trust my experience with God over anything else. I didn’t speculate one way or the other; like you, at that time I knew from experience how loving and good God was with me so I trusted the future and eternity of everyone else in His hands. I didn’t have answers but I knew the one who was in control of the future. That used to be enough for me…
Thinking about all of this makes me miss those days… makes me miss Him.
I’m really glad you shared your words here. Something about the way you worded things perhaps, I don’t know, but it’s all hit me really hard in a good way.
I’m back and like the others…wow!!!! Comments have continued pouring in….love the discussion. Mark Warner…I laughed out loud as you described your driving drawing ppl to God (smile). It’s interesting to see that God speaks through the most unexpected places….Buster mentioned Christopher Hitchens. I have found that when I expect particular answers from Jesus…He seems to delight in surprising me with answers coming in ways or varieties I didn’t see ahead of time. Eve Lorraine and Carol I can identify with sometimes feeling a lack of people to discuss this with. I also appreciate deeply the sensitivity when speaking to others where they would not understand the concept of Jesus speaking to me. It takes much wisdom and Jesus made the promise that we would be given the words at the right time. He seems to quiet anxiety by saying “Do not plan ahead of time what you will say”. I know the context is when dragged in front of high officials who are demanding that we explain our trust or our actions…that being said I think it also applies to us living our lives with conversations every day. This process of revelation and knowing that He is with us…it is His presence and and His opening up of Scripture to us that is so helpful.
I have been meeting with a group of guys for over 21 years and have had many discussions. We don’t come close to agreeing but respect each other’s faith walk. One of the interesting things to discuss is what we are to do. One said two weeks ago that the goal is to become more like Jesus. It was an offhand comment to other discussion so I did not pursue it. (When you’ve been together that long you know there will always be another week.)
The problem (as I see it) is that becoming more like Jesus becomes an ever increasing measurable goal that is impossible to attain. Dr. Gordon Fee said it best. A student came to him while he was teaching on the Kingdom of God and said this Jesus stuff is not difficult, it is impossible. “You’ve got it!” he exclaimed. Jesus is good, I am bad, try harder just doesn’t cut it. Best wishes, but if you attempt this route you are doomed to a life of guilt, frustration, and pent up anger. Which is a big part of the reason I found myself in a treatment center in 1992. With addicts no less! Found out I wasn’t much different. White, right and uptight does not make for an attractive lifestyle.
All this focus on what to do or not to do, and the attitudes and motivations of my heart, focuses on one thing. Me. Reread Romans 7 and 8 in Peterson’s version. I am here to focus on others. In leadership, trust is huge. Break trust and leadership is difficult. It is however trumped by one thing. Caring. If people know you care and have their best interests at heart, you can make some mistakes and still lead effectively. I’m in sales and this is absolutely true. If you know they don’t care you won’t follow them anywhere, or may only follow while they are “successful”.
My pastor said to me one time that he thought that no matter what he did I would still support him. I said that if he did something dumb, immoral or perhaps even just plain illegal, is that not the time he would most need my support? Of course, consequences must be faced. Pain is God’s great teaching tool. This is the reason I have supported my boys throughout the years, but never bailed them out of jail. (I did once suggest that as long as they were going to be in over Christmas usually some good folks bring something nice over the holiday……..but don’t expect a cake with a file in it from me……..)
So there’s my thoughts. Hang on to Jesus. Love folks. Avoid committees. (God so loved the world He didn’t send a committee…….) He’ll take you on an adventure you did not even know existed. Blessings.
We may keep this going until Wayne comes back from his well deserved break.
Michelle, when Wayne mentioned annihilationism I researched it and discovered that I was leaning in that direction myself. I think the Bible supports that view.
I have been trying to re-write the gospel message in a new way to explain to my son if he is ever willing to listen to me.
I think that the Church, once it was legalised in about 300 AD, majored on hell to frighten people into submission and make them fearful of leaving. Also the translators shared that view.
Buster. I am so pleased you are continuing to share so honestly. I have been so blessed by this conversation.
Sue said ‘God speaks through the most unexpected places…. I have found that when I expect particular answers from Jesus…He seems to delight in surprising me with answers coming in ways or varieties’
I find that happening to me too. He speaks a lot through the Bible but also in the newspaper through atheists. I haven’t heard a donkey yet.
Haven’t heard a donkey yet? That’s one of the nicest things not been said about me…..
Sounds like you have an interesting walk, Mark. I envy you having a group to share with. I like what you wrote. I find my most difficult thing is to keep my eyes off myself and on Jesus.
Yup. I fail a lot. But it doesn’t change who He is. Nor how He feels about me. I walk by faith, not by feeling. You have no idea of the rollercoaster that is me. Age helps I can assure you, as does financial stability. Yet my emotional life is independent of these forces, for if it is not I can get in trouble.
My friend’s grandmother died a few years ago. He went into the hospital room and everything she owned fit into a little plastic bag. All of it. Some day that will be me. The only thing left will be the memories of others………Create some good ones is my thought.
The only thing I have direct imput into is my attitude. About events, each day, the people I meet. My life is not ordered by me, of that I can assure you. I get periodic assignments. I never know for how long, exactly what my role is, what the outcome will be, or if anything I do is even helpful. But someone comes across my path that has a need. I try and reach out, to be helpful. This weekend I was at a community event, our Old Fashioned Festival, when I saw a band member sitting with his head between his knees. I went over and talked with him, he was 80+ and just need a cup of cold water on a very hot day. That I can do, and did. Believe it or not, that event, in God’s Kingdom, has significance. Don’t blow it all out of perspective, but learn to be alert. There is a whole world out there full of hurting people. Including me……..
You see, the essence of what we are is eternal. My friend was raised Amish. His grandfather was an electrician. Long story there but not relevent in this illustration. He told his grandson that God must need electricians in heaven because he wouldn’t spend his whole life being trained as one if God did not had a purpose later on. Of course, God has no need for electricians in heaven, but the essence of the training…..Ah, now that has eternal significance.! Everything we do and become is useful later on. Our Heavenly Father does not waste anything. Including depression, fear, lust, laughter, faith, fun. Nothing is every wasted. Blessings!
I also find God speaks in quite a variety of ways. Surprising ways. Even amusing ways.
One thing I do when I don’t understand something in the Bible (which is often) is to ask Him about it. I tell Him I don’t understand and why and will many times ask specific questions and bring Him into the conversations rather than just my head talking to my head (and going in circles).
Just the other day I read something Jesus said and boy did it sound scary and judgemental. So I said, Jesus, you are the one who said this – what were you really meaning. I don’t necessarily get pat answers but something opens up and new ideas come or fresh ways of looking at things. I really ask Him a lot of questions. And somehow everything is different then. And I can even be more at peace about areas that I still have no real understanding about. Kind of like it’s okay to not know. He knows, that’s what matters and I am seeking Him.
This is a great conversation all. 🙂
Have appreciated everyone’s comments.
Good way to say it Mark. Father doesn’t waste anything.
Yes Carol. I ask Jesus lots of questions too and He answers most of them or gives me peace about it. Sometimes I just talk to Him. I think He just longs for us to be with Him.
When I left the church He told me not to look for a wise leader but that He would teach me. I think He was hurt that I had gone to people for answers instead of trusting Him.
I think there is a purpose in being conformed to His image. We are being trained for something in the next life and as Mark says -nothing is wasted.
Eve-Loraine, I am in north America and it’s the middle of the night here but I am thinking you said you live in New Zealand so it is probably afternoonish there. I am going back yo sleep but thought I’d say that God does make the best teacher and He does want to teach us Himself as you said. Trust definitely comes into play there – that He will show us things and that we will be able to know it’s Him.My sheep hear my voice scripture says.
I believe we are being prepared for something too and there are reasons for things being as they are. Herr I don’t know see hear or whatever words are used I can rest about it when I think that He is God and I am not and He’s doing more than I can understand at the time
It’s a trust thing and that develops over time.
It’s 9:15 pm here. I was just lamenting the fact that we are in different time zones and sleep at different times. It is such a luxury to have this conversation. I have commented occasionally before but not got in a conversation. There seems to be no people living near me who are on this journey. I think Jesus wants me in the community but I have a real desire to occasionally share what He is doing in my life . I really agree with everything you said, Carol.
So you are about 18 hours ahead of
where I live — Mountain Standard Time.
And it is the middle of the night there!
It’s me again! : ) Eve Loraine my heart resonates with yours. There are times when the lonliness is intense b/c I find that I can share certain things…but many ppl around me are not in the same walk with Jesus that I am. The interesting thing I am finding about how to love differently is that as Jesus builds His relationship with me, I can receive His love and then love others in a more spacious way. I know that since I come from a very structured, Presbyterian background…walking by listening to Jesus’ voice, leaning hard into Him (even when I want to run to others and say “What do you think I should do?”) is a very different way of walking. The feelings of “disorientation” that I feel at times, I believe are normal. Slowly I am focusing more on Him and the feelings of fear, disorientation, lonliness can be walked through with Him. I’m becoming thankful that there is no “formula” b/c there’s life in getting to know Him better. I would love to have more ppl around me for actual coffee and conversation (although this forum discussion is very wonderful).
Yes, my heart resonates with yours too. I am learning to let Jesus love people through me. I wasn’t capable of loving them by myself. Maybe loneliness is necessary as I am so easily distracted. If I had people to talk to I am not sure I would give Jesus the time. Many years ago my reading was something like ‘they shall mount up with wings like eagles; – but eagles fly alone. That alone rang in my head and I said No! I don’t want to hear that!
I think that ‘walking by listening to Jesus’ voice, leaning hard into Him’ is maybe the normal Christian life.
He is teaching me so much. Jesus listened to His Father constantly and did nothing on His own.
Eve- what you said about Jesus listened to the Father and did nothing on His own is what I have been meditating on.
This also ties in with what MArk said earlier that it’s impossible to be like Jesus. I see that as true in that we are not to copy Him or measure up to whatHe was or how He did things – and yes that teaching is out there! Talk about burnout.
Maybe only one way we can be like Him is to listen to our Father and do only what He tells us and enables us to do.
If we try to copy Jesus no way can that work. It is He at work in us giving us ability. He in us actually being our strength. And true, we can’t do anything on our own and are not supposed to. What a relief.
‘Maybe only one way we can be like Him is to listen to our Father and do only what He tells us and enables us to do.’
Yes ! That is exactly what He wants! But it is not easy. We are so used to doing what we want. When I was in the church the teaching was go! go! go! do! do! do! and witness. Imagine my shock when Jesus told me to leave church and then keep my mouth shut. I WAS A LONG TIME BEFORE He could trust me to speak
You are not the only one he’s shocked! In good ways, but yes shocking in that it’s all new.
My favorite phrase lately is He is God and I am not. Period.
There is a post by Luke in the forum area in the General Discussion section with the thread title of Fear that I think fits in here for anyone who who would like to read it. Forum link is at the top of this page.
I should read it
Have a great day in New Zealand Eve-Lorraine.
Thank you Carol for letting us know about that thread title “fear” by Luke. I read it and found it resonated very deeply. What I find wonderful is that as painful as the process is of getting off of the treadmill and letting go of performing…(and it’s very painful as I’m walking that out right now)…the wonderful part is that there is rest in Jesus. In the midst of what feels like chaos or misunderstanding or “worlds crashing around us”, His heart is one of peace rather than panic.
Good way to put it – that it’s about having God peace rather than be in a panic. Having a lot of structure for some is stabilizing and if you have had a lot of that can be difficult to live a different way and be disorienting as you said. My experience has been that I’ve always fought against too much structure. A little is okay beyond that I’ve always gotten lost in churches and the only time really thrived was in small loosely structured fellowship that wasn’t an actual church that was very relational. This was in the early 70’s and 80’s and was very unique.
Most of the actual churches I have to years ago (quite a variety) would be what would create panic in me as Iwould walk in the door and feel the chaos of busy busy hustle bustle and everyone seeming to have found their niche but me. I was never good at any of that but thought I had to go until one day I realized I didn’t! Since then I have tried churches because I do want fellowship. Awhile back I started going to a wonderful church (on and off) that had a strong grace message and focus on God’s love and I began to think church could work for me there. But I was careful to wait and see …
Turns out that just recently they have taken a sharp turn into something new and there are strategies and agendas and more structure forming. The focus is becoming a strong emphasis and getting out and purposely sharing God’s grace and love with others in a planned and I think pressured way. I have wanted to be connected with these people because they are very special to me and yet the direction they are going is not where I can go. So there is some disorientation and frustration in me because these people are my only Christian contacts in my general area other than a few people I see occasionally. All that to say, yes it’s God’s peace that is important to have even though not going at all leaves me without the support and connections I have had there.
So, here I am, wondering what to do about my desire to share with other Christians face to face. It can seem so all or nothing. Go to a church and be apart of that whole complication or live free and uncomplicated and alone. Only one thing I know, talk to my Father about it. I might add, am getting more comfortable and okay with the alone situation and thankful for things like this forum and some long distance Christian friendships I have.
Blessings Sue on your journey into peace.
I understand that the leaving and beginning a new journey can be very painful. It is – for many reasons.
This is a great conversation. I’m having a simultaneous conversation very similar to this with a friend of mine and I feel like the combination of these two conversations along with years of pent-up emotions and doubts are bringing me to the verge of something… a surrender of sorts perhaps.
There’s something liberating in the idea of saying, “I don’t know” and simply stepping out in trust. That’s the way it used to be for me. I couldn’t answer everything but I knew the One who had the answers and I trusted Him to lead me. If I needed an answer I figured He’d bring me to it and if I couldn’t find an answer, rather than anxiously working towards it, I trusted that I either wasn’t ready or for some other reason I couldn’t know the answer at this time; perhaps my misunderstanding of it would make it more harmful than helpful. Either way, my way to all answers and through all doubts used to be found in simply following and trusting God in my life.
Perhaps there are some people out there who really need to and are capable of thinking in detail through all of these things, and God goes with them there, and then perhaps there are people like me who really aren’t ready or more simple minded than we think and in going there we lose sight of what matters. I guess what I’m saying is there are no cookie cutter approaches. All this time I’ve been thinking I need to answer everything and in doing that everything else that I don’t understand will make sense. And since I haven’t been able to find answers to everything I’m asking I’ve been ready to give up. But now I’m coming to see that maybe it’s not really answers I’ve been looking for, it’s the living reality and experience of God in my life.
It’s never too late to hit the reset button, to start over. I had a bad beginning for sure, but I think that perhaps today is as good a day as any to simply begin again.
I meant to add that the disconnect with the Bible and the wonder about eternity for people, etc., I think, can get dealt with in this way too. Like many others here have said, their experience of God has been loving and good, mine too. It’s only been when I’ve tried to understand something outside of this experience that I’ve come away with feelings of separation, doubt, or anxiety. Perhaps I’ve been moving too fast and wading in waters I wasn’t ready to swim in. What if when I came across a Scripture that produced one of those feelings or something else like this, I simply concluded that I was either misunderstanding it or seeing it in the wrong light and then surrendered it to God trusting that He would fix it for me and help me understand it correctly when the time was right, on either this side of eternity or the next. I mean God wouldn’t want to force us to accept something that was killing us, right? So from this perspective, even if it’s true as it reads, there’s no way trying to understand it will create anything good if I feel the way I do about it. Therefore, it’s best to simply wait and trust Him to either work it into my life in such a way that I do understand it or explain to me how I’m misunderstanding it. This way I’m not rejecting it as not true and I’m not trying to answer every possible question and objection about it. I’m simply waiting and trusting.
Wow Buster- sounds like you have really worked through some things – or rather as you said – came to a place of surrender.
What you said about it’s okay to not know and step out in trust seems like a good place to be and where I end up much of the time.
You also said it’s not answers you’ve been looking for but the reality and experience of God and I say oh yes to that! What else can truly satisfy? Not to say I am there – I am and yet in ways I am not. Your comment is causing me to really look at some areas I am not satisfied with in my life and I think I need to see that it is HIM I really want / need.
Hey, I’ve hit the restart button many times really. It’s a good feeling. Your “bad beginning” may have been pa necessary part of your journey to get you where you are now. I think bad beginnings may be a part of the surrender process. It can seem messy and and complicated but out from that comes sweet surrender. I don’t know that I’ve ever surrendered without having a time of struggle before.
Michelle said earlier to trust love. God is love and we can trust His love and Him.
I like what you said about when you don’t understand something in the Bible to trust and wait.
Thanks, Carol. Not so sure I’ve worked through anything… just beginning / trying to see things from a different perspective. I like where it’s taking me so I figure I might as well roll with it 🙂
I didn’t know this is what I wanted until now that I’m starting to experience the very beginning of what feels to be like freedom and I’m thinking wow! this has been what I’ve been looking for and I didn’t even know it.
Hi all. Here I go again. Thanks for your patience with my mumblings…..
I pastored for about 7 years and was ordained for about 12. I learned that not everyone in the church bought in to what I thought. That was fine with me. Others were very insistant that I move a certain direction which I may or may not feel that leading. My point? A church is made up of a bunch of mixed up free thinking individuals who pretty much do as they please. You can get them to go in a direction for a bit but for the most part you have to wait for God to move them, if at all. You will find people in a church in all stages. Find those who are interested. Fellowship with them. Eve-Loraine, it sounds like you are in a small community. There are others who thirst. Ask the Lord to lead you. And remember, Jesus spent most Sabbaths in church worshipping with people who were trying to kill him. And he knew it……….And also never forget, the eagle is on the endangered species list………Blessings!
So glad to be a part of this “e-dialogue”. Thanks Carol for your understanding about taking new directions and how it can be disorienting. Great comments from all of the others too…Mark and Eve Loraine it does seem that there are seasons or certain plans Jesus has for us that involve us having ppl in our lives who do not understand. Sometimes it’s simply not understanding us and other times it’s outright hostiliity. I’ve faced a little bit of both. After much of my life spent in the Presbyterian “structure” and intuitively knowing that there was “more”…now being in a place where I am asked to love them…not follow them…I’m in a place where at times the lonliness is profound. The amazing thing is that Father does provide grace to carry me when things are very tough. He’s never left me alone and I cannot always explain how He does that. It’s more revelational than intellectually explained. I can’t express how I know He’s there with me…but He is and the awareness of His presence is profound. I think that even though “e-dialogue” is different than sitting down over a meal or over coffee…it’s a way of connecting w/ ppl who are also thinking some of the same things and willing to have a “spacious” conversation without forcing our own thoughts and systems on others.
Well said, Sue. Rarely had the experience of feeling carried by him, only could look back and see how He was moving. He does provide……all that I need…..just in time…..I’ve heard it said He’s rarely on time but He’s never late…..
I do know about the outright hostility……Those were dark times…..Hard to love those folks……Whew! Hadn’t opened that closet in a while……. Interesting to see in retrospect the things developed in me through those experiences.
My step daughter hated me. For 18 years. She accused me of attempting to kill her and her family by letting the air from their tires on a visit. As well as many other lies. I did many things to try and love her, acts of service, kind words, but one day drew the line. After a particularly vicious attack on my wife I let her know- enough. We did not speak for many, many years. Mother’s Day of 2012 my wife and daughters were together, and, as usual, a huge blowup occured. My wife was shattered yet again. It was not right. I decided to spend time in prayer, most of June actually. As I am old I get up in the middle of the night and I would text my step-daughter words of love, encouragement, about her Heavenly Father and what He is like. No response. Zero.
As things developed we went to an event in a city near here, and asked about a visit. At that point we had begun texting. Humor helps, I can assure you. We ended up have a marvelously healing weekend with an exceptionally long talk beween us. It has been wonderful every since. Had I not had the experiences in my earlier life, and seen the breakthroughs, it would have been more difficult to love my stepdaughter. My Father never gives up. Jesus loves you, and there is nothing you can do about that. (By the way, everybody else thinks you’re an +)%&&%#$$^^)……… 🙂 Blessings!
Thanks for sharing some of your story Mark. It’s always hard to be rejected or treated w/ hostility…especially when it’s not deserved!!! I think that your sense of humor comes through in some of your postings. I am finding that although Jesus’ heart is never to bring difficulties or to rejoice in someone’s sufferings….it is His love which filters these events and helps us to have a different perspective. It’s a great mystery to me that He “learned obedience through what He suffered…offered strong cries and tears to His Father…” (sorry don’t know the exact “address” of that verse). It seems that in His heart is a capacity to very deeply understand our hurts/confusions b/c He lived that out in His own life here on planet earth.
It is in the letter to the Hebrews, chapter 5.8
One of my favorite books of Scripture…
Greetings from Switzerland, celebrating our national day hence up late
Hello Ana! I’m in Canada…nice to hear from Switzerland. Thanks for the “address” ….makes it possible to look it up when needed : ) Have a very good night and national day!
Sue, thanks for your encouragement. I have learned that the same channel the pain goes down into my heart is the same channel the love goes down. If I choose to limit the pain, I also limit my capicity to feel and give love. I’m not sure of the psychological process but I do know that it works that way.
My Dad has elected to limit the pain. When ever anyone would cause him pain he would shut off the contact, for a time or forever. He expects me to drop everything when he shows up and entertain him, showing little or no interest in my life. For the most part, he has missed mine and my sister’s lives. But he limits the pain.
Be open. Learn boundaries. Enjoy love. For the joy set before HIm……… Focus on that joy. Blessings!
Wow! I go out for a day and now I have to catch up.
Mark I love your comments. ‘Eve-Loraine, it sounds like you are in a small community. ‘
I live in a village of about 600 people. I am more content in my aloneness. I have been out of the church 20 + years. I have never regretted leaving. Jesus has taught me so much. He has told me to write it down.
‘There are others who thirst. Ask the Lord to lead you. And remember, Jesus spent most Sabbaths in church worshipping with people who were trying to kill him. And he knew it……….And also never forget, the eagle is on the endangered species list………Blessings!”
Thanks! I have asked but it doesn’t seem to be in His plan
Yes Carol. I was shocked by the hostility. It was so unexpected but now I know it seems to happen to everybody. Dr Adam Bradford explained it as feeling betrayed. Once we were one of them but we have turned our back on them. He was referring to Jesus, who was a Rabbi, Once He was a teacher of the law – Saying the law was to be done away with.
We do learn by revelation not with our intellect. Someone shared that with me. You can’t explain why you left the church. It needs to be revealed to them. I do bask in His love.
Thanks for sharing you story Mark. We also seem to learn through our sufferings.
Greetings from NZ Ana. My daughter is in Italy at the moment and I have to wait until 8pm to talk to her. She is asleep when I am awake.
Thanks for sharing more of your story, Eve Loraine. I do know a bit about your situation. My first pastorate was in a community of 800 people, 500 of whom attended one denomination, LDS. As you may know, they don’t mix or convert or talk about a relationship with Jesus. I was actually founding a church with no denominational support, just what I could knock on doors and find. There were 5 other churches in town as well besides me. (Did I mention it was a small community?) I felt led to go there but it was very lonely. I also worked full time running the local farm store to survive.
But the Lord did bring some people into my life. Just two. For them I have been grateful. Many stories about that time. I was there 7 years. I am praying for you and your family. It must be hard. Keep your heart open, your hopes up. He will provide, for that is what He does. ( FYI, The church closed shortly after I left. I would not trade that time for anything because of what I learned about Him.)
So no, I don’t know your particular situation. But yes, I am a little familiar with some of your life. “it came to pass…..” Great words for me over the years! Blessings!
It is wonderful to read all these comments and know you all are out there and in a marvelous journey that we have the privilege to share some of with each other here.
Hope to write more soon.
Hello again. I am not sure this is the place to share our stories but this is a meeting place. We have two churches, a Roman Catholic where a priest visits to take mass for about 15 people and an Episcopalian with a resident minister. They have a Sunday service with maybe 30 people. Most people in NZ don’t attend church which makes me normal. Some people still believe in a god and expect to go to heaven but in general they are so busy that they don’t think about it. Funerals are becoming more honest with favourite songs and no prayers and talk about the fun they had in life. Often I wish to save those people but Jesus seems to be more interested in changing and teaching me than in providing opportunities for me to share. I am happy with Him in my loneliness. My husband doesn’t share this walk. It is so good to be sharing our journeys here. I wouldn’t trade this time either when I look back and see how self centred I was when I thought I was doing so well.
Eve – Loraine,
I think it’s a very good place to share our stories, our lives.
I like how you said you are happy in your loneliness. Only God can do that! I am just coming to a place of not feeling loneliness even though there is still the being alone in many ways. City living (lots of people but I don’t see people I know)with friends scattered and family 1000 miles away, and slim Christian connections close by and still sad about a broken marriage.
And I am finally feeling more okay with being alone so much! And yet I see that God is slowly giving me more connections but it’s been very slow going with more things not working not than are yet I am seeing a turning point. The biggest part of that is learning to be satisfied in and with God alone. Only He can touch us deep inside and give us what we really need that people never can.
It’s all been very painful and puzzling too but there is a shift.
The last holiday I spent alone I was not bothered by it.
My Father is becoming more and more real to me and meets so many needs with just Himself.
I feel quite flat today. When you leave the church you cut yourself off from many people. But Jesus said to leave so I went and I started hearing Him much more clearly.Just chatting to Him throughout the day is so special. I am retired so I have lots of time. He has been faithful to teach me. I did a lot of unlearning too. I am amazed and constantly thank Him for rescuing me. The chorus ‘ tho none go with me I still will follow often comes to mind.
At the moment there is a lady in the church who has done a lot of cruel things even destroying some peoples lives. The church people are turning a blind eye and protecting her. Had I still been there I may well have done the same thing but I am free to see how shocking it is. The anti Christ comes to mind.
Hello again, I am from Missouri, USA. Many years ago God gave me a vision of believers/seekers around the world. At the time it flooded me with an incredible sense of connectedness. Little did I know that eventually I would be having a conversation with you from around the world.
I have experienced more church (as Jesus describes church) and a deeper, richer relationship with Father/Son/Spirit in places not at all associated with “church” I would say that this space right here is sacred ground. Since I have left “church” I’ve noticed a shift in my thinking. Instead of a separation of the holy and the secular – i.e. God on Sundays, or during Bible Study, etc. versus the rest of my life. I now find no separation and I recognize God in everything and present every single day, always!
Somehow this makes the pressure of finding a community less relevant. When I live in God’s love I see him in everything and everyone I meet. Each person carries that divine spark, no matter how covered it is by their choices, circumstances, attitudes. I can also relax into life recognizing that God is in it all – the good, the bad, the loneliness or the friendships, the struggles & doubts, in the lovely things and in the dark places,
I certainly find times and moments where I don’t live in that truth, but God seems to find a way to bring me back to Him. I think that’s what allowed me to push the pause button when I came across the troubling, and harsh sounding scriptures (in Paul’s letters to the churches). It allowed me to come here and ask the questions, and then delight in the responses from other children of God, who are genuinely engaged in a heart conversation.
So hello to you in NZ, Switzerland, Canada, and all the other places. It kind of gives me goose bumps to think that somehow we all found our way here. I think I will remove my shoes, because of the holy ground I’m standing on.
Wow…I also had to catch up after being away!!! (smile) So good to be a part of this e-dialogue. Eve Lorraine thanks for sharing a little more of your story. One of the things that seems to be common to ppl who leave a “system” to know Jesus better is that they find themselves alone. I live in a large city and so resonate with Carol where even when there’s ppl around, we can still feel very lonely. The thing about this time of intense focused time with Him is (at least in my walk) that the dialogue with Him becomes much richer. Seems that the “busyness” of life (much of which is legitimate) can become a very real distraction. I have noticed if I lean more heavily into Him and hear His heart/voice…I can depend on Him to give me that which I had originally thought I had to receive from others. Now when He brings ppl across my path there’s been a shift in my focus where my thoughts are, “What can I give away to this person?” rather then…”Oh good…somebody to talk to….how can this person benefit me!” The painful part of this is that the shift is so subtle and on Jesus’ timeline seems to be happening much slower than I would like. Someone on the earlier blog (I think his name was John) spoke about learning to bring his struggles to the light rather than trying to hide them. Then the power of that brokenness/sin slowly became diminished b/c it was being walked through with Jesus rather than the focus “I have to stop this!!!! I have to change!!!!!” For me the question of how to love cruel ppl (someone destroying other ppl’s lives) is where I still have to walk that out with Father. The tension always is that we love ppl by protecting them from the harm that others would do…and also seeing the brokenness of the cruel person while limiting their capacity to do evil.
I’ve been keeping up with the conversations and loving them. I have been out of an institutional setting for about 9 years. My husband and I have 3 older sons ages 22-26 and 2 younger daughters we adopted from China. I look back and regret how busy I was with “church activity” when my boys were young. I also regret that my parenting reflected the “scary God” religion made him out to be. I’m so enjoying the freedom from all the busyness that allows me time to spend with my family and just love who father puts in front of me. Learning to relate to God through love instead of fear has made me quite a different parent today and healed my relationship with my sons. As God reveals to me how he parents me from a place of love instead of a place of fear, manipulation, and control, it has permeated every relationship I have.
I teach swim lessons at my neighborhood pool. I didn’t set out to do that, but 9 years ago when I was teaching my girls to swim, other parents began to ask me to teach there children. I’ve never advertised, but through word of mouth, I seem to get more and more lessons every summer. This summer, I taught 150 lessons. Each parent and child I come in contact with is an opportunity for me to love who Jesus puts in front of me with the kind of love he’s shown me. Parents bring me their children, many who have had previous lessons that “didn’t work”. These children come to me terrified of the water and of me before they even know me. I just meet them where they are, and help them know that I would never hurt them or make them do anything against their will. I tell them I just want to keep them safe and protect them. I play with them and love up on them and through love and connection and a feeling of safety and trust, they thrive. I don’t compare the children with each other, or have expectations of where they “should” be. They are each unique individuals. Through play and hugs and kisses, I try to convey to them how precious they are. I’ve found that as they learn to trust me, they follow me.
You guys are all soo cool ! Thanks for the heart-to-hearts ! Love ya all ! Hi Eve-Loraine hope your joy has returned !
I generally leave my shoes on. Because the stuff I’m spreading you usually don’t want to go barefoot…….. Blessings! 🙂
This sure is like holy ground…a holy space place.
. ‘I now find no separation and I recognize God in everything and present every single day, always!’
Yes Jacqueline. That’s how it is for me. Every day I walk with Jesus sharing His love with maybe a smile and listening in case He prompts me to say anything. I no longer try to manipulate the conversation around to Jesus. Oh dear I used to do that and my husband would kick me under the table. I thought I had to save the world.
‘when there’s ppl around, we can still feel very lonely. The thing about this time of intense focused time with Him is (at least in my walk) that the dialogue with Him becomes much richer.’ ;my thoughts are, “What can I give away to this person?”’ Me too! Sue!
‘For me the question of how to love cruel ppl (someone destroying other ppl’s lives)’ I think The lady I have been involved with is controlled by an evil spirit and is as much a victim as the people she hurts. I pray for her to be set free.
‘I also regret that my parenting reflected the “scary God” religion made him out to be.’ Me too Michelle! How wonderful that He healed the relationships with your sons. I don’t know what mine thinks. I left the church when He was 7. Talking to him is hard work and we don’t talk about Jesus. I think he blames me for the unhappy home we had but Jesus promised me that He would take care of him. His lovely partner is very antagonistic. So sad! Your swimming teaching sounds lovely.
“Through play and hugs and kisses, I try to convey to them how precious they are. I’ve found that as they learn to trust me, they follow me”. – Thank you Michelle for these words – they sound a lot like the way Father treats us (in my experience) – loving us, helping us to believe that we truly are precious in his eyes, daring to trust and THEN asking us to follow. I’ve been thinking about Abraham a lot these last days, being called by God to leave everything and follow him, wondering how God did it – after all, Abraham grew up in a culture that worshipped many Gods, the moon and others… In more than one place in the Bible Abraham is called “Friend of God” and I guess such a relationship only develops in an athmosphere of love and trust… and it took a long time, if you read a short paragraph it sounds so “quick” but it took years and a (literal) journey of many thousand miles – I am learning more and more to appreciate how patient Father is, how loving and trustworthy, that it is actually safe to follow even if it seems at the same time scary…
I really enjoy this conversation – it’s great to have fellow travellers (even on different continents and in different time zones)
Hi Paul- We are in the middle of winter here and the weather has been a bit gloomy. I am not getting enough exercise. It’s good to be free to be honest – free from the pretence of walking in victory. Recently I contemplated reaching for the Prozac. I said to Jesus, ‘If You don’t tell me not to, I’m going back on the Prozac.’ I went to the hairdressers, took a magazine and there on the cover it said ‘Are probiotics the new Prozac’ I took that as my answer and bought some probiotics. It’s a matter of trusting that I hear Him. Years ago I would have talked myself out of anything so simple.
I’ve been thinking about all the different places we are geographically, as well as the places we are in regard to our individual lives.
I am appreciate the open sharing here and acceptance of each other. We share some very similar journeys and also have our own unique experiences and situations and reactions.
All in all there seems to be a lot of individual discovery going on – about God and how we can relate to Him, about challenges we face and slowly discovering how to be in this world in new ways.
I can see struggle and also breakthroughs, darker times and also light breaking forth, experiencing the alone thing in various ways and also coming upon interesting connections along the way some of those leading us to a site called the God Journey.
I am enjoying this connection with fellow seekers of seeing all that God has for us. I know it’s good!
I am thinking about ‘who is my neighbour?’ when we live in this global village. Maybe it is those we meet along our way on the God Journey site even though we are on different continents and in different time zones. Maybe we can ‘bind up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine’ … ‘and bring him to an inn and take care of him.’
Eve-Loraine, I also look at my neighbour as being anyone who comes across my path – even through elonric means. Our world has become more global due to more ways to communicate. I can feel very connected with people I have never met although I treasure face to face encounters. When that doesn’t happen you can find other open doors.
Life took me away for a bit and it’s wonderful to catch up on the e-dialogue. Eve Lorraine I love the story you shared about how Jesus answered your very practical question. “Unless You tell me not to….” Sometimes I find it easier to run to Him with money issues, “Help me I need…” but when it comes to emotional/relational struggles I act as if I have to carry it alone. He reminded me today that He views the emotional issues equal in importance with all of the other things. In learning to hear Him I find that He brings a different focus so that I look at the same events through a different lens. I’m aware that His love permeates everywhere…his grace rests on the most simple and humble tasks.
Jesus made me aware of that verse “‘Man shall not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” At first I thought that referred to the Bible or maybe the Ten Commandments. But Jesus showed me that He had already fulfilled those and our food was the words He whispers to us personally. That I believe is the Christian life, walking in obedience to His voice. Nothing is too small to check with Him and there is no greater delight than hearing His voice
Hi Eve (and everyone)
His words are words of life. He us our life 🙂
Thanks Eve-Loraine for the lovely story about simply trusting Jesus’ loving answer to your open and honest question ! Sure miss those kind of answers and senses of his caring presence a lot ! He must chuckle at my frustration when I ‘get it’ moments after realising I followed my analysing effort rather than his voice !
Trust, hope and love is what this life in him peels down to … beautifully simple ! and yet to live in that victorious freedom we stray through the shadows of this world to find his light is ever inside us urging us along a chosen path into his complete, trustworthy love. A Love story set in the midst of a war !
A mysterious romantic adventure with our Bridegroom to be sure ! Can’t wait for the Grand Wedding feast !!
” love story in the midst of war”…
That really says it Paul!
The sense of his caring presence is what I long for and am beginning to find more and more. It’s like what I’ve been looking for for a long time.
He is for sure moving us on the path into “His complete, trustworthy love.”And It’s a path not destination. I am there and yet not…wait I know He is loving me…I feel something that can only be Him. So real yet with ups and downs.
If I had known how much healthy conversation would result from my not doing podcasts anymore, I would have stopped a long time ago! 😉 I have enjoyed the dialog here, though I’m sure I’m far behind on some of it. I did want to add this about loneliness. There can be lots of causes, of course, but a couple of those that I often see is our desire to find people or even a group that are like-minded, and not finding them, or people not knowing others beyond the religious groupings they have been part of in the past. I think the best way to begin connecting with people is to start every day by asking/thinking about who might God be giving me to love that day, and loving them. It can be a neighbor, and old friend I’ve lost touch with, even someone sitting next to me on a plane. I just greet them, make myself available as much as they will allow.
Believe me, there are LOTS of lonely people out there are who looking for someone to take an interest in them. I think it’s far better to be on the side of those taking an interest in others, which is extremely rare. People may even be defensive initially wondering why I’d care about them, but when they are finally convinced that it’s just because they are people, not because I want anything from them, they usually warm up. And then I find I have more people to connect with than I have time in my life.
I think that’s what Jesus meant by inviting people over who cannot afford (financially or emotionally) to invite you back. Love what’s before you and watch where that goes. I don’t think you’ll be lonely long, and you’ll even find people who care about some of the same spiritual realities you are about. We are hard wired for connection and precious few people have any meaningful relationships.
That’s been my greatest joy in the last five years, learning to love and respond to others. Recently, God has even brought back into our lives someone we knew almost 20 years ago when she was only four or five years old. By making our live available to her a wonderful friendship is growing. I have no idea where she is spiritually yet, and in no hurry to find out. By caring about her, it will come up in its time. But I enjoy the simply reality of learning to love others the way I am loved by the Father….
This conversation may be because we didn’t have a podcast to listen to and were bored or something 😉 and mostly think God just did it. I see a convergence of seeking people here, and we are finding in many ways. Thanks for stopping by and your input.
Just as Waynes post came in I had started writing about loneliness.
It got me to thinking about every one here and my own connection and not being or feeling connected. There are both.
I am making friends and connections yet not in ways I may have wanted or expected. It certainly can be surprising what God opens up !
As I look at my lonely and not lonely times I see that this experience is felt by each of us in different ways and our situations are all unique. Sometimes a feeling of being alone comes but may not be accurate. I think it can actually be a longing for more of God that people can’t meet.
He also really does have ways of bringing about conversations and connections. It can feel new and strange cause it’s different than what we had. I am learning to live with the new and unfamiliar better knowing God is what I always jean on throughout.
I want to add that some of you may want to check out the where you live section of the forum and maybe post your area. You never know. I actually have met someone in person that way! Our communities are far enough away we only got together twice but we have emailed too and I know she is there down the highway and it is a good thought. I also have a long distance connection with someone very special and she showed up on the forum and somehow we started emailing.
This conversation is an important connection for me and there are other connections that are going on in various ways that are really neat.
I still am alone a lot. That’s ok. I don’t feel as lonely as I used to and as Wayne said people are everywhere and Sue said earlier that “His loves permeates everywhere”. So true.
Good to hear from you Wayne. Hope you are having a good break. We are filling the gap. Ha! Ha! Wayne said, “that are like-minded, and not finding them”.
That’s true. I often long to share what Jesus has been teaching me with someone who will say, ‘me too.’ I want to feel that I belong. This group is providing that at the moment. I have been part of other groups in the past but they have followed teachers that I thought were leading them astray.
“I think the best way to begin connecting with people is to start every day by asking/thinking about who might God be giving me to love that day, and loving them.”
True! I had to learn how to talk to non-believers. I didn’t know how to do it. I don’t think Jesus wants us huddled together with believers. How are we going to win the lost if we can’t relate? Some people are warm and make friends easily; others like me tend to struggle. I escape into books a lot or research interests on the net.
Loving those around us – whoever that happens to be – is something that is developed over time and it’s much better than thinking (as the teaching of long ago) that you could only really be friends with believers.
Books help me too Eve-Loraine! It’s good to have things to pursue alone. If you would care to I would enjoy – very much – getting an email from you and we could share more and stay connected that way here and there: Neodawn7@yahoo.com.
(That also goes for anyone else here that’s been a part of this wonderful discussion.)
I do hope this group conversation continues over time. God has been up to some good things here.
I think God can use loneliness to draw us close to Him. When we are happy in His Company and secure in His love He may give us people to reach out to.
A friend of mine sent me this short, but powerful video clip. I don’t know anything about the organization that put it out, but I really like this clip. It speaks volumes! You can check it out at:
I just read a quote from a book I am reading, that seems to apply to many of these posts……… “Connection: Connection is the energy that is created between people when they feel seen, heard, valued; when they can give and receive without judgement.” Daring Greatly
I too feel lonely and somewhat “disconnected”, after leaving a church body that my husband helped plant and pastor for over 20 years. Wayne, your books and free teachings started us on a journey of forsaking “principle based spirituality” for a walking/talking relationship of grace and love with Jesus. Brother, there are going to be believers in heaven thanking you for your generosity in making teaching on grace and freedom so accessible.
Jesus had begun stirring our hearts prior to his leaving, being open about that stirring created much hurt and hardship, that led to his decision to step down. We stayed out of a church building for a year (GASP!) to heal, against all of the counsel of close friends. We were not out of Christian fellowship, just out of organized religion.
We have recently joined a “Gospel Centered” church, but I am still a bit wary, as I see what seems to be total focus on the GOSPEL alone, and this sense that they have everything figured out. I have found my God to be a complex mystery, he is my “both/and God”. He has not answered certain prayers, for example, a desire for children, after years of crying out to Him. He is Sovereign- but for years that kept my heart far from him- I was a good soldier of the faith, but a little grl inside felt all alone,not understanding how her Father God could withhold “good”….ultmately, wondering if that was all there was to this thing called faith. Obedience and surrender to Jesus only become wonderful, when they are fruits of being in relationship with Jesus.
God has immersed and lavished me with His great love and grace for almost 3 years now. I am finally having desires bubble up to pray more about what it means to surrender to him, and how obedience fits in with grace. He is so gentle and kind, as I let life unfold, trusting He will lead me in the way everlasting. It took a good year to drive out the fear based principle living, two years of being bathed in His love and grace, to even start feeling from within me, the freedom and life Jesus died for me to have.
What makes me feel the lonliest, is that most believers these days, are either where I was, or pretty complacent in their relationship with Jesus. Many are like me, wounded and wary of church and the things associated with it. Like Wayne has shared, my husband and I spent 20 years “discipling” people, begging, urging, setting examples, walking with people through the same issues, over and over. This effort yielded very little of the peaceful fruit of righteousness, in anyone’s life- including our own. It actually sucked the life and joy out of our lives! So, I know painfully, this does not work. Only God’s spirit and create hunger within a man’s heart- we are called to come alongside and love, like Jesus did.
Often when I desire to talk about what God is doing within me in Christian settings, I seem to either get a look of confusion, harsh disagreement, or kind of a take it or leave it look. This has both surprised and kind of hurt my heart. I don’t feel connected, as described in my definition above. I also have realized that the “community” I have grieved losing with our former church, was built upon serving together much more than a mutual love of and connection to Jesus. That really made my heart hurt.
I just keep taking my heart to Jesus, asking Him to be enough, and to open my eyes to those He desires me to love. My goal these days is to simply “live loved”, although I still pray for like-hearted people to share with. God has given me two women, but they both live far away. When we talk, that is when I feel like I have been to the church Christ died for. We almost can’t contain our joy, and testimony of what God is up to within us.
I pray for the Holy Spirit to draw men into relationshp with Jesus!
Thank you again, Wayne!
In the book I was reading last night there was a prayer, “Lord I thank you that we don’t have to be stuck in the past but You give us a future and a hope”. It jumped up and hit me. I thought why would I go back to regurgitated food when I can have food fresh from Fathers hand.
I am sharing with another group of men on Tuesday evenings as they recover from various hangups. Very interesting. The sense of entitlement if religion is done correctly, not able to be angry at God, talents left unutilized (apparently without His knowledge), etc. etc. Years of religious varnish then discovering life is not working as you thought.
It is nice to be able to share about His love, it never changes, never wavers, and always seeks our best. It is uncomfortable when props are removed, but is always in my best interest. Got pretty intense there last night as I was making sense but not fitting in the parameters of religious addiction. A fun group. I have been described as quick and loud with a dash of humor. Hope that was good…… FYI, I have sent for some humility from Amazon but has not been delivered yet……
I am really enjoying this conversation. I have posted some times before but never made a connection. I like what Linda quoted “Connection: Connection is the energy that is created between people when they feel seen, heard, valued…”
I agree that this is what we crave. I don’t know if this is what Jesus wants for us.
“We have recently joined a “Gospel Centered” church, but I am still a bit wary,”
Some years ago I wondered if I should join a church. I asked Jesus and He said, “If you want the pastor to teach you can go but if you want me to teach you, stay at home”. I try not to go anywhere unless He sends me. I am surprised how people escape out of one bad church only to rush into another.
“a desire for children, after years of crying out to Him.” My daughter asked me this endlessly throughout 18 years of marriage. My heart broke for her. I don’t think Jesus was denying her a child. I think these sad things just happen. They decided that if there were no children they would go and see the world. However she is the delighted mother of twins through IVF.
“Often when I desire to talk about what God is doing within me in Christian settings, I seem to either get a look of confusion, harsh disagreement, or kind of a take it or leave it look.”
I don’t attempt to share my walk with church people. They don’t get it. After all they think I am rebellious and deceived, refusing to attend church. I’m not sure that this whole church system was ever what Jesus intended.
“I just keep taking my heart to Jesus, asking Him to be enough, and to open my eyes to those He desires me to love. “
“Mr” should read “Me too!”
Eve Loraine, I enjoy your journey.
I have experienced some things with toxic people. I have a man who will be joining us yet again this winter as the summer work winds down. He is difficult to be around, won’t bore with details. I’ll just say that if we were standing outside at a barbeque and a plane was flying overhead loaded with a piano and should it happen to slip out of the plane, plummet 7000 feet and fall on him that would be the most lovely sound I have ever heard………and the waste of a perfectly good piano…..
I grew up in Forks, Washington with the sons and daughters of alcoholic loggers. Most of the boys in my class were at least a year older if not two. I was small for my age. Most of my childhood was spent in fear. This generated a lot of anger. Which spilled out in ways that were not appropriate or healthy, especially with the ones I loved. As I entered recovery I realized the damage I created. The amends step has been a long and ongoing process for me.
Now, when I encounter a toxic person I list all the qualities I dislike about that person. Then I put my name at the top of the list. I ask The Lord which of these things He is working on inside of me. Generally I find people who push my buttons do so because I have buttons to push. They have been deeply damaged by life. Where is that pain coming from? Sometimes they deny it even exists. I try hard to turn the conversation toward Jesus, what would He do, what has He done in your life this past week, have you heard His voice today, what did He say? Then I get to work on ICorinthians 13. Dang…….
I have I done it perfectly? Nope. But He still works with me, thankfully. As usual, if you print this out, it will be suitable for framing or wrapping fish………..your call……. Blessings! 🙂
Go to work. Not quite right. Surrender and ask for help is more like it. He is quite generous, especially with the unexpected.
I’m back…(smile) and wow…lots to catch up on! Appreciate this e-dialogue and the ability to share in ways that are meaningful (even when not face to face over meals or coffee). Jesus is walking me through some very challenging growth and there are times when I have to devote time to that…glad that we can jump in here right where we are. Appreciate Wayne’s thoughts…”…if I’d known…would have stopped podcasting long ago…” (laugh). For all of us walking through lonliness and learning to be more “others centered” is something thankfully that Jesus gives the grace for. I’ve been interested to note that often the ppl Father brings across my path are those who in different ways think very differently than me. So…it’s not a group of ppl like me…rather I’m able to see growth in that I can learn to give them space w/out the need to pressure them or “teach” them things. For me this has even connected with Jesus’ relationship with me. Previously I put a lot of pressure on Him…not consciously or intentionally. There was such an agenda that was driving me, He knew that I knew no other way to relate to Him. Slowly I’m learning to move away from that and ask Him “Lord what’s on your heart here?” It’s both painful and exhilarating to learn this and to walk in that kind of freedom.
Mark said, “Eve Loraine, I enjoy your journey.”
I enjoy sharing it.
“This generated a lot of anger. Which spilled out in ways that were not appropriate or healthy, especially with the ones I loved.”
So many of us have been damaged in some way. The wonderful thing is that Jesus really is the answer!!! But it has taken a long time. I wasted a lot of time looking for answers in different places instead of really trusting Him
“ Now, when I encounter a toxic person I list all the qualities I dislike about that person. Then I put my name at the top of the list. I ask The Lord which of these things He is working on inside of me. Generally I find people who push my buttons do so because I have buttons to push.”
Yes, I have discovered that if He shows me something toxic in another person, it’s because He is about to deal with it in me. He doesn’t want me to try to fix the other person He just allows me to love the other person and ensure them that God loves them
I can breathe here. I was reading another blog where there was a similar discussion on people leaving church and it was sickening reading the responses from dead religious leaders castigating the less fortunate with their oh-so-righteous and disconnected comments. Fear exploded in my heart that I should ever be placed in that form of bondage ever again. As much as I love the church of Christ, I could not enslave myself to that dead, dead, dead way of relating to our beautiful, loving Father who seeks to infuse us with his life through the revelation of his intense, passionate love for us.
I can breathe here. I find it remarkable that I did not realise how far Father had brought me on this journey on living endearingly free in this world, until I read the blog. The close-minded views were stark in their contrast to where Father’s love has brought me. Thank you, my Lord and my God for this gift you have given those whom have heeded your heart’s call, to live loved.
I can breathe here.
Thanks for allowing me to share my inner life. I was a bit blunt with that last posting and it was nice to see the positive response. This man will join the group yet again this fall for our 22nd season together. (which is longer than Gunsmoke if you’re counting. insider American illustration E-L). But the things I have learned and am learning……… self control, gentleness, kindness, love. Easy peasy to hang around mirrored clones of my own soul. Not so much with sharp edged trogladytes……. Ah, but perhaps this will be the year of the piano………:) Blessings.
I had a wonderful surprise this morning. Someone on our e-journey came to visit. He reads Chip Brogden’s site and Open windows. (TAS) as I do. We had a wonderful chat, the first visitor from the e-world. Jesus can give us real flesh and blood connections that come out of the blue. I was so blessed and I think he was too. He is about 4hrs from me, where my son lives, so we may visit again.
Have you all been raptured?
I am here and reading but am still sick so not posting.
As Michelle B said I can breathe here. So true
I can and remember so many places I couldn’t.
Eve-Loraine I was happy to hear about your local connection. That is wonderful
Will post more as I can.
Thanks Carol. Sorry you are still sick.
I’m doing laundry and writing job applications – not exacly “post-rapture-stuff” *smile*
I hope you’re soon feeling better, Carol!
Last year I bought two little tomato plants for my balcony and they grew huge and had lots of tomatoes on them – some of them burst while still on the plant and I just put them on the ground next to the stem – probably assumed they would somehow get re-integrated into the circle of life or something… now this year out of each of these tomatoes with its many seeds (and we’re talking cherry tomatoes, not the big ones) came many plants – sometimes the pot looked like a meadow, grean instead of brown. I have kept four of them (had another pot) and the first tomatoes of this season will soon be ripe – I did do nothing (well, get them some water as I hate to see plants suffer) and the whole thing is like a parable to me – life is very strong and abundant, it grows without our “doing” it – yes, we can either hinder it or further it, but now “make” it…
The tomato seeds remind me of what Jesus said about our faith being like a mustard seed or the kingdom of God being like a mustard seed, starting small but getting big – the tops of the plants are now on eye level for me and still growing…
So much in my life right now is out of my control and I want to trust that Father is the gardener, knowing which “twigs” to let grow and which ones to take away, when I need “rain” or “sunshine” and protecting me from weeds and insects destroying me as he cares a lot more about me than I care about my plants…
Greetings from sunny Switzerland,
So pleased that I am not the only one left. It’s great to grow you own food. I don’t think we were ever supposed to be in control of our lives but we sure would like to be. It is nice of Wayne to let us take control of his podcast comments. No doubt we have strayed from the topic.
Hello Eve-Loraine (and everyone)…I have also not left…just having to work through some practical issues with job searching and finances. It’s prevented me from “hanging out” here as often as I’d like. Jesus is walking me through some very challenging growth with all of this….and that process is also demanding energy and time to dialogue through with Him. Ana thanks for the analogy of plants growing and receiving from Father what we need. For me in this season He is focusing on me receiving from Him…a focus on what He is giving rather than what I lack. It’s a wonderful learning with Him but the pain at times is extraordinary. He does give grace and wisdom where I can learn gently and slowly from Him to let my control go.
Back on topic……
“Free of the need to manipulate others, free from the attempts of others to manipulate us.”
This is difficult. The man who will be returning this fall. He is a great believer in freedom, no works. However, his toxicity, dominating conversations with attempts to control, drives others away. Just had a sign up for dinners at various homes in our church. No one signed his sheet and he and his wife finally removed it. He’s been at the church for over 30 years. Victory, vindication? Very hollow. Mostly I feel sadness for the life he has missed. He has an outstanding retirement, very wonderful wife who has won many awards in her field of caring, great children. He always finds the negative, sarcasm, pain. Very challenging.
I put together an intervention some 10 years ago but his family called it off. He can be quite humorous but usually at the expense of others. My role? I simply don’t know. What do I wish to be like? Anything but that. Is that what I am to learn? I simply do not know. But I don’t feel led to leave. I have tried meetings, talking, bringing others into it, discussions. All a waste of time.
We Christians like bow tied, gift wrapped outcomes. This one is still pretty messy. Jesus is still in the middle of it, as the mess is where He does His deepest work. I learned long ago He is more interested in what I become rather than what I accomplish. And beware when you fight the dragon, lest you become just like him. (old Chinese proverb, all rights reserved……)
Toxicity. I have a toxic person in my life. The problem with Toxic people is that they are not all bad. lol. But seriously, The air feel sour when this person speaks and I think to myself, are you even listening to yourself? How can you not hear and feel the venom spewing forth. Mmmmmmm, wow, I think I just had a revelation!
These people have so much poison inside of them, pent up self-hatred, that in spewing forth their putrefying venom, they in fact feel “relieved” because it is “out” of them. Subconsciously they are trying to empty the boiling cauldron within them and “venting” brings it down to a simmer……Mmmmmm, so how to deal with these people. Wow! lol. I have no idea. I sometimes reprimand (gently) and let her get herself in a huff as a result and take the sharp edge of her tongue. The reprimand is for my benefit as I am verbally stating my boundaries and that strengthens me so that I am not drained by the constant negativity. Sometimes I let her spew her venom and feel as if i have been slimed. lol. Mentally I go, “Yuck” and then have an intemal conversation about how awful it is to be like that and I begin to examine myself for any of those traits. You will note at this stage, I am not making any suggestions on how to fix these people. You cannot. This person is 78 years old. She has been like this her whole life and like you, Mark, I am saddened that she has lived such a miserable life. She goes to church. 🙂
I do not need to manipulate her even as she is unable to manipulate me for the simple reason that I do not give her that power. I am responsible for my actions and behaviour only. I pity her, mostly and try to compliment her in ways that can touch her heart and maybe one day she will realise she is beautiful and acceptable.just as she is. If the conversation becomes toxic, I try to encourage her to see the positive but I do not expend too much effort as the viper tongue does not really like to acknowledge it is wrong. A hard, blind and deaf heart is the saddest thing I can ever encounter. I often think of Jesus looking at us in compassion as we blindly and at times, stubbornly stumble around, trying to find the truth that can set us free and we remain unaware that he is holding out his hand and is inviting us to trust him and enter his peace and rest.
I need to add. This is not a passive waiting. He actually leads our steps into active change. We need to move, trusting that he will lead us and when we hit that wall, we will know to turn around. lol. But with Jesus, nothing is wasted as he delights in teaching us deep and sometimes just practical truths from our mistakes.
I think that is what I love about all us that have embarked on this journey, there is no fear of failure here, but a freedom to trust with a humility that is soft and true….oh let me stop. By the way everyone……I am from Sunny South Africa although at the moment, winter is tenaciously holding on. 🙂
Wow Mark….love your sharing. How wonderful to learn that we can “be” in the “mess” without the need/drive to fix it. That attitude or sentiment is so encouraging to me (and I’m sure others) as we are learning to let go of our need to control.
Didn’t always work this way. One time during a particular challenging stretch I got into a shouting match with another member of the Sat am group. Unfortunately I only came up barely to his chin and one of his arms would make one of my legs. (what was I thinking????…..) He was in the trades and had been in lots of fights.
Amazingly, I lived, he got on Prozac, and the outcome was good. We are fast friends now as he approaches 80. (Been in this group a long, long time.) I also seem to get along best with types like this.
Blessings! (even when I fail) Plus. it’s never been boring…..
Michelle, I have started using Ekklesia to refer to the body of Christ. I read an article that suggested that the religious people have taken ownership of the word “church” and we can use ekklesia. http://www.unveiling.org/Articles/church.html
Mark said, “I learned long ago He is more interested in what I become rather than what I accomplish. “
This has been my experience too. In the church it seemed to be about fixing people and running programmes but in the Ecclesia Jesus seems much more interested in helping my life be less of me and more of Jesus. He is helping me say and do nothing unless He shows me.
Eve-Loraine, I’ve read and discussed some of this with Lynette. While I appreciate her concerns and agree that language is fluid, I don’t think changing the word ‘church’ to ‘ekklesia’ in our words will serve us well. In going back to an old Greek word we actually look more cultic, and provide more exit ramps to people who are curious about life beyond the walls than on-ramps. I realize the word church is used in flawed ways, but it is a word that sill inspires a great hunger in people and can be used to help them see a greater depth of life in Father’s family than current versions of church allow. I am not ready to give up on the word yet or the value of using it to keep a wider conversation alive…
Great being part of the e-dialogue…can share some of my processing the word “church”…if it’s helpful (smile). In the community I grew up in (Presbyterian/very structured)…church came to mean the building rather than relationships. I do have some connections within the “building” although I am no longer there every Sunday. When I’m there I get to have coffee and catch up with those who I have a relationship with. I’ve sometimes said to my friends who’ve been a part of my walk out of human structure…”I’m going to the building this Sunday” and they know what I mean. Wayne I appreciate your insights (also on previous podcasts) regarding using “insider language” and appearing “cultic” which does shut some people out. Seems that each of us sorts through how we use language and when/how often we have to clarify what we mean by a particular word.
Church, building, Ekkesia. What does it really matter. 🙂 We can twist the words and interpret them to mean what we want them to mean. When some say church they mean the dynamic, living organism made up of genuine lovers of Christ who live experiential christian lives in various stages or freedom. For some church represents a loveless “system” that is used to “control” people. The original language of the Bible was Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. Church is the translation of Greek into English. Buildings were built because pragmatic believers wanted a building in which to meet and made it into a “tradition” and so we have physical “church” buildings.
My comment about my person going to “church” was supposed to relate to the fact that people who go to church (living organism) should not be toxic. 🙂 When you are in a living relationship with Christ he takes great pride in molding you into a loving and peaceful person who is in awe of his incredible unconditional love. I have found it melts even the most angry, hurting hearts when you respond to Him.
Some people go to church (building) and believe they are Christians/believers and get really really upset if you challenge them on that. They honestly believe they are his faithful followers. Jesus says love them anyway.
One day, many years ago, I was attending a traditional church (although I had had charismatic experiences prior to this) and we were in a prayer meeting and while it did not meet my passionate view of what prayer should be, I noted that everyone was sincere in their efforts and my heart just melted for them. They were like children who copy their parents without fully comprehending the significance or importance of what they are doing. Innocence personified. It came time that God said to me, enough, time to leave and I said,” Lord, No, who is going to watch over them?” He said, “I am” and then he showed me a vision of a cloud over the people’s bowed heads and they were unaware of it which epitomized their christian walk. Blissful ignorance. I apologized to my glorious Father and obeyed his instruction to leave. God desires us to grow because growth equals life.
Sadly my person, and many, many, many, others do not choose to grow. Some of them like the empty rituals. For them that is “enough” and God remains with them, loving them, watching over them even though they are so unaware of his presence. Me? I want MORE! lol. Loving my journey with Him.
The point is: words are just a means to communicate but sometimes our understanding of what they “mean” is very subjective and in many cases is often associated with our hurts and fears or with our victories and ecstasies. Church is one of those words. For some it symbolizes everything that has hurt them but for others it is a place or a process in which they have grown in his awesome love. As a fact: Church (English translation of Greek, Ekklesia) is a key word in the Christian experience denoting a gathering of believers, initially in homes and synagogues or wherever they may have taken shelter and later through tradition became a specific church building. Not all grasp the truth that sets us free. Love them anyway because God does…..ALWAYS. Me? I chose to be free. I can breathe here. 🙂
Thanks Michelle for your words. I resonate with your expression of freedom, Father’s love for those who are sincere and not seeing some things and His invitation to follow Him and see Him take care of them. I love that we all can breathe here….exchanging ideas, thoughts and giving each other space which allows our love for others and our relationships to expand. I also experience that hunger for MORE.
Hungering here also. At the same time being satisfied in what God is doing and mostly who He is. All of the sharing here is what I’ve longed for (sigh) and part of what God us using to fill me with grace, freedom, peace and hope (very deep breath).
I think the curve this conversation has taken is interesting, and after the last comment I made (way, way, way back in the conversation) where I used the words “holy ground” I felt a twinge. The twinge of insider language, etc. Yes, they are just words, but Michelle I think you are absolutely right – how they are interpreted is very subjective based on a person’s experience and context of the words’ usage.
Part of the “new” methodology that got discussed when I was still on the inside trying to figure out how to lure people into the building was to drop the insider language. Even with that agenda it seemed impossible, as the organized church is so grounded in that kind of language. Even back then as an insider it seemed very off-putting, and without inherently meaning to, it automatically draws lines between those in the know and those who aren’t. So, you either fake like you know what they are talking about, or you are one of the superior ones, or you run very fast in the other direction.
It also seems to create a barrier to genuine engagement with Father. The God I am growing closer to seems little concerned with the eloquence of my speech or the proper use of Greek, Hebrew, or even English. Some of my prayers amount to gibberish and stuttering, and frequent begging. In addition some of the “holiest” conversations I’ve had have included the f-bomb. I am being absolutely serious. I’m not advocating sprinkling all our conversations with curse words, but I wonder how things would play out if we just looked people in the eye, listened more, and talked less in general. Or at least in a more natural way, without “god-speak”, and just shared our stories.
And please note, I’m not denigrating words or language that is important to you or me personally, or even Bible language that God has made meaningful. I’ve heard Him call me Daughter of Zion before and that is incredibly significant to me. Maybe not something I would share with just anyone though.
Michelle, I love your perspective about those who remain blissfully ignorant of the fullness of God’s life. While many choose to be there because they don’t know better, others are trapped there, hoping for a greater reality. It’s not everyone’s call to leave, I’m sure of that, because even the congregations we call churches vary widely. Some are hurtful and dangerous, others are benign and comforting, and some actually have a bit of life in them as people live and love together. We have to be careful not to paint with a broad brush, but to love each person God puts before us and to hang out where he desires for us to hang out so that we become part of the divine signal that invites people to life, rather than the religious noise that only leaves people more lost.
Thank you all for the wonderful affirmations. 🙂 In return I want to say it is a privilege to be amongst you. How Jesus delights in those who choose to venture outside of their comfort zones. His excitement is tangible because there are those who are willing to risk their innermost identity for chance to become truly intimate with him.
I think that is what I deeply appreciate about all of you who have chosen to hang out here. There is a sweet abandonment of self here. No agendas. It is beautiful. I am reminded of the description in the Shack of the garden of the soul. It created such a vivid picture in my mind. Here where we are, is peaceful abundance, unconditional loving. How I would love for more to find their way here. Sublime is but a superficial level of intimacy when it comes to the depth, height, length of God’s immense love for us and it envelopes our hearts, minds and souls. What an incredibly awesome awe-inspiring God we serve and I am grateful that each one of us here has begun to taste of this exquisite fruit of his love. My followers will be recognised by the love they have for one another. What a huge privilege it is to be amongst you and oh, that others may find their way here so that they too may begin to know the depth, height and width of a love that surpasses understanding. Thank you to each and every one of you for inviting me to life. Such a beautiful phrase with an underlying magnificent depth of meaning. May His blessings be showered upon each and every one of you and on those on the brink of taking a plunge into his abundant love.
Thank you Wayne. I knew you would be keeping an eye on us. I was unsure about posting someone else’s writings on your site. I have always appreciated the loving way you deal with people. I understand what you mean by looking more cultic, but not what you are saying about the exit ramps.
It has been refreshing to hear everyone’s comments. I too have found myself “lonely” within my church. Sometimes, I feel like an alien, planted in the world of church, but I can’t speak their language anymore. Jesus has ruined me forever, from a performance based relationship with him. I am fortunate be in a young church, with a young, passionate pastor who never shares about what we need to do. He basically preaches “pressing into Jesus” every single Sunday…He is our treasure, our answer, our comfort.
I guess I look around and see the majority of people yawning, some texting- such seeming disinterest. If I try to talk about how the spirit used the message to stir my heart, nothing! The Father finally revealed to me, that I was still desiring my own needs to connect,more than I wanted to simply “love” them where they are, and see what God does. Jesus met and loved people, right where they were- he did and continues to do this for me as well.
As I have read the posts, I have heard the lonliness. Now that I am delivered from traditional , program based church, and principle based spirituality, I feel like the ugly stepsister. It took awhile to realize it,and often I was so shocked when I would enter into a traditional chuch conversation, with my newly found freedom in Jesus and his grace. The looks of such concern, or judgement.
Today, Jesus reminded me that he took people away, unto himself when He wanted to work something special into and with their lives. Our fierce, god-given nature to “belong” is so strong. I believe this is why the church is filled with lemmings, who sound the same, dress the same, act the same- on the outside, anyway. We must be immersed in the Father’s love consistently, in order to be able to love well, and live loved. Maybe, this where abiding comes in to play- like we are merely the conduit that His love flows through. If it isnt “fruit”, of HIS spirit, it will eventually become self-effort.
I have finally been able to see, that if the Father answers my prayer for true community at this point in my journey, I will no doubt begin to place my hope in that community again. Iactally praised HIm last night for the lonliness, that drives me over and over to his heart of love for me. Actually, he is answering a 20 year prayer to remove the “fear of man” so I can play to an audienc eof ONE, HIM! I hate being alone, I want to “fit” someplace, I want others to help and help me. If I don’t have this, Idon’t feel peace. I feel compelled to find it to be satisfied. God in his love and mercy, has not allowd me to find anyone- that drives me back to him.
John 1:12-13 in the MESSAGE says: “Whoever did want him, who believed he was who he claimed and would do what he said, He made to be their true selves, their child-of-God selves”
It seems the more I desire “HIM”, the more my true self I become..the things of theis earth grow dim- approval, control, things…..
Keep pressing into the Father
I felt prompted to share this- Ijust finished a fiction book, by christian author, Nancy Rue. In “The Reluctant Prophet”, a young woman, who has only been a believer for 5 years, hears something inside her, in the middle of her pastor’s sermon, telling her to “go buy a Harley”. She thinks she is crazy, she has never “heard” from God before.
Long story, short, she hears it again and follows it. After this, she become aware of what she calls a “nudge” and she begns to follow those nudges. Oh my, the peopl ein her church who “discipled” her have great concern. What struck me, is the author’s questions for a book club, at the end of the book. She asks how our lives would be different if we simply beagn to follow Jesus, learning to hear his voice and trust he was leading. If you read the book, you will see why…
It is difficult to give up the old “doing things “right”- one of the most freeing things I have thought about a lot, is when Wayne alks about how we will miss hear God’s leading, but that it is ok, God redeems it. Oh, but the joy of truly following the person of Jesus.
We adopted a little dog that was wandering the streets of our community. He is little schnauzer. He He had numerous medical issues, among them was the fact he was a cryptorchid which is where one testicle does not descend but stays in the abdomen. It required surgery when he was neutered.
Of course we were very excited to get this little guy as my wife and I have not had any pet for over 30 years.
I was talking to my pastor after church one day about our new dog. Our pastor is Chinese and I mentioned that our new dog was Chinese as well. He exclaimed “A schnauzer is Chinese!!??”. I explained the bit about the cryptorchid and then said that we call him Wun Hung Lo……
I also told my pastor that I am a little bit of a free spirit. He said” A LITTLE bit???!!!”. There’s more than one way to stay off committees…..:
There is a love that is beyond understanding.
I was listening to a short podcast about how lust destroys your prophetic gifting and alienates you from God’. And as I listened the witness in my heart was not there. I am not living a sin free life but I am so enveloped in God’s love and I hear him so clearly.
I have been crying for the past week because everything seems to be spiraling out of control in my life, the more I try to get it “right”. Yet in the midst of all this, God chooses to grow me. I was driving and thinking of one aspect of my life when God showed me how intrinsically selfish we are and as I contemplated that no matter how much we strive to be these pure, selfless individuals, there will none-the-less be times when we will be selfish, I knew the only answer is GRACE. When someones momentarily hurts you through their intrinsic selfishness, we have to extend GRACE even as we too may inadvertently selfishly hurt another and only grace extended to us, will heal our shame. I have no desire to hurt someone. Yet, here is the truth revealed, I am intrinsically selfish and sometime, somewhere I will slip up just as others may slip up in relation to me. GRACE is what we need. I love it when God teaches me these lessons because it happens on such a deep, intimate level that I can feel it in my physical being.
And so having shown me how absolutely important grace is, in our relationships, I then cried again because of my circumstances and this is where I disagree with the podcast I listened to. I heard God so clearly and strongly direct me to phone a counselor whom I had briefly met last year. Having spoken to her, I knew I had heard God so clearly.
Again, His love supersedes all our religious ideas. I am put in mind of the scripture where it says, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for our sins. That is the most irreligious scripture in the Bible. Who ever heard of such a thing? The religious would say, “You don’t die for a sinner, you stone them and crucify anyone who would dare stand up for them.” God’s love surpasses our understanding and I am so deeply grateful that he loves me and every other individual, so much that no matter what our life is like, all he has in mind for me (and every other rotten sinner), is healing and goodness and blessing. Nothing can separate us from the love of God and I am so very glad that is TRUE!
I love the multifaceted love of God and all the levels he works on simultaneously. I am in awe and a state of wonder when I regard His complexity of being which is mirrored in his relationship with us. Gracious and glorious God.
Mark…love your wry and dry sense of humour peeking through your writing (smile). Michelle thanks for sharing your heart…I resonate with much of your awe of His love. His love is beyond our human comprehension. I have appreciated Father’s engaging both my head and my heart. What I’ve noticed is that this life in Him, the relationship He builds is much more revelation than intellectual grasping. It’s comforting to see that the disciples and others who were sharing life with Jesus when He walked in Palestine also deeply struggled with the same things. “Lord if you had been here…our brother would not have died”…or Peter…”I would even die for you!!!” They with their limited capacity were processing what they were learning and Jesus in a way that resonates with us today was gentle and very patient as they moved with Him in learning. To know His heart is more important than knowing information about Him.
“Sometimes, I feel like an alien, planted in the world of church, but I can’t speak their language anymore.”
I can reply, “Me too” to everything you wrote, Linda. It is so wonderful to be in agreement with someone. I have so enjoyed the connection here. The book sounds really interesting.
I love some humour, Mark.
“What I’ve noticed is that this life in Him, the relationship He builds is much more revelation than intellectual grasping.” That is so true, Sue,
Am enjoying this conversation. Nice to hear Christians genuinely sharing their hearts rather than subtly, or as it usually happens not so subtly, preaching at each other.
Michelle. I re-read your note. The only suggestion I may make would be to substitute “sin” for the word “lust” in what will destroy your prophetic gifting. I have lived some years now, and I remember, to quote a friend of mine, the “door to heaven is all Jimmied up……” Referring of course to the two famous Jimmies and their picadillos. (Lust destroyed their ministries, to be brief.)
All sin separates from God. The more you focus on eliminating sin the worse it will get. The battle is over. At the cross. I would encourage you to read Romans 8 in Peterson’s version. “Obsession with self in these matters is a dead end; attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life. Focusing on the self is the opposite of focusing on God. Anyone completely absorbed in self ignores God, ends up thinking more about self than God. That person ignores who God is and what He is doing. And God isn’t pleased at being ignored”.
D-Day was June 6, 1944. On that day, when the allies got a foothold in Europe, the war was over. There was no hope of Germany winning. Finished. But much fierce fighting was ahead. In fact, about 80% of the casualties occured after D-Day. But the victory was guaranteed.
Be free little bird. “Don’t wrestle, just nestle.” Corrie Ten Boom.
And always remember, if the world didn’t suck we’d all fall off……….
Mark…thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and the way you mingle your humour is like “sugar making the medicine go down” (smile). Wow…today is one of those days where to say “it’s difficult” is an understatement. In a situation where I am inclined to be obsessed with my emotional reactions, (an analogy may be the feeling of drowning and then flailing) the most counter intuitive action is to look away from all of that “mess” just like when drowning the most counter intuitive thing would be to rest. Your words of “obsession with sin and my self…makes the sin worse” were encouraging and helpful in my walking towards rest in Him rather than effort (easier said than done). I am asking Jesus to help me and lead me in the processing of all of this.
Just a small bit of clarity Sue. Those are not my words but rather Romans 8 in Peterson’s The Message. At one time I was smart enough to write the bible but as I age I get dumber…. Or more humble….
Thanks Mark …perhaps a better way for me to phrase it….thank you for reminding me of Romans 8. I do have a copy of the Message and enjoy many parts of that translation/paraphrase. Seems that slowly, over time (because of His wisdom and love) Jesus is walking me through slowing down that “panic/angry” response when things are “in chaos”. Romans 8 so beautifully states that when we shift our focus away from performance, the sin/broken response slowly becomes displaced.
Much needed encouragement for those of us on this sometimes, weary and uphill journey! Thanks Wayne! Blessings!