Thursday, December 25, 2008

Medieval Times


This past Saturday, we took our two oldest grandchildren to Myrtle Beach to see Medieval Times. Last year, we started this as a Christmas tradition which we all enjoy.

Medieval Times is a dinner show set in medieval Spain with a king, a princess and a royal court with knights. During the show, the knights compete and battle. It's an exciting, fast paced spectacle which keeps you on the edge of your seats.

At the beginning of the show, as we were eating, we watched Andalusian stallions perform. The beauty and grace of these specially trained horses is perfect and watching them perform is breathtaking.

Included in our package was a DVD describing what takes place behind the scene. We were taken to the 250 acre ranch in Texas where the horses live. I was thrilled to hear that the horses are given freedom to roam and just be horses. Everything sounded so wonderful until the scene switched back to the arena and we watched the horses perform. The narrator told us how much the horses loved to perform. He said that they live to perform; it's their job.

I'm sure the horses love to perform but . . . isn't prancing on cue unnatural behavior? It seems to me that their trainers have taken what is natural behavior for a horse and harnessed it and made it unnatural. I wondered if those horses really understood what it means to live free if they might not choose their freedom rather than the artificial life of performance.

I'm sure those of you who are familiar with my blog can figure out where I'm going with this but isn't this the same as institutional religion? Religion has taken behavior that is natural for believers and made it unnatural. Our relationship with God and other believers has now become planned with worship and relationship fitting into a pre-programmed slot.

At one time, I loved it and lived for the times when I could be in church. My life revolved around those times. I actually thought that this was what I was created for until Father removed me from that environment. He took me out into the wild to begin showing me what I was really created for. It wasn't to perform on schedule. It was to enjoy life as his child and to share that life with my brothers and sisters.

At first the old way seemed better but, didn't Jesus say that no one having drunk old wine immediately desires the new because he thinks the old wine is better? There is a detox period when we learn how to live free from the man made trappings of religion. The temptation to go back is often strong but, if we persist, we will in time begin to experience the freedom and joy that we were created for and then there will be no going back.

2008 has been a wonderful year as I've made new friends and strengthened old friendships. This blogging community has been a source of great encouragement for me and I look forward to continuing this journey with all of you in 2009.

Merry Christmas!!


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

John the Baptist in context - clarified

Adam had added a comment to my previous post regarding Darin Hufford's blog "John the Baptist in context." I tried several times to respond but kept drawing a blank so I asked Darin for his input. I thought Darin's comment were great and shared them in my response to Adam.

After reading Adam's comment, Darin felt that further clarification was needed so he added his response to his original blog post. The addition reads as follows:

"The indwelling Spirit is not something that is supposed to drain us of ourselves but rather to magnify the authentic self that God created in us. The flesh is not the essence of who we are. It's just the stuff that is attached to us. We can get rid of all "flesh (sinful nature)" and still have "ME or US" left. That's the part that God wants to INCREASE. Many of us have been convinced by a religious system that we are supposed to get rid of the "Me" part as well; as though that somehow glorifies God or makes him happy."

To read Darin's blog with the additional paragraph, follow this link.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Colonoscopy

I figured most of us can probably relate to his experience and the few who have never been fortunate enough to have this procedure can find out what they have to look forward to.

This is from news hound Dave Barry's colonoscopy journal:

I called my friend Andy Sable, a gastroenterologist, to make an appointment for a colonoscopy. A few days later, in his office, Andy showed me a color diagram of the colon, a lengthy organ that appears to go all over the place, at one point passing briefly through Minneapolis.

Then Andy explained the colonoscopy procedure to me in a thorough, reassuring and patient manner. I nodded thoughtfully, but I didn't really hear anything he said, because my brain was shrieking, quote, 'HE'S GOING TO STICK A TUBE 17,000 FEET UP YOUR BEHIND!'

I left Andy's office with some written instructions, and a prescription for a product called 'MoviPrep,' which comes in a box large enough to hold a microwave oven. I will discuss MoviPrep in detail later; for now suffice it to say that we must never allow it to fall into the hands of America's enemies.

I spent the next several days productively sitting around being nervous. Then, on the day before my colonoscopy, I began my preparation. In accordance with my instructions, I didn't eat any solid food that day; all I had was chicken broth, which is basically water, only with less flavor.

Then, in the evening, I took the MoviPrep. You mix two packets of powder together in a one-liter plastic jug, then you fill it with lukewarm water. (For those unfamiliar with the metric system, a liter is about 32 gallons.) Then you have to drink the whole jug. This takes about an hour, because MoviPrep tastes - and here I am being kind - like a mixture of goat spit and urinal cleanser, with just a hint of lemon.

The instructions for MoviPrep, clearly written by somebody with a great sense of humor, state that after you drink it, 'a loose, watery bowel movement may result.' This is kind of like saying that after you jump off your roof, you may experience contact with the ground.

MoviPrep is a nuclear laxative. I don't want to be too graphic, here, but: Have you ever seen a space-shuttle launch? This is pretty much the MoviPrep experience, with you as the shuttle. There are times when you wish the commode had a seat belt. You spend several hours pretty much confined to the bathroom, spurting violently. You eliminate everything. And then, when you figure you must be totally empty, you have to drink another liter of MoviPrep, at which point, as far as I can tell, your bowels travel into the future and start eliminating food that you have not even eaten yet.

After an action-packed evening, I finally got to sleep. The next morning my wife drove me to the clinic. I was very nervous. Not only was I worried about the procedure, but I had been experiencing occasional return bouts of MoviPrep spurtage. I was thinking, 'What if I spurt on Andy?' How do you apologize to a friend for something like that? Flowers would not be enough.

At the clinic I had to sign many forms acknowledging that I understood and totally agreed with whatever the heck the forms said. Then they led me to a room full of other colonoscopy people, where I went inside a little curtained space and took off my clothes and put on one of those hospital garments designed by sadist perverts, the kind that, when you put it on, makes you feel even more naked than when you are actually naked.

Then a nurse named Eddie put a little needle in a vein in my left hand. Ordinarily I would have fainted, but Eddie was very good, and I was already lying down. Eddie also told me that some people put vodka in their MoviPrep. At first I was ticked off that I hadn't thought of this is, but then I pondered what would happen if you got yourself too tipsy to make it to the bathroom, so you were staggering around in full Fire Hose Mode. You would have no choice but to burn your house.

When everything was ready, Eddie wheeled me into the procedure room, where Andy was waiting with a nurse and an anesthesiologist. I did not see the 17,000-foot tube, but I knew Andy had it hidden around there somewhere. I was seriously nervous at this point. Andy had me roll over on my left side, and the anesthesiologist began hooking something up to the needle in my hand. There was music playing in the room, and I realized that the song was 'Dancing Queen' by ABBA. I remarked to Andy that, of all the songs that could be playing during this particular procedure, 'Dancing Queen' had to be the least appropriate.

You want me to turn it up?' said Andy, from somewhere behind me. 'Ha ha,' I said. And then it was time, the moment I had been dreading for more than a decade. If you are squeamish, prepare yourself, because I am going to tell you, in explicit detail, exactly what it was like.

I have no idea. Really. I slept through it. One moment, ABBA was yelling 'Dancing Queen, feel the beat of the tambourine,' and the next moment, I was back in the other room, waking up in a very mellow mood. Andy was looking down at me and asking me how I felt. I felt excellent. I felt even more excellent when Andy told me that It was all over, and that my colon had passed with flying colors. I have never been prouder of an internal organ.

ABOUT THE WRITER

Dave Barry is a Pulitzer Prize-winning humor columnist for the Miami Herald.

On the subject of Colonoscopies...

Colonoscopies are no joke, but these comments during the exam were quite humorous..... A physician claimed that the following are actual comments made by his patients (predominately male) while he was performing their colonoscopies:

1. 'Take it easy, Doc. You're boldly going where no man has gone before!

2. 'Find Amelia Earhart yet?'

3. 'Can you hear me NOW?'

4. 'Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?'

5. 'You know, in Arkansas, we're now legally married.'

6. 'Any sign of the trapped miners, Chief?'

7. 'You put your left hand in, you take your left hand out...

8. 'Hey! Now I know how a Muppet feels!'

9. 'If your hand doesn't fit, you must quit.'

10. 'Hey Doc, let me know if you find my dignity.'

11. 'You used to be an executive at Enron, didn't you?'

12. 'God, now I know why I am not gay.'

And the best one of all.

13. 'Could you write a note for my wife saying that my head is not up there?'

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The heart and the power of believe

A friend of mine recently sent the following email to Darin Hufford. Her email documents an amazing report of how medical science is now confirming the truth about our hearts. I think it’s a fascinating report that will be very encouraging so I’m posting it here in its entirety.

A letter I received about the "Believe" blogs by Nancy Rankin

Hey Darin,

In reference to your recent blogs about the power of believe...and how some folks didn't seem to quite "get it."

I submit this under the category of fascinating, or maybe science catching up with the bible?

Dr Andrew Armour Ph.D. is a heart specialist who noticed the presence of neurons in the heart - he noted a sophisticated collection of these and learned that the heart contains a complex nervous system of its own. He soon realized there is a more intimate connection between the heart and brain than had previously been known or understood. Indeed, the doctor claims that the heart actually sends more information to the brain than the other way around! Dr Armour has written a pamphlet called, Anatomical and Functional Principles. His publisher makes the following comment about this writing:

Groundbreaking research in the field of neurocardiology has established that the heart is a sensory organ and a sophisticated information encoding and processing center, with an extensive intrinsic nervous system sufficiently sophisticated to qualify as a "heart brain" ....Armour discusses intriguing data documenting the complex neuronal processing and memory capabilities of the intrinsic cardiac nervous system, indicating that the heart brain can process information and make decisions about its control independent of the central nervous system. By providing an understanding of the elaborate anatomy and physiology of the cardiac nervous system, this monograph contributes to the newly emerging view of the heart as a complex, self-organized system that maintains a continuous two-way dialogue with the brain and the rest of the body. (source: http://www.heartmath.org/research/e-books/index.html)

Professor Paul Pearsall Ph.D. also made a contribution to the new discussion of the intelligence of the human heart. After interviewing nearly 150 heart and other organ transplant recipients, Pearsall proposed the once staggering concept that cells of living tissue could have the capacity to remember.

"...Paul Pearsall is one of many researchers who observed that transplant patients who receive an organ from another person's body may also receive much more -- what he calls their "cellular memories." Recipients have reported inheriting everything from the donor's food cravings to knowledge about his murderer -- information that in one case led to the killer's arrest. As a result of these and other researchers' findings, Pearsall is now convinced that the heart has its own form of intelligence that we are only rarely aware of in modern life.

In his view, the heart processes information about the body and the outside world through an "info-energetic code" -- a profuse network of blood vessels and cells that serves not only as our circulatory system but as an energy information gathering and distribution system, much like a complex telephone network. What's more, he believes that the soul, at least in part, is a set of cellular memories that is carried largely by our hearts. Predictably, such views have met with opposition in the medical world. But in his view, the implications of his theories -- that the heart "thinks," cells remember, and communication can therefore transcend the boundaries of time and space -- are too important for him to dismiss." (These comments come from here: http://www.ikosmos.com/wisdomeditions/essays/mw/bennett01.htm)

The extensive research of Armour and others show that there can now be no going back - we can all now state quite dogmatically that the relationship between the heart and brain has been hugely underestimated and that the heart contains more brain-like capacities than anyone would have thought just a very few years ago. There is an inter-change between heart and brain with the brain actually receiving more information from the heart than vice versa. No one would have believed this only 5-10 years ago! Armour's separate and unassociated area of research to the 'transplanted memory' phenomenon has shown that there is no biological reason why the heart cannot store memories, thoughts and passions.

[nancy] I'm thinking this means that the biblical concept you talk and teach of about the heart and spirit can no longer be taken as purely poetic? Yes, Darin, there really is such a thing as a power of believe in the human heart. Yipee!

I'm not saying any thing except that I found the information fascinating and related to the "power of believe concept"...and that evangelical Christians are not interested and are calling all such research occultist and pseudo spiritual. Gee...now I'm surprised.

Anyway, for what it's worth...I "get you" and I appreciate you just continuing to be so dang real spiritually. I included source sites but not as an endorsement that I believe it all. I know God doesn't have to make sense but I just really like it when he does.

love
nancy in corpus christi


I believe this report provided by Nancy gives us a perfect description of how Father communicates with us through our hearts and the heart then communicates that information to the rest of the body. Like Nancy, I think it's interesting how science is confirming the truth revealed to us in the Bible.

Darin’s blogs about the power of believe can be read at his website, The Free Believers Network. These blogs are What it means to Believe, The Unstoppable-Irresistible Power of Believe and Piggy-Backing Believe.

Jim Robbins’ has also done some excellent teaching about our new heart. To read Jim’s writings or to order his book, Recover Your Good Heart, follow this link.

If you’d like to get to know Nancy, an incredible woman of God, check out her page at A Journey to Freedom.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

John the Baptist in context


Darin Hufford has posted a blog about John the Baptist that has blown me away. His insight into John’s ministry is amazing!

Darin opens by discussing a prayer that most of us have prayed at one time or another. “Lord, less of me and more of you.” This prayer sounds so humble and so very spiritual but Darin immediately knocks over this sacred cow by explaining that a prayer of this nature is far from Father’s heart. As he describes it, Father doesn’t want to “hijack our body and then use it as a traveling earth suit.”

Darin’s explanation of John’s intent opened my heart to understand John’s ministry in a new and exciting way. “John the Baptist was not talking about himself when he said, ‘He must become greater, I must become less.’ He was talking about his sphere of influence, his following. John was simply saying that everyone who followed him and his ministry in preparation for the coming Messiah must now leave him and go with Jesus. The ministry of Jesus must become greater and the ministry of John must become less.”

Darin says that this one fact changes everything and I believe it does. I highly recommend this blog. To read it in its entirety, follow this link. I believe you’ll be glad you did.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Winter - a season of rest


Winter has traditionally been associated with death but actually it’s a time of dormancy, a time of rest and refreshing.

This is obvious in nature. Bears and other animals hibernate during the winter and wake up from their rest when spring arrives. Plants and trees also rest during the winter and once again begin to blossom and bloom when winter is over. This time of rest and renewing is critical for life to continue.

Our lives should also be characterized by times of rest and inactivity. However, we live in a society that pushes us to constant activity. Most of us live in a whirlwind of activity that is emotionally and physically exhausting.

Religious systems also tend to promote this treadmill of constant activity. Sundays are packed with Sunday School, morning services and then often followed by evening services. In addition, there are mid-week Bible studies, prayer groups and various other meetings. Life in these systems seem to center around constant activity.

I’ve heard many people who are now out of the system describe their time there as exhausting. I don’t believe this is the way Father intended us to live. Ecclesiastes says that “there is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven.” Seasons come and go. There are seasons of growth and harvest but there are also seasons of rest when nothing seems to be happening. After a season of activity, it’s often difficult to adjust to our seasons of quiet.

Our first thought is that we’ve somehow displeased God and he’s turned away from us. We search our hearts to see if there’s any sin we’ve committed. We pray and we cry. We read our Bibles seeking a word from God. When none comes, we get desperate and we fast hoping for a breakthrough.

Often, during this time, it seems as though God has put us on a shelf as ministry opportunities dry up and stop. Our natural tendency is to try to make something happen. However, I believe that this isn’t a season for ministry and activity. It’s a season to sink our roots more deeply into Father’s love and to allow our relationship with him to be strengthened. I believe that if we yield to this time of inactivity, Father will work deeply in us as we rest in him.

In a vineyard, the vines are pruned during the winter when all growth has stopped and sap is no longer flowing. Pruning is necessary in order to remove damaged or unhealthy growth from the vine. During our times of rest, Father will heal and restore us to greater health and vitality by removing from our lives those desires and distractions that weaken us.

In a vineyard, however, healthy growth is also cut away in the pruning process. A healthy vine will each year produce many branches on which there will be many clusters of grapes. If not pruned, this excess growth will weaken the vine causing it to produce an inferior crop. Over time, the weakened vine becomes subject to disease and insect attacks.

In a similar fashion, Father will cause us to focus on fewer things. During a season of fruitfulness, opportunities are multiplied and we try to be involved as much as possible. However, Father is calling us to a life of fruitfulness without the busyness.

Wayne Jacobsen says, “No season of ministry is open-ended. God harvests in specific seasons through specific people. If we recognize this fact, we can allow specific harvest times to come to completion – and then we can celebrate and let go.”

To read and understand more about these seasons, I recommend Wayne Jacobsen’s book “In My Father’s Vineyard.” This is an excellent book which is now out of print but can still be purchased through Amazon.com.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Desire and calling

Jim Robbins has posted a great blog explaining the connection between our desires and our callings. He has some great insight regarding our heart and I think you would all enjoy what he has to share.

Religion has covinced us to despise our heart and its desires. However, as we learn to re-connect with our heart, we'll find desires surfacing that we've pushed down. As Jim explains, these desires are the key to discovering our calling. I think this is a very important topic that we all need to be aware of if we're to grow and be established in the life that we've been given as children of God.

To read Jim's blog, follow this link. For additional thoughts, you might also want to read my blog Recovering passion.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Recover Your Good Heart - update

Jim Robbins’ excellent book, “Recover Your Good Heart” is now available from Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.com. Jim has also recently published a study guide which can be used for individual or group study.

For those interested in a group study, Joel is organizing an online book study of Recover Your Good Heart. For more information, contact Joel at Grace Roots.

Also, Jim has recently started a forum for people who want to “talk about the heart and the deeper life in the Kingdom.” This would be a great way to connect with other believers who are coming to understand the truth about our good hearts.

Because of all of the wrong teaching regarding our heart, believers have come to believe that our hearts can’t be trusted. The truth, however, is that we’ve been given a new heart that contains the life of God and, as a result, our hearts are now good. Jim does a wonderful job of explaining this truth in a way that is simple to understand.

As you can see, if anyone is interested in learning more about our good hearts, there are many great opportunities. If you’re interested, check them out. I’m sure you’ll be glad that you did.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Recovering passion


A number of years ago, I became interested in the subject of leadership. I bought every book I could find that taught how to develop leadership skills and I went to several leadership conferences. Also, I spoke with everyone I could find who was interested in leadership principles. Although there’s much that I could say about the institutional church’s concept of leadership, I really want to focus on only one aspect – passion.

One of the characteristics of a good leader as taught by the institution is passion. A good leader needs to be passionate about the particular cause he is promoting. Also, it’s his responsibility to meet regularly with his team in order to stir up their passion for the cause and to re-kindle it when it starts to die down.

As the leader, he is also responsible for imparting the vision to his team. He receives the vision and passes it on to the others. Therefore, it’s important that he describes it clearly so that the team will know and understand the direction in which they are to move. Everyone is expected to move together in order to fulfill the leader’s vision. In these conferences, there was much talk about running with the vision because it’s important that the leader’s vision be fulfilled. As a result, many workers are needed to serve the vision.

After growing in grace, I’ve come to believe that leadership as taught in the institutional church is not effective and has actually hurt the church.

In the institutional church, the only vision that matters is the pastor’s. Church members are expected to work to fulfill their pastor’s vision even if it means allowing theirs to die. As a result, we have thousands of believers sitting in pews who have no passion because their vision has died.

The early church as described in the book of Acts was a passionate church. The Leader was the Holy Spirit and it was he who instilled vision in the people and filled them with passion. As a result, their passion didn’t die so they didn’t need another person to constantly stir them up.

In the institutional system, intercession is strongly promoted so, for most of my life as a believer, I tried to make myself into an intercessor. I went to intercessory prayer meetings and I studied the lives and prayer techniques of well known intercessors. Although I talked about the importance of prayer and even taught it, there was never a burning passion in my heart for prayer. Basically, I was trying to function out of someone else’s passion and, since their passion never became mine, it wasn’t enough to carry me through to the end.

I believe that the religious system destroys passion. As I look at today’s church, I see a church that for the most part lacks passion. Its members depend on weekly sermons to pump them up because they don’t really care about what’s going on.

Darin Hufford in his audio series on prayer states that we depend on prayer lists and prayer chains to tell us what to pray for because we couldn’t care less about what we’re praying for. As Darin puts it, “We’re just flapping our gums.” Instead, he says that we should pray for what we care about.

Wow!! How profound and yet so simple!! If you care, pray.

I believe Darin’s advice is the key to passion. As a free believer, I’m learning that I do care about issues and I don’t need weekly meetings to stir up my passion because the Holy Spirit is in me and he constantly fills me with his passion.

As I’ve re-connected with my heart, I’m discovering passions which are now coming alive after years of dormancy. I’ve found that the Holy Spirit is constantly stirring up those passions and directing my steps towards their fulfillment. The church that Jesus is building is a passionate church and he means for our lives to be filled with adventure as we follow the passions of our hearts.

Anyone Up For a Snowball Fight???

CLICK on the following link and have fun!!! Everyone loves a good snowball fight!

Link

Friday, November 14, 2008

Oops!

Well, I have to embarrassingly admit I'm not perfect just in case you all were thinking that I am. I made a really bad blooper in my previous post entitled A Slave Mentality. I made reference to an excellent book written by Jean Sasson. Unfortunately, I posted the wrong title. Fortunately, the author was on the ball, tracked me down and very graciously corrected my error.

The correct title of the book is PRINCESS: A True Story of Life Behind the Veil. I've added a picture also and posted that at the end of this blog.

Jean, I'm sorry for the error and any inconvenience it may have caused you.


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Healthy and unhealthy churches

Set free recently posted a blog that contrasts the characteristics of healthy churches with unhealthy churches.

This past Sunday was a day set aside to pray for the persecuted church. I believe this is important. I believe we need to remember and pray for our brothers and sisters who are suffering because they know Christ.

However, I believe we also need to remember that many of our brothers and sisters are being held captive in abusive churches. Some of us have personally experienced spiritual abuse or we know someone who has. This is a major problem that is swept under the rug since the institutional church just doesn’t talk about it. However, Father knows and he cares and he’s stirring many to begin speaking out for those who can’t speak for themselves. I’m thankful for the many blogs and websites that are committed to sharing resources that are helpful for those who have been victimized by spiritual abuse.

What Really Matters is one of these sites. It’s an excellent resource for those wanting more information regarding this subject and I highly recommend it.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

A Slave Mentality

I just finished reading a book entitled PRINCESS: A True Story of Life Behind the Veil by Jean Sasson. Set in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the story is about the plight of women in this strict religious society. The book contains much disturbing and shocking information but it’s well worth reading.

In the calendar of events listed at the back, it states that in 1962, slavery was abolished and yet most slaves continued to live with their former owners. This is a phenomenon that also occurred in the U.S. after slaves were freed. Many had grown secure in their slavery so they chose to continue to live as though nothing had changed. They chose the supposed security of slavery over the unpredictability of freedom.

I believe there is a slave mentality that sets in after someone has been bound for many years. If the slave owner is kind, the slave if given the choice may choose to remain as a servant. If the slave owner is cruel, however, the slave may choose to venture out on his own but his thoughts and behavior are still controlled by a slave mentality.

This is also the history of the children of Israel. When they left Egypt, God was able to immediately take them out of Egypt but it was a lengthy process to get Egypt out of them. The process began and continued in the wilderness. However, even though they finally entered the promise land, they were never totally free in their hearts. This became obvious when they chose to be ruled by a king rather than live out of their relationship with God.

Unfortunately, this mindset is still alive and well in the church. Father invites us into a life lived out of our union with him but instead, we’ve chosen to be enslaved to the supposed security of man-made institutions. Although he’s called us to a life of freedom, we’ve chosen to remain in bondage following rules and laws.

The good news is that many in the church have finally decided to leave the slavery of legalism and live in freedom. However, once the decision is made, we’ll still have to deal with thoughts and behaviors that are holdovers from our days of bondage. When this happens, it’s very easy to get discouraged and give up. It’s important, however, that we don’t allow ourselves to give up because, if we continue to move forward even when we think we’re making little or no progress, we’ll eventually begin to experience greater and greater freedom.

Learning to live free is a process. Just because Father says we’re free doesn’t mean, we’ll automatically know how to live free. We have to be re-trained how to live free. This is a process that is similar to that used by animal handlers who re-train animals who were raised in captivity before releasing them into the wild. To read more about this process, follow this link.

After I wrote this, I read a post written by Amy over at Walking In The Spirit that goes along well with my post. To read what she has to say, follow this link.

Friday, November 7, 2008

My hero

I want to dedicate this song to my hero, Jesus Christ, who loved me even when I was unlovable.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Seeking God


After reading a blog that Nicole posted on A Journey to Freedom, I began to think about what it means to seek God. I spent many years seeking God. I read books on the subject. I prayed, fasted and memorized scripture all in an attempt to seek God. The result was insecurity and frustration because I never felt like I had succeeded. Looking back, I now realize that I was looking for some sort of physical manifestation or feeling that would prove that I had been successful in my seeking.

The goal of seeking is to find. Jesus has said that if we seek, we shall find. Scripture also states that we should seek God while he may be found. Well, he’s been found so why do we keep on seeking? As believers, he’s in us. He’s not off somewhere hiding.

A number of years ago, there was a very popular book out that said that God hides from us. The author believed that God would hide from us and, if we came close to finding him, he would run and hide again. That always bothered me. I couldn’t comprehend of a father that would hide from his children. It just didn’t make any sense.

At night, I enjoy looking out my bathroom window and gazing at the moon and the stars. Father’s presence just seems so real in those moments. A few years ago, as I looked, I saw the moon. As I continued to watch, clouds moved so that the moon was hidden behind them. Although the moon was still in the same location, I could no longer see it because the clouds obstructed my view. In a short time however, as the clouds continued to move, I could once again see the moon.

The same thing is true with God. He doesn’t hide from us but our fears and doubts as well as our traditions hinder us from “seeing” him. Since Jesus said he would never leave us nor forsake us, he’s in us whether we sense his presence or not.

I had to get to the place where I believed that he is always with me. Now, I don’t have to seek him because I know where he is. He’s in me just as he said he would be.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Not an ending but a beginning . . .

I found this scene from The Matrix on Kent's blog and decided to steal it and post it here. (I hope you don't mind, Kent.) I think this short excerpt gives a beautiful picture of what the church will be like when its been freed from the matrix of religion.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Listening to my heart

I'm reading a really interesting book entitled "The Alchemist" by Paulo Coelho. It was recommended to me by an English teacher where I work as well as by a Spanish teacher. The description on the flyleaf said, "Lush, evocative, and deeply humane, the story of Santiago is an eternal testament to the transforming power of our dreams and the importance of listening to our hearts."

When I read that, I knew that I had to read this book. Written as an allegory, the story is about a young shepherd named Santiago who has a dream about finding a treasure. Following this dream, he leaves his home in Spain and travels to Egypt in pursuit of his dream. Along the way, he faces many hardships and obstacles but determines to continue his quest.

Although I don't normally care for allegories, this book has many spiritual nuggets that are encouraging me on my journey as a free believer. It's a book that I believe may require multiple readings.

In the introduction, the author said, "Whenever we do something that fills us with enthusiasm, we are following our legend. However, we don't all have the courage to confront our own dream." That spoke volumes to me about the importance of not letting my dreams die but to pursue them despite the obstacles.

He also said, “There comes a time when our personal calling is so deeply buried in our soul as to be invisible. But it’s still there.”

I can relate to this since dreams that I’ve held in my heart for many years are beginning to re-surface. Although I pushed them down because of fear thinking they were impossible to attain, they’re still there and they’re once again beginning to speak to me. I’m not sure how they will come to pass but I feel that now is the time I must move in order to see their fulfilment.

Another quote is “If someone isn’t what others want them to be, the others become angry. Everyone seems to have a clear idea of how other people should lead their lives, but none about his or her own.”

This really goes along with my previous blog. There are those people who feel it’s their job to correct others. For many years as a people pleaser, I’ve been the person that others have wanted to fix. Now, I’ve come to believe that it’s okay to be who I am and I’m learning how to be me. That’s been a major transformation and it’s also been very freeing.

The last quote that I’m posting here is one of my favourites. “The boy felt jealous of the freedom of the wind, and saw that he could have the same freedom. There was nothing to hold him back except himself.”

Jesus said that we would be like the wind going wherever we pleased however, I’ve allowed religion and life to hold me back. Understanding that I can still have that freedom is exciting! However, freedom doesn't come automatically. I’ve had to break free from religion’s restraints and the bondages of the past in order to once again connect with those dreams that Father has placed in my heart.

Learning to follow my heart rather than a set of rules or others’ expectations of me has been an adventure and I’m really still in the learning stage. I’m finding that as I take each new step of faith trusting that Father is right there with me that my security in his love grows stronger each day.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Religion of Correction

I've noticed behavior on blogs and online discussion groups which disturbs me. It seems that there's a tendency for some to feel that it's their job to correct others.

Although discussion can be good and often is helpful, correction is usually inappropriate. I believe comments, when made respectfully, are very appropriate even when they don't agree with the original post. I've noticed, however, that dissenting comments sometimes have an argumentative, superior sounding tone. Instead of sharing personal beliefs and thoughts, comments often become an attempt to straighten everyone else out. Instead of discussing the differences, the comments become a personal attack against the individual.

Darin Hufford has posted a blog sharing his thoughts regarding this problem. I decided to post his blog here in its entirety rather than posting a link because I believe this is an important topic. If taken seriously, I believe his comments can do much to improve the atmosphere surrounding online discussions.

I do want to say that I don't believe this has been a problem with those who normally post comments on this blog. This is a great community of bloggers who understand the need to allow others the freedom to experience their own unique journey.

Religion of Correction

"The modern-day mentality of bringing correction presents an eerie reflection of where Christianity has sunk in our generation. It makes sense that a religion totally void of true intimacy and relationship would perceive that correction would come from a nameless, faceless, cybernaut-stranger who doesn't know us from Adam. Challenging one another to receive correction from an internet-ghost or a complete stranger whom we don't even know is the epitome of what American Christianity has become.

The problem with the mentality that a person can "bring correction" over the internet is that it's just plain unlikely that ANYONE will receive it. Why should they? There is no way in the world that the person who is bringing the correction could know the heart of the person they're correcting. All they are really correcting is a phrase or group of words to which they have inserted a tone and attitude. The majority of the time, when the Lord brings correction in anyone's life, it comes through a person who is already in a deep relationship with the one being corrected. A family member, a close friend or a brother and sister in the Lord who knows your heart will almost always be the one who brings correction. Just as I would never allow a stranger in the mall to discipline one of my children, God is not in the habit of calling upon someone you have no relationship with to administer discipline to you. God knows each of our hearts and He knows exactly what it would take for each one of us to receive a change of heart. With Him, it's not about pointing out our wrongs. That's not what He does. He celebrates our rights. I think most people's idea of correction comes from an upside-down understanding of the heart of God.

It's particularly difficult for someone who is in the spotlight of ministry. When you have written a handful of books and dozens of articles and you have sermons all over the internet and thousands of audio CDs across the world, it's amazing how many people feel "called of God" to bring correction into your life. The moment you don't submit right away, or get a little upset, you're immediately branded as "un-teachable." The average person may receive a correction from a friend or family member about once every six months, while a person in the spotlight receives it about 40 to 50 times per day from people he's never even laid eyes on. I find myself answering for comments I made in sermons I preached five years ago in Arkansas or ten years ago in California.

Probably most frustrating thing of all is that I spend the majority of my time answering accusations that aren't even related to truth. People are either accusing me of saying something I never said, or they're rebuking me for not saying something I actually did say. This is almost always the case. Sifting through all the allegations in an effort to separate the legitimate from the illegitimate can be a full-time job. Then to add more stress, I have to deal with the fact that pretty much everyone who is "bringing the correction" honestly and sincerely feels that they have been commissioned by God. They've sincerely prayed about it before writing me. They honestly feel that they've heard from Him and they fully see it as though it's God and them confronting me together. When I don't respond as favorably as they had imagined, they're totally disillusioned and let down by my "arrogant and un-teachable spirit." That's usually when they leave and try to write an article or two about me in an effort to warn others against me. I won't lie to you. It's exhausting!

I think what amazes me most is the amount of people who can't hear from God to save their life, but when it comes to someone else, they mysteriously become Moses incarnate. I am blown away by the amount of spiritual arrogance. In my generation, it would be downright disrespectful to confront someone older than yourself for the purpose of bringing correction. At the very least, it comes across as patronizing and belittling when someone who is in their 20s feels it's their right and place to confront a person twice their age and with three times their experience. I am constantly shocked at how many people in this generation actually feel they have the right to do that. This is not something that I was taught.

I may not agree with Billy Graham on everything, but I would never be so arrogant as to take it upon myself to send him a letter of correction. I can't imagine ever thinking that way. It's disrespectful and bigheaded. It's just not my place. I trust that God can either speak to him directly or through those who are close to him. It wouldn't even cross my mind to think that it was my place to do such a thing. Today, however, I watch in amazement at how frequently people feel the right to confront and correct everyone, with no regard for age or experience. This, in my opinion, is evidence of social illiteracy, and sadly, it is justified in the name of religion.

I also feel that the desire to constantly correct others is evidence of a wave of social illiteracy throughout our nation as a whole. I can be friends with someone for ten years and NEVER ONCE bring correction to them, yet amazingly, today's generation feels the need to rebuke, reprimand and correct people at every turn. The results of this mindset are disgustingly apparent in today's friendships. There is rarely a real and authentic closeness shared with anyone, because everyone has learned to hide themselves away. People have become more concerned with what others say and how they say it, than they are with their own words and life. We are a generation of control-freaks, and I believe that our modern Christian mentality of bringing correction has been greatly influenced by this fact.

I have found through experience that when God brings correction to me, I am left feeling amazingly excited about it. There is almost never a feeling of embarrassment, guilt or shame for having been wrong. He has a way of doing it that actually makes me happy I was wrong. In fact, every time He has corrected me, it comes out looking like that. It's always a better thing He shows me. The truth He brings to me in those moments is always so much better than what I thought it was, that I actually look forward to being corrected by Him. It's always an exciting experience. His correction bears no resemblance to what we commonly call correction. I have not once walked away from the Lord after having been corrected by Him with a limp or with my head low. God's correction comes in the form of encouragement, NOT criticism. This is the primary difference between what I see with Christians today and how God generally works in our lives.

A pretty good way to tell whether or not you actually were commissioned by God to bring correction to a person is to assess whether or not it worked. Did they receive it? If they didn't, there is about a 90% chance that it's because you weren't the one to bring it. I have found that when something comes from God, people almost always get it. In Scripture, almost every time a person received correction by God, they got it. God has a way of doing it at just the right time, in just the right tone, with just the right words and in just the right way. If the person to whom you brought correction didn't receive it, BLAME YOURSELF! If your words were divinely-inspired, they most likely would have landed right in the heart of the person you spoke them to. The only accounts that I can remember in Scripture where someone didn't receive correction from God is when they were not in the family of God.

Today, however people think that they are divinely commissioned to safeguard topics from bad people. Correction today is about letting someone know that they're wrong on behalf of the topic at hand. Correction in God's heart is always on behalf of the person.

I think the biggest reason why so many people don't receive modern-day correction is because it almost always comes from someone who doesn't give a rat's ass about them as a person. It rarely comes from someone who truly knows and loves them. Today we are more concerned with right or wrong than we are with loving one another. My advice to people is this: if you don't love the person, keep your mouth shut. If you don't know a person, keep your mouth shut. If you are not standing right in front of the person, eye to eye, face to face, and you don't already have an established relationship with that person, keep your mouth shut!

This is a good rule of thumb that I hope all Free Believers memorize. If anyone, after having spent time with you, walks away feeling worse then they did before spending that time with you, IT'S NOT FROM GOD! The message does not need to be safeguarded. God's heart is for people first and foremost. In about 99% of the cases that any of us feel that we should bring correction to another person; we're wrong ourselves. The majority of the time that someone wants to bring correction to another person, they are correcting something that the other person never said to begin with. I have found that the "corrector" almost always has gotten the wrong idea about what the other person said. It's just easier to keep our mouths shut and trust in God."

Monday, October 13, 2008

Happy birthday, Matthew


You're an awesome guy and I've enjoyed getting to know you. I look forward to reading more about what you're learning and how you're growing in Father's love.

This is your special day and I hope it's a great one.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Sainthood

I read in the news today that the Catholic Church has begun their process of conferring sainthood on several candidates. According to the report, sainthood is conferred in a 5 step process that normally takes years to complete.

I thought how fortunate we are as believers since we become saints the instant we're born again. There's no waiting time and we don't have to wait until we die for someone to recognize our merit. This is not an honor that's reserved for a select few but it's a gift from our Father given to every one of his children. No one has to scrutinize our lives to see if we're worthy of this honor. In Christ, we're ALL worthy.

We're saints not because of what we've done but because of what Christ has done.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

He is my identity

My friend, Mark, likes to send me videos which I always enjoy. I thought this one about our identity in Christ was great so just sit back and let the truth of who we are sink in as you watch and listen.

Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. John 8:31-32 (King James Version)

Monday, September 29, 2008

God can't be put in a box

I used to believe that when faced with a problem or dealing with any situation that I could go to “God’s word,” pull out a promise and claim it as my own. I would tell God that I was putting him in remembrance of his word and that since he isn’t a man that he should lie, I expected him to keep his promise. The only problem is that he never made that promise to ME.

There are a lot of things that we’ve been taught over the years that I’ve since found out aren’t true. This is especially true of the traditions that have developed about the Bible.

The Bible has traditionally been called the word of God. I’ve now come to believe, that only the Old Testament can claim that title. In the Old Covenant, the people didn’t have the Holy Spirit living in them as we now do so the only way they could hear God was through his written word. Today, however, we have the Holy Spirit living in us who speaks to us and he is our teacher and guide. John 1 says that Jesus is the Word made flesh. Although the Bible is an aid in helping us to know Father better, I no longer believe we can call it the word of God. That title belongs only to Jesus.

In the past, when reading the Bible, I would be thrilled to read about the exciting things that God had done for his people and the promises he had given them. However, I failed to understand that although the Bible was written for me, it wasn’t written to me. While reading the Bible, I can learn how Father related to his people in the past and I can be encouraged by reading what they learned. However, I can no longer expect that I can automatically take their experiences word for word and action for action and expect God to do the same thing for me. This understanding means that I can no longer look at God as a safe God that I can put in my own personal box. I can no longer expect that because he did something for other people in another time and place that he’s now bound to do it for me.

I found that despite my constant confession of certain scriptures, he didn’t always do what I wanted him to do. I was always left wondering what was wrong. Maybe I hadn’t been diligent enough in confessing the promises. Maybe I hadn’t used the correct wording and had changed an “an” into a “the.” There was always an uncomfortable feeling that I hadn’t done enough.

Understanding that I can’t just take the promises given to someone else and apply them to my circumstances has been very freeing. It now requires me to actually develop my own relationship with God where I hear him speak to me in a way that is unique to me. This can seem scary but a number of years ago, I learned that even when I can’t trust myself to follow him, I can trust him to lead me. That has freed me from a lot of stress. I’ve learned that he actually wants this relationship more than I do and he’ll do whatever it takes to help me to get to know him.

Darin Hufford has posted an excellent blog on the subject of what a relationship with God looks like. If you’re struggling in this area, you might want to read what Darin has to say. If you’re interested, follow this link.

Monday, September 22, 2008

And Your Praise Goes On... - Chris Rice

A friend sent me this song and, after listening to it, I just had to post it here. I hope you'll be encouraged by this beautiful song of praise.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

I Will Follow Him - Sister Act

I was thinking about Jesus when I decided to find this song on You Tube. The words wonderfully describe the relationship we have with him.

I found this excerpt from Sister Act which I think is a lot of fun to watch.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Best Christian Blog of the Week


What a surprise to wake up this morning and discover that my latest blog post had been given The Best Christian Blog of the Week award. I believe this honor also goes to Arthur Miller for having written such a haunting story of fear and manipulation.

I appreciate the time and attention that Cyberanger takes to make his choice. I'm sure it's difficult given the excellent quality of the blogs listed on his sidebar.

Thank you, Cyberanger. I'm amazed and honored.

Friday, September 19, 2008

A study of spiritual abuse - "The Crucible"

I’m reading “The Crucible” for the first time. This play written by Arthur Miller in the early 1950’s is today considered a classic. Set in colonial Salem, Massachusetts, it describes the events that occurred which later became known as the Salem witch trials.

This was an era of insecurity. Fear of the unknown was rampant and, as a result, over 150 people were arrested and imprisoned as witches. Nineteen of these were convicted and hung as witches and, at least, five more died in prison. All of this was done in the name of purifying and protecting the church from satanic influences. Although this was extreme behavior, it had the same characteristics of all other forms of spiritual abuse with fear being a major tactic. Since those in spiritually abusive systems don’t understand the nature and grace of God, they are subject to delusions and superstition which results in fear.

During the witch hunts, fear was widespread. Being ignorant of God’s nature and not understanding the scriptures, there was excessive fear of the devil and the supernatural. The people didn’t understand that Jesus had already defeated the devil so that they no longer needed to fear him. They didn’t understand that Jesus’ victory was complete in every way.

As families increased, the need for land also increased. As a result, there was much fighting over land and lawsuits were common. When the trials began, greedy farmers used this opportunity to accuse other villagers so that they could take their property.

Internal jealousies is another characteristic of spiritually abusive groups. The members compete for favors and the system of rewards and punishment used by the leadership encourages competition.

Colonial Salem was a highly religious community organized as a theocracy. The church was involved in every aspect of life and could administer capital punishment in spiritual matters. The minister was considered equal to God and was not to be questioned in spiritual matters.

The minister of Salem was a man named Samuel Parrish. His sermons had a strong emphasis on hell and he used his pulpit to push his own agenda. As a result, he was disliked by the villagers and there was constant friction between him and them.

When his daughter became ill with an unknown illness, he grew anxious and began to seek out the cause. At first, he was opposed to the idea of witchcraft causing her illness but he soon wholeheartedly accepted this as the answer. Because of his insecurities, his desire to protect himself and his ministry became obsessive. Not wanting his reputation tarnished, he allowed the witch trials to continue and made no attempt to calm the people. As the trials continued, he did everything possible to prevent the truth from coming out. He and other leaders were more concerned about protecting their own interests than they were in seeing that justice was done or that the people were protected.

This is common with leaders of spiritually abusive groups. These groups are all led by insecure leaders. Protecting themselves is their primary concern and the people under their care become something to use and then discard when they are no longer useful. Instead of being an avenue for teaching and encouragement, sermons become a tool to push their agenda and to keep the people under tight control.

Behavior in Salem was tightly controlled. Dancing was forbidden so when the girls were discovered dancing in the woods, the witch hunts began as they sought to protect themselves. People were expected to be in church every Sunday and to be able to recite by heart The Ten Commandments. Those who failed in doing this were considered suspect.

In spiritually abusive groups, conformity is expected. The people are expected to follow without question the rules dictated by the leadership. Individuality and creativity are considered forms of rebellion and all free thinking is to be suppressed.

“The Crucible” is a powerful and haunting portrayal of the pain caused by spiritual abuse. Although the events that occurred in Salem are extreme, all forms of spiritual abuse are harmful and destructive. People are victimized and families are torn apart.

A lack of understanding of God’s nature causes people to allow themselves to be abused. That’s why I believe it’s critical for these hurting people to hear the message of grace and love. I’m excited about the increasing amount of resources available to assist and encourage those who have been victimized. Healing is possible so I want to encourage anyone who has been victimized to check out the resources listed in my sidebar and begin a journey to freedom.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Something to think about

"If you care what people think about you, you are owned by anyone willing to lie about you." - Wayne Jacobsen

"When you’re following Jesus, time and light are always on your side.” - Wayne Jacobsen

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The joy of being me

"Conformity" is defined as: 1) action in accord with prevailing social standards, attitudes, practices, etc. 2) compliance or acquiescence; obedience. (dictionary .com)

Religion, to survive, demands conformity. There are few or no choices. Individuality is discouraged and everyone is expected to think the same and to act the same.

It's considered a badge of honor to be there whenever the door is opened. When programs are instituted, everyone is expected to participate. The entire group is expected to be involved in the same Bible studies or discipleship groups. One of my previous posts attempted to describe the conformity that takes place during "corporate worship." In this atmosphere, the group is told what songs to sing, when to stand, when to sit and when to clap.

No allowance is made for the fact that people have different needs and are in different places in their journeys. Conformity to group expectations is considered to be more important than any differences in circumstances. With those pressure to conform as motivation, we develop what I think of as a cookie cutter religion.

By conforming to a group's expectations, our individual personalities are squelched. We become a different person to appease the group and we don't allow the real person to come out. As a result, our needs are never fully met nor do we ever fully develop as real people. This leads to insecurity, confusion and frustration and we lose the ability to hear God for ourselves and to make our own decisions. Instead of moving naturally, we need programs and leaders to tell us what to do and how to do it.

We've all been uniquely created with different personalities and different likes and dislikes. When the real person has been freed, there will be a flow to our actions. We'll respond in a way that is natural to us instead of trying to be someone we're not.

For years, I struggled to make myself into an intercessor but somehow, it just wasn't a good fit. I never could comfortably squeeze myself into that mold. It was only when I gave up trying to be who I wasn't that I experienced peace. Now, as I'm learning to move naturally the way I was created, Father is re-teaching me how to pray. Also, I'm finding that the need to fit in is lessening. I no longer feel as though I have to participate in activities that are not helpful just to please others.

I believe this conformity can promote immaturity in believers. In order to grow and mature, we need to allow Father to remove the masks so that we can be honest about who we are and what we really believe. We need to learn to be honest with ourselves, then with God and finally with others.

After all the years of trying to fit in, I found that I didn't even know who I was. The real me was hidden under so many layers of pretense that I didn't even know myself or what I wanted. Finding myself has been a process which I'm still trying to work through. Occasionally, there are setbacks and wrong turns but slowly I'm seeing the real me emerge and what's amazing is that I'm finding that the real me is a pretty neat person.

"We have been a generation of people who don't know who we are." - Darin Hufford

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

I Will Be Here - September 10, 1966

September 10, 1966, is a very special date for me because on that day I married my wonderful husband, Charlie. Given the track record of marriages in this country, it's amazing that we've stayed together for 42 years. Of course, we've had our ups and downs, our times of stress and our times of joy. It's been wonderful at times and difficult at others but, through it all, we've continued the journey together.

Together, we produced two wonderful children who have gone on to give us a wonderful son-in-law and a wonderful daughter-in-law as well as five of the most beautiful grandchildren ever produced on the face of this earth.

What a great time it's been and I look forward to this coming year and others that follow to see what adventures we'll experience together.

Here we are 42 years ago.



Happy anniversary, Charlie! It's been a great 42 years which I wouldn't trade for anything. I love you!


Saturday, September 6, 2008

Worthy is the Lamb - Miriam Webster

Well, after posting a blog about what is true worship, here I am posting what is called a "worship song." Lydia in her comments spoke about Hillsong, an Australian church that has a very well known worship team. As I was preparing my response, I remembered this song which is probably my favorite of theirs. I don't listen much to Christian music but this is definitely one that causes me to sense my Father's love and presence. I hope you enjoy it.



Wednesday, September 3, 2008

A perfect fix

God isn’t interested in fixing you because he already has.

In the institution, discipleship focuses on correcting behavior. As a result, we are encouraged to attend discipleship groups or accountability groups where our behavior can be monitored. What we’re not told is that we’ve been given a new heart and a new nature. We no longer have a nature that’s prone to sin and prone to wander. Our new hearts are good, pure and holy because God has taken up permanent residence there. Instead of striving to change our outward behavior, our focus should now be on learning to live out of our new hearts. In his book "Recover Your Good Heart", Jim Robbins wrote the following:

“As Larry Crabbe pointed out in his groundbreaking book, Connecting, discipleship is about releasing a goodness now present within the believer because of Christ’s redemptive work in them.”

In Christ, everything we need for life and godliness is now in us. (2 Peter 1:3-4) We no longer need to pray for faith because we’ve already been given the measure of faith. We no longer need to pray for patience because patience is a fruit of the Spirit so we already have all the patience we need. We no longer need to pray for wisdom because, in Christ, we have all the wisdom we need. (1 Corinthians 1:30)

As we learn how to live out of our new hearts, these virtues will just flow out of us. As we come to know and trust Father’s love for us, we’ll have confidence (trust) that he’ll work everything for our good. As we grow in love, patience will be a natural by-product of that love. As we grow in understanding that we’re now one with Christ and that we have his mind, we’ll see that the answers to our questions and problems will just be there as we focus on our unity with him.

Learning how to live out of our new nature is a process and there will be times when it just doesn’t seem to be working well. However, as we continue to move forward trusting Father’s love for us, we’ll more and more see the life of God produced through us. No longer will we need others to keep us accountable because the life of God in us will cause us to live godly and holy lives.

"No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:43-45)

Monday, September 1, 2008

Jesus - a lawbreaker

"Unlike Paul, and unlike us, Jesus was without sin. Yet from a legal perspective (unlike the "legally faultless" Paul) Jesus broke the law frequently. And what's more, he broke the law so that he would be without sin: he broke the law in the interest of love."

"Jesus does not side with the religious authorities but shocks and confronts the religious establishment as he defends the outcast, the rejected, the untouchable. He does not identify with a legal system, he identifies with the lamb, the victim. He is not by any means the model law-keeper, but instead models the perfect relationship with God - Father and Son. He models what it looks like to live by the Spirit of grace. He does not show us a lawgiver God who demands perfect obedience but instead reflects God's heart of compassion towards us, especially those marginalized and rejected by the System."

These quotes from Penal Substitution vs. Christus Victor explained a lot to me. In the religious system, I've always heard it taught that Jesus kept the law perfectly. Yet, that never seemed right to me. He violated the Sabbath on many occasions., he touched lepers who were considered unclean by the law and he forgave a woman caught in the act of adultery instead of ordering her to be stoned as the law required. As I read the scriptures, I could see that Jesus acted contrary to the law on many occasions so I had difficulty reconciling that behavior with his perfect law keeping image.

Another area of confusion for me was the story Jesus told about how David, when he and his companions were hungry, entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread which it was unlawful for them to do since they weren't priests. (Mark 23-26) Jesus used David's example to validate his breaking of the Sabbath by allowing his disciples to pick grain and eat it in violation of the law. What surprised me is that God didn't seem concerned about this breaking of the law by either David or Jesus.

Yet, looking at another story involving David, we see that God reacted quite differently to the breaking of the law. In 2 Samuel 6:1-7, David puts the ark on a new cart pulled by oxen in order to bring it back to Jerusalem. While transporting it, the oxen stumbled and Uzziah put his hand on the ark to steady it. In this case, God grew angry and killed him.

As I looked at these Old Testament stories, I couldn't see why something as innocent as touching the ark resulted in such a violent reaction, yet David eating the consecrated bread was held up as an acceptable example. God's behavior in my opinion seemed inconsistent and erratic. I was confused because I couldn't figure out when it was okay to break the law and when it wasn't. I knew if I made the wrong decision, I was likely to be zapped like Uzziah was. That was definitely a scary thought.

However, seeing the cross through the eyes of grace brings all of this into perspective for me. Father is a God of relationship and people are important to him. The law was there for guidance but it was never meant to be more important than meeting the needs of people. Jesus finished the story about David by saying, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath." (Mark 2:27)

Father's not a harsh taskmaster who demands obedience no matter what the circumstances. Jesus came and revealed to us a God who's concerned about us and our needs and the cross is proof of that love.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

What is true worship?

(We're having an interesting discussion on the Free Believers Network forum and the discussion has turned to the topic of worship. I posted some comments on the forum and also decided to post another blog with some additional thoughts on worship.)

Worship, like everything else, has been hijacked by the institution and turned into a program. It's been robbed of its life. Instead of something that was meant to be relational, it's become a performance which is repeated week after week after week, year after year after year. The program is set up and planned so as to produce the desired emotional response. The songs chosen, the lighting, the tempo, the drum beat and so on are all planned to produce this response. Now, I'm not saying that every emotional response is of a fleshly nature but I believe the vast majority of it is.

What we call worship today doesn't, in my opinion, normally produce or encourage a relationship with Father. Instead, it produces a spiritual addiction which is why when we leave the system, we struggle with wanting to go back because of the music. The focus is not on loving Father or the people but instead the goal is to produce another high like we experienced the last time we were in a worship service. I'm not pointing fingers at anyone because I've been there myself and was highly addicted thinking I was worshipping God by singing and dancing wildly.

Now, I'm not saying corporate singing services are wrong. I'm not saying it's wrong to sit in a room with a bunch of Christians and sing songs about God or to God. This can be a very enjoyable time. What I'm saying is don't confuse this with worship.

To read more about this type of addiction, check out Darin Hufford's excellent blogs, Spiritual Porn Addiction and Going for the Worship.

A couple of years ago, I did a word search on the word "worship" and discovered that NONE of the meanings had anything to do with music or singing. ALL of the meanings are relational. In other words, worship has to do with our lifestyle - how we relate to God and how we relate to people. The first time the word is used in the Bible is in reference to Abraham taking Isaac up the mountain to sacrifice him. No mention is made of a band or choir waiting for them at the top. Abraham merely told his servant that he and Isaac were going up to the mountain to worship God and they would return. (Genesis 22:5)

Ann, in response to the discussion on the FBN forum, shared about worshipping God by loving her family. I believe that's the heart of true worship. It's easy to fake worship when it's about music and singing. Anyone can sing a song with eyes closed looking upward with arms raised. We can even put a smile on our faces so others watching us think we're enthralled with the presence of God. It's not so easy to look the part when hubby or the children don't cooperate with my wonderful plans. However, I'm finding that as I grow in true worship, love becomes more of an automatic response.

I used to listen exclusively to what is called Christian worship music. Now, I don't much listen to music of any kind. If I do, however, it'll likely be easy listening unless Joel posts another of his Twisted Sister videos which of course I have to listen to. (I'm sorry, Joel, I just couldn't resist.) Anyway, back to topic. I don't normally listen to "Christian" music any more because I really don't need to in order to worship.

I've found that worship is meant to be spontaneous. It's not something that I can plan ahead and it doesn't fit into a set time frame. I believe it's something that's meant to be experienced in the every day circumstances of our lives. Hearing the birds singing praises to God reminds me of my Father who takes care of me. Seeing the beauty and grandeur of the mountains reminds me of his greatness. Chasing my grandchildren around the house reminds me of his love. Movies that I watch often remind me that Father is gracious to me.

Darin Hufford states that "Every part of the Christian walk has been romanticized and glamorized to the point where we have no concept of what God really wants to offer us." This is definitely true for worship. Worship is meant to be natural and not orchestrated. It should spring naturally from a heart that is filled with Father's love as a byproduct of that love. It's not something we conjure up to get an emotional response.

Darin also stated that "It is almost impossible for a Christian who has been raised on a steady diet of spiritual pornography to settle down and be content with the everyday life of REAL spirituality." That's why it's often necessary to separate from whatever encourages this type of addiction. Like any other addiction, this detox time may be difficult and the desire to run back may be strong. However, if we'll persist through the struggle in the end we'll begin to experience worship which is really done in spirit and in truth. (John 4:23-24)

To read my other posts on worship, follow these links:

Does God need our praise?

Worship - Darin Hufford

Worshipping out in the wild

More About Worship

Friday, August 29, 2008

A God of love and justice

I've started re-reading Penal Substitution vs. Christus Victor. This is a wonderful teaching which explains the cross from the perspective of grace rather than legalism. I read it a while ago and enjoyed it but since the beginning of this year, Father has put me on a crash course of learning and understanding grace. What I've found is that a lot of what I believed had to be tossed when I held it up and looked at it through the lens of grace. So much has changed for me and I'm still growing in my understanding. Because of the changes I've experienced, I decided I needed to read this article again. While reading, I found this little gem that I'd like to share with all of you.

"There is a biblical concept of "judgement" or "wrath". Jesus warned frequently that the people were calling judgement on themselves and called them to turn (repent) from the course they were on. Judgement or wrath is the consequence of sinful or hurtful action. It follows from sin like falling is the consequence of jumping off a cliff. Paul writes in the Romans that "the wages of sin is death". The wage, the thing you get as a result, what you have coming to you, is death. "but the gift of God is eternal life". God who is a God of love (compassion) and justice (making this right) desires not to see us die, but to give us life. God desires to break us out of the vicious cycle of consequence and to therefore bring about justice - to make things right again, to restore us to where we were meant to be. Not by saying that it is of no consequence that we are bleeding and broken, but by taking us out of the treadmill of death, by liberating us from the tyranny of hurting and being hurt. That is what biblical justice is all about. It is not in conflict with compassion, it is rooted in compassion."

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Jim Robbins interview

Jim Robbins, author of Recover Your Good Heart, was recently a guest on a Family Room Media podcast entitled A New Heart dated 8/20/08. It was a great interview which I think everyone would enjoy hearing. Jim's emphasis is that in Christ, we've been given a new heart which is good. This is totally different from what we're told in most churches.

During the podcast, Jim made some profound statements that really impacted me and I want to share a few of them with you.

He said, "It's not just about being forgiven; it's the offer of a new heart."

Regarding the message taught at most churches today, he said, "The message of you're not doing enough morphs into you're not good enough."

Referring to the New Testament function of preaching, he said " Preaching has to change from ' our job is to make you something' to 'our job is to help you release something'."

"Our job becomes to help you release those resources that are store up in your heart."

To listen to this podcast, follow either this link or this link.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Growing in the hard places

(I started this post several weeks ago but because of my crazy busy schedule I wasn't able to finish it. It's a few weeks late and may be ancient history by now but I still felt I needed to go ahead and post it so, here it is at last.)

Several weeks ago, we had a lengthy string of comments posted regarding one of Free Spirit's blogs. It began when I made the comment that Father had sent me to an abusive church. Free Spirit questioned whether that was really him sending me since she didn't believe that matched his character. I was going to add another comment but, when I started writing, it got longer and longer so I decided to post my own blog about it instead.

I don't know if this will answer her question, but I hope maybe it'll shed some light on the subject of suffering. Ouch!! That's a painful topic and I don't even like to think about it but, unfortunately, it's a fact of life. We will have times of suffering - sometimes because of our own poor decisions and sometimes because of circumstances beyond our control.

As I've shared before, I spent three and a half years in what later became an abusive church. Because of a number of circumstances that preceded my going there, I'm convinced that Father sent me there. I won't go into details now although I may at a future date. For now, I want to go in a different direction.

Although my time at that church was painful, it was actually one of the best times of my life. Before going any further, I know that some of you who read this post won't be able to relate to the positive aspects that I'll be sharing. Please don't read any condemnation into it. What I'll be sharing is only my experience. I know the horror of yours may far outweigh any positive benefits or you may feel that there weren't any positive benefits. Either way, I hope what I share will be an encouragement to anyone who reads it.

I've begun to think of my time there as the boot camp of my Christian life because it was there that I began to grow up as a believer. The pastor of that group taught me many things on which Father continues to build my life and what I believe today.

That pastor was the person who taught me how to think outside of the box. He taught me to question what I was told and this has resulted in a major change in how I view what I was taught in the system. Because of his teachings, I've been able to recognize the religious mindsets that had become part of my life. His out of the box thinking encouraged me to examine new thoughts and ideas rather than immediately shutting them out when they didn't fit my preconceived framework of beliefs.

My natural personality is fearful and hesitant. I don't go into new situations easily and, up until that time, I would always take the easier less stressful route. I don't like to make waves and I'll gladly go along to avoid a conflict. I'm not one to leave the safety of the boat to walk on water - with or without Jesus. All that has changed because of my time in that group. I'm now a totally different person who is much more willing to take risks rather than stay in the safety of the boat. I'm learning to enjoy the adventure rather than wanting only safety.

Staying at that church was totally out of character for me. I knew the pastor wasn't accepted by the larger Christian community and neither was the group. In the natural, I tend to be a people pleaser but I see Father setting me free from the bondage of the desire to please people. I'm now learning to live in the freedom of who I am even if people get angry and offended. Despite my natural tendencies to bail out when things got rough, I stayed in that group.

My time there was really the turning point in my journey. Prior to that, I had been deeply immersed in religion and pretty much accepted what I was told. I was satisfied with the system and it was the center of my life. However, in that group, the seeds of change had been planted that would later sprout and grow. Today, the changes that I'm seeing have surprised even me. I remember Wayne Jacobsen saying that he had now become the person he would not have allowed in his office a number of years ago. I can really relate to that statement.

As I look at where I am today, I'm excited about the person I've become and am becoming. Knowing what I now know about that group, if I had to do it again, I'd do it. I've come to the place where I no longer despise my time there since it was part of my journey to the freedom that I'm experiencing today. This freedom as well as the joy and peace of knowing who I am has made the hardship of those days well worth the pain. As I think about my experience, I'm reminded of Paul's declaration.

"For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all." (2 Corinthians 4:17)