Sunday, March 30, 2008

No longer tame

Last night, Charlie and I watched an inspiring video called "Duma." Set in Africa, it's a story about a family who finds a baby cheetah and raises it as a pet. The son, Xan, grows very attached to the cheetah who he has named Duma and, when the cheetah grows and it becomes obvious that it's time to release him back into the wild, Xan rebels against that decision.

However, when the family circumstances change, Xan takes Duma and begins the lonely and dangerous trek across Africa in order to release him back into the wild. It's an action packed family oriented film of sacrificial love.

For some time now, I've been intrigued with knowing this wild God who is calling us to join him out in the wild. This has become a recurring theme which Father brings me back to at different times. He has used movies like "Madagascar" to encourage me on this journey back to the wild. He's also worked through fellow bloggers such as Darin Hufford and Gary Kirkham. Every time I read or see something related to this topic, the desire to go deeper into the wild with him increases.

Xan protested his Father's plan to release Duma back into the wild and declared that Duma didn't want to go back. His father told him that wildness was in Duma's blood and in his bones and it would come out of him when he was released. That later proved to be true. As I watched the video, I asked Father to show me what it means for me to go back into the wild. How will it affect my every day life?

The church has been domesticated for hundreds of years. Like pets, we've been told when to sit and when to stand and when we could speak and when we had to be silent (which was most of the time). We've been kept in a cage called religion under our masters (pastors) to make sure we behave ourselves and we're fed tame food. Like Xan, Jesus has freed us and is now taking us on the long journey back into the wild. Maybe at this point, we don't know what it means to be wild but Father is saying that it's in us because he put it there and it will come out.

This is an exciting journey filled with many dangers but the wildness in my heart continually tells me that the journey is worth it and that, as I continue, I will grow freer and freer in who I really am. I now realize that I'm no longer tame. I've tasted enough of the wild that I can't go back into the cage.

I believe Jesus described it best in John 3:8 when he said, "The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit."

Friday, March 28, 2008

No longer separated

Since sin had caused a separation between God and people, God set up the system of sacrifices in the Old Covenant to provide a covering for those sins. God also limited himself by enclosing himself in the Holy of Holies. All this was done to protect the people because, if sinful people were to come into his presence, his wrath would judge their sins and the people would also be consumed along with the sins.

Only one person, the High Priest was permitted to enter God's presence and that was only on the Day of Atonement. On that day, the High Priest entered the Holy of Holies bringing the blood of a lamb that had been sacrificed. If he had tried to enter without the blood, he would have died as his sins were judged. The blood provided a covering for his sins so that he would be protected in the presence of a holy God.

When Jesus was crucified, he entered the presence of God as our High Priest bringing his own blood. Our sins have now been dealt with once and for all so no other sacrifice is needed. There is now no separation between us and God because the blood of Jesus has brought us near. (Ephesians 2:13) We're as close to God as we'll ever be because, in Christ, we're now one with him. (Galatians 2:20)

In the religious system, we're told about our union with Christ but it seems to be more talk than an actual truth that is lived out. Legalism is often mixed with grace in such subtle ways that it makes the truth of God's grace ineffective in most believers' lives. Songs like "Holy Spirit, Rain Down" lead us to believe that God is far away on the other side of Mars and that we have to invite him to show up. We pray and we fast trying to get him to show up. We sing and dance ourselves to exhaustion because we believe God inhabits our praise.

The truth is that he's always with us because he's in us. We don't have to do anything to get him to show up because he's already wherever we are. He said he would never leave us nor forsake us so we no longer have to struggle and strive to get him to show up. Jesus died and was raised from the dead so that the wall of separation would be destroyed. There's no longer any separation between us and God and we now live out of our union with him.

"For in him we live and move and have our being." (Acts 17:28)

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Two Branches (Abiding) - an allegory

I was digging around this morning in Joel's archived articles and found a wonderful allegory that clearly pictures what it means to abide in Christ. I feel this is one of the best descriptions that I have ever read so I decided to bring it out into the open for all of you to read and enjoy.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Removing the leaven

As I continue to read Pagan Christianity, I am continually amazed at how Pagan rituals and practices were introduced throughout the history of the church. For the church to get back on track, I believe it would require a major overhaul. If I didn't know and understand that Jesus is building his church, I would be pretty depressed.

This book clearly shows that even small subtle introductions of legalism will bring corruption. After all, a little leaven leavens the whole lump. (1 Corinthians 5:6) Over time, this corruption will increase and spread just like yeast does in a lump of dough.

Therefore, it's critical that we allow Father to remove all leaven from our lives. A little leaven of legalism will grow and increase and hinder the life of Jesus from flowing freely through us. We can't remove the leaven on our own and we shouldn't even try because our attempts will only result in failure and discouragement. Instead, we need to continue to learn how to live more deeply out of our union with Jesus. As we learn how to abide in him, he'll begin to set us free from a life of legalism. We will then be able to experience the fulness of life that he has freely given us.

Monday, March 24, 2008

My Jesus - Todd Agnew

I wanted to post this for Easter but couldn't find it. I thought Kent Burgess had put it together but, when I finally got around to asking him about it, he told me that ArnieB, another forum friend, had done it.

The song is by Todd Agnew and the scenes are from The Passion. It's a powerful video which I think you'll enjoy.


We Shall Behold Him - Sandi Patty

I love this song as well as Sandi Patty's voice. I'm not sure all of the theology is correct but I am looking forward to the day when the veil that darkens our understanding is completely removed and we see Jesus as he really is. Right now, we see him a little more clearly as we get a glimpse here and there but some day, as the song says, we'll see him face to face.

I hope you enjoy this song as Sandi Patty sings about that wonderful day.

Does God need our praise?

Joel has done an interesting post in which he asks if God needs anything.

Easter morning, I went to the meeting of the Presbyterian group that we normally spend Sunday mornings with. Since it was Easter , they went all out with a processional by some of the women wearing bright purple robes carrying and hanging banners. Then the music started and the praising began. I'm not questioning the people's sincerity. I've been around them long enough to know that they love the Lord and many have made great sacrifices for him so that's not even in question. What I'm questioning is the thought that God is honored by all of that pomp and expects it when his people gather.

Joel's questions made me ask myself, Does Father really need our praise and is he more pleased when it's elaborate? When I think about the Simpsonville gathering with Wayne Jacobsen that I went to a few weeks ago, one of the things that stands out is that we never prayed, not even over the food. We just ate and then shared Jesus with one another in a natural setting. No one mentioned praying and I didn't even think about it until I had returned home. Yet, I sense that Father was very much involved in that gathering throughout the entire week-end.

Darin Hufford in his book The God's Honest Truth has a chapter entitled Love is Not Proud and in it he writes, "When we worship, we do it thinking that this is the reason we were put here, as though He created us so we could remind Him of how great He is all the time." That does seem to be the mindset in our "praise and worship" meetings. We continually tell God how great he is so that he'll delight in our praise and show up at our meetings. Sounds like manipulation to me.

Also, as Darin pointed out, "If you wouldn't be friends with a person like that, you won't be friends with a God like that." No one wants to be around a person who constantly needs us to tell them how wonderful they are. That's bondage of the biggest kind and, after a while, we'll avoid that person as much as possible. That will also be our reaction to a god that needs constant praise.

That, however, is not our God. He doesn't suffer from an inferiority complex and needs us to build him up. He knows who he is and is quite aware of his majesty and awesomeness yet, in Christ, he chose to lay that all aside and come as a man so he could have a real relationship with us.

While I don't think it's wrong to tell him how much we love him, if we think that's all there is to worship, we're sadly mistaken. True worship and praise is based on a relationship that is real. We praise him because we love him and it's an overflow of that relationship. It can't be planned and boxed into a certain time on a certain day. True worship is lived out in the daily circumstances of life as we walk and talk with our Father. Occasionally, we might stop and sing to him but we need to remember that he also sings to us. My post, God is not angry with you, talks about this.

Does Father need our praise? I don't think so. He may enjoy the Sunday morning songfests but I believe his real joy comes as he and his child enjoy their day together doing the activities of the day.

Marriage is a covenant

I'm sure many of you reading my blog are also following Steve McVey's 101 Lies Taught in Church Every Sunday video series but I think this is one that is well worth focusing on. Steve stresses that marriage is not a contract but it's a covenant. The definition of a covenant being that each party of the covenant gives 100 percent even if the other person doesn't keep his part of the covenant.

I need to be reminded of that fact. I'm seeing Father do some great things in my marriage as I'm learning how to walk this grace walk in my home but I do forget at times and revert to a "me, me, me" mode of relating to my husband.

I think this video is a great description of how this grace walk will affect our lives in practical ways. It's not an eerie, strange walk but it's an every day walk in the every day circumstances of life.


Sunday, March 23, 2008

Arise My Love - Newsong

May you all experience anew Christ's resurrection life as you grow more established in his grace and his love.

Happy Easter, everyone!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Your Love Broke Through - Keith Green

Although at least one of Keith Green's songs (Asleep in the Light) is in my opinion works oriented, I believe this song is a wonderful picture of Father 's love and grace that sets us free.

Friday, March 21, 2008

What is truth?

Rob Horton in his blog shared that he's begun to question his belief in the Bible as well as some foundational beliefs of our Christian faith. When I first read it, I've got to admit, I felt my heart stop momentarily. Good thing for you, Rob, that I didn't comment right away or else I might have been tempted to hit you over the head with my KJV and shout at you, "What's your problem?" Seriously, though, Rob is a great guy and I've known him for a couple of years through a forum of which we're both a part. I'm not really concerned about him since I'm sure Father will reveal Himself to him in a way that will be meaningful to him and will ground him further in Father's love.

I posted a comment on Rob's blog saying that I also have some questions about the New Testament. I really don't want to get into a discussion about my questions in this blog so, to ease everyone's minds, I don't question that the writers of the NT were inspired by God in what they wrote and that the truths they shared can help me to know Father better. In this post, I really want to discuss what is truth.

Dictionary.com defines truth as "the true or actual state of a matter: He tried to find out the truth."

Truth is something that cannot be disputed. It's the state of a matter. It's the way things really are. The problem is that our perception of truth can vary. I can look at a situation and come to a conclusion about it and someone else can look at the same situation and come to a totally different conclusion. Our response is based on our perception of truth and not on the truth itself.

Joel posted a blog about persecution which was very good. His blog reminded me that as believers, particularly believers who are fully committed to growing in grace, we will experience persecution. In the last 10 years, I've found that much of what I believe has been shaken and has either been refined or it's been completely tossed aside since it couldn't stand against the truth regarding grace and Father's love and acceptance.

The goal of persecution is to get us to change what we believe and to accept the status quo. If I'm to stand up against the persecution, then it's critical that I actually know what I believe. A second hand faith won't make it through the fire of persecution. What I believe has to be ingrained in me because I actually believe it to be true and not because someone told me it's true.

Religion has trained us to accept a second hand faith. We believe it because the pastor told us it's true and we've learned to ignore and put down those nagging feelings that arise when something doesn't seem quite right. The problem with this is we never really know what we believe. We believe it because we're Baptist or Methodist or whatever label we wear.

Questioning is never comfortable. It forces us to give up all illusions of control yet I believe it's a necessary part of growth. I don't think Father is as concerned about our doubts as we are because He knows that the only way we'll arrive at truth is by questioning, even if our questions may seem heretical to some.

I want to know truth and I want it from His perspective. If I have to go through the discomfort of having my treasured beliefs shaken so that all that remains is His truth, with much fear and trembling, I say "I'm willing, Father. Whatever it takes."

Thursday, March 20, 2008

What kind of meeting is this?

A friend sent this to me and I think it's hilarious.

God's not angry with you

Religion has often portrayed God as constantly angry and disappointed with us. He's pictured as carrying a big stick so he can whack us every time we step out of line. I've heard Christians talk about God spanking them.

It's impossible to come close to a God who we think is watching our every move ready to pounce if we blow it. No one wants to be around someone who is constantly criticising them. Constant criticism and fault finding will destroy a relationship with people and it'll destroy a relationship with God.

One of my favorite verses is Zephaniah 3:17.

"The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing."

That's the truth about our Father. He delights in us. He rejoices over us. When we sing songs of praise to him, we think we're the only ones singing but actually he's singing to us as well. Maybe it's time that we allow him to quiet those nagging voices that tell us we're not good enough and that he's disappointed in us so that we can hear him singing his love songs to us.

Steve McVey gives a wonderful list of truths about God's love in his workbook, The Grace Walk Experience. I believe as we meditate and get grounded in these truths, we'll begin to experience the freedom in our relationship with Father that we've always wanted so I've posted the list below.

  1. God not only love you, He likes you.
  2. God is so delighted with me that He is dancing around and singing because He can't hold back the joy.
  3. God is smiling at me.
  4. God never gets mad at me.
  5. I never disappoint God.
  6. The sins of my lifetime are forgiven.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

First impressions of Pagan Christianity

I just started reading Pagan Christianity so I can't really give a detailed review but what I've read has already got me thinking. This is a re-write of a book Frank Viola wrote a number of years ago. He has now teamed up with George Barna to publish a new revised version. Never having read the original, I can't say what changes have been made.

So far, this book is well written with lots of documentation. Frank Viola, who did the research, seems to have done a very thorough job. I enjoy reading history so I find the data in this book fascinating. Also, I believe that if we don't understand the past, more than likely, we'll repeat the same errors and suffer the same consequences.

I was already aware of the pagan roots of some of the procedures and practices of today's institutional church but I wasn't aware of the magnitude of the corruption. The emotion I've been experiencing as I read this book is deep sadness with thoughts of what the church would have been like today if these pagan rituals hadn't been brought in.

The magnitude of the deception is appalling! I believe if the early church "fathers" had understood the ramifications of some of the decisions that they made, they never would have allowed the church to become so tainted by these corrupt practices. However, as with all deception, it tends to sneak in a little at a time. A little compromise here and another little one there followed by another small one and eventually things are terribly off course. People are usually unaware of the magnitude of the error since they've been conditioned one small step at a time to accept the changes.

Emperor Constantine came to power in 306 AD and later granted favor to Christians. Believers were ecstatic. After many years of unrelenting persecution, they finally were experiencing some relief from the constant persecution. I'm sure it only seemed right to allow the emperor to make the changes he wanted since he had done so much to improve their circumstances. If they had only known the results, perhaps they would not have given in so easily.

I believe it's critical that those who are today seeing through the deception continue to walk in an ever deepening understanding of grace and Father's love. We've all felt some of the pressure that religion will throw at us to get us to come back into the pen and conform. I know we haven't experienced anything like the early church did but feelings of isolation can make us more vulnerable to the pressure.

Hebrews 3:13 says, "Encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness."

I think it's critical that we continue to encourage each other and I believe it's going to be even more important in the days ahead. Bino, in the past, has encouraged us to keep on blogging about grace and I think those are words of wisdom. I have a tendency to waver too much at times. I need to get more established in grace so everyone's posts are a constant source of encouragement to me in this process of growth.

In the latest post on his blog, Steve McVey talks about what he calls "The Coming Grace Revolution." I thought the article was inspiring. I know some people may feel uncomfortable with the word "revolution" since one of the meanings is a change that is accompanied by violence as in the violent overthrow of a government. I don't think that's what is meant here. Dictionary.com also defines revolution as "a sudden, complete or marked change in something: the present revolution in church architecture." Another definition is "a procedure or course, as if in a circuit, back to a starting point." I believe those last two definitions are the meanings behind Steve's blog post.

As we share the message of Father's love through our blogs and through our daily contacts, people who have been in bondage to religion will be set free and this will help to bring in the grace revolution that Steve talks about. I'm sure that won't happen without great opposition which is why, as he said, it's important that we stand together and bring this message of love and grace to the forefront.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

More majoring on the minors

"And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another - and all the more as you see the Day approaching." (Hebrews 10:24-25)

I know that some of you are not involved with a "local" church. If you're not involved, I know you've been hit with the infamous Hebrews 10:25 stick by well meaning believers who are worried that you'll drift off into error if you're not regularly sitting on a pew Sunday mornings under the covering of a pastor. Recently, I was reading these verses and I was once again struck by the fact that this verse is not really promoting attendance at a local "church."

This is another case where the religious mindset has majored on the minors. The emphasis in this scripture is really about encouraging one another in such a way that love is stirred up which results in good deeds.

As believers, we're called to encourage one another but, when the emphasis is put on meeting together, we tend to meet for the sake of meeting. As a result, we've come to believe that we've fulfilled our Christian duty when we've attended a meeting even if no one has been encouraged and anyone who doesn't attend regularly is suspect.

However, when the emphasis is correctly placed on encouragement and building one another up, love will be produced which will be visible to all. Out of this love, good deeds will naturally flow. The naturalness of this life of grace will not only affect the community of believers but it will also be visible to those who are in the world.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

The source of the problem

Wayne Jacobsen recently posted a blog entitled "Live in Love - A Message from the Sudan." If you haven't read it yet, I highly recommend reading it as well as the comments that were made. In this post, I want to focus on a comment that was made by the The Other Pam.

She said, "Are the institutions and structures the source of the problem or are they simply the result of people who don't understand how deeply they are loved? Our problem is our relationship to our Father."

I think she made a great point. Those of us who have seen behind the control and manipulation that is often characteristic of the system can develop negative feelings toward it and blame it for our lack of growth as believers. While I believe the system has done little to help us grow and fully mature and, at times, has actually hindered that growth, I agree with Pam that there is a deeper problem and, if that is not corrected, it will show up in other areas of our lives.

She explains further, "I was even religious in a secular institution, still trying to earn the love of other people and Father. Leaving religious institutions only does me a moderate amount of good. I can be religious anywhere; I excel at it."

The basic problem is not our tendency to set up systems and structures. That tendency is merely a symptom of a deeper problem. As she pointed out, the real problem is our relationship with Father. As long as we remain insecure about his love for us, we'll continue to try to find ways to satisfy that need. We'll look to other people for validation and we'll try to find our significance in what we do rather than in what Jesus has done. Institutions provide the perfect environment to feed that need and, in them, we'll find people who are more than happy to take advantage of our need for validation in order to satisfy their need to control.

Since the source of our problem is our relationship with Father, the only cure is to correct that relationship. That will never happen, however, until we come to understand that his love for us is totally unconditional. I've heard Steve McVey say, "We didn't do anything to make him love us and we can't do anything to make him stop loving us."

Father's love for us is not based on what we can do; it's based on what Jesus has already done. Nothing else is needed. However, until we're secure in that love, we'll continue to build institutions and look to others for our validation. True healing and victory will only come when we realize that these are poor substitutes. Nothing else can provide the security we need except to experience Father's love and to rest in the finished work that Jesus has already done.

Somewhere Out There

Joel's "There are no cats in America" post reminded me of another singing mouse. Although I much prefer cats (my cat, Shelby, is gorgeous), I love this song. Fortunately, the mouse in this scene from "An American Tail" is animated and not a real one so I think he's cute.





Here's another version that I love by Linda Ronstadt and James Ingram.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Paul Young - author of The Shack

Recently, several of us have written blogs sharing our thoughts about the book, The Shack.

Joel started us off with a blog that went off in a direction that was different than where he wanted to go but he's got some thoughts about the book which I think are interesting and informative.

Kent Burgess, a brother in the Lord who has been a great source of encouragement to me, has also posted a blog about The Shack. The link to this blog post is not the same as the link Joel gave in one of his posts so, if you read that one, this one might have some different thoughts.

About the same time that I was in Simpsonville meeting with Wayne Jacobsen and some other folks, Kent was hosting Paul Young in his home. I think you'll enjoy the post Kent wrote about his visit with Paul.

Also, I wrote a post sharing my thoughts about The Shack. Since I wasn't as positively affected by the book as others have been, my impressions may seem somewhat negative. My negative thoughts do not, however, indicate negative feelings about the author. Although I've never met him, my feelings about him are very positive. He is someone that I would love to meet. The following is a link to an article on CBN's website sharing some of Paul's story. I'm sure you'll enjoy reading his story.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Spiritual Castration

Darin Hufford has posted another great blog on his website. If you haven't read it, I highly recommend it.

Darin tends to be blunt and to the point and, at times somewhat graphic, but this in my opinion is one of his best blogs. Once again, he discusses how we're made to be wild in the image of a wild God. I don't think I'll ever get tired of hearing Darin teach this. I want him to continue to remind me until I see that wildness coming out of my life more and more.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

My week-end with Wayne and friends

Well, here it is. My much awaited post regarding my week-end in Simpsonville with Wayne Jacobsen and some other believers. It'll probably be a long one since I have the unique ability to be able to take a short story and make it long.

The week-end was great for various reasons. Even before we got to the gathering place, Father showed me some areas of my life where his grace has been transforming me.

We had a major rain storm pass through S. C. Friday so, as I drove home from work, the rain was heavy at times. What amazed me was that I wasn't fearful. At one time, I would have been scared driving through that much rain and I would have been praying in tongues all of the way home. Instead, I was totally at peace and didn't think about the rain too much. For me, this was amazing since fear has been a major part of my life for many years but this is one area that I see Father's grace working in me to bring transformation.

When I first discussed this trip with my darling husband, he said he would go with me but wouldn't attend any of the gatherings. I accepted that and didn't try to manipulate to try to get him to change his mind. I didn't remind him of all of the bluegrass concerts I went to when I really would have preferred not to go. In the past, I would have done that but now, I just handed the whole thing over to Father and was okay with whatever happened. Well, Charlie ended up going to all of the gatherings with me although he didn't really participate in them. When I thanked him for going, he said that I went with him where he wanted to go so it was only right that he go where I wanted to go. I was thrilled. It's obvious Father doesn't need my help to accomplish what he wants to do.

We left Friday after lunch but didn't meet with the others until Saturday because of the way the hostesses planned the events. We attended a drop-in Saturday after lunch. Besides Wayne and the host couple, there were 3 other people present. Basically, we all sat around in the living room and talked. Although I knew there was no planned agenda , it still seemed strange to just sit and talk to a room full of strangers. Also, I don't do small talk very well so I was wondering how that would turn out and what we would say to each other.

The conversation seemed somewhat forced with lots of quiet times. I also don't do quiet very well so I kept trying to think of something to say. Since I couldn't think of anything, I finally decided to just accept the quiet and not try to force conversation. This is another place where I see that I've grown in this grace walk. Just like the apostle Peter, normally I would have jumped in and said something just to end the silence.

We gathered together again Saturday night for pizza and conversation. There were more people this time and the conversation flowed more naturally. We began with a large group conversation and Wayne shared about the amazing transformation his wife, Sara, went through a number of years ago. If you haven't heard her story, I know you would enjoy hearing this wonderful story about how Father took a fearful and insecure woman and transformed her into a daughter who is secure in his love. This led to others in the group sharing about marriage and relationships.

When the pizzas arrived, the group naturally divided into smaller groups of 2 or 3 in order to eat, share and to get to know each other. Everyone was involved in their individual conversations. Even though Wayne was there, he no longer was the focus of attention and he seemed very comfortable with that. He did nothing to draw attention to himself. He just simply participated in the conversation as another brother in the Lord. The groups were very fluid and, as conversations ended, new groups would form.

It was totally unplanned and no one was there making sure conversations were going smoothly or dividing us up into groups and assigning topics. The Holy Spirit formed the groups and it was okay for those groups to later break and new ones form.

Charlie and I planned to leave Sunday at about noon but, before we left, we went to see Wayne again. The group that gathered was small. Other than Wayne and the host family, the only other folks there were the two men from Ga. We sat around the kitchen table and talked. This time it seemed like the barriers were down and conversation flowed freely and naturally. It was simply friends having conversation around the breakfast table.

The week-end was great. I guess the words I would use to describe it would be real and authentic. It was just friends relating to one another in the real circumstances of life. Even though Wayne was the reason we were gathering, his presence served more as a catalyst to bring us together. He didn't come to be center stage or to share words of wisdom with us. He came as a brother to share life with us and I believe that's what happened.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Women and the God of the Old Covenant

Joel posted an mp3 audio teaching on his blog entitled "Does God inhabit our praises? (Or do we have it even better!)" It's only 17 minutes long and is well worth hearing. I added a comment but decided to do a blog post of my own because of an off topic thought that came to mind as I was listening.

The speaker described the elaborate cleansing ritual that was required by the Old Covenant before a believer could come into God's presence. He explained that it was necessary for the believers to cleanse their bodily flesh as much as possible in order to come before a holy God. This was symbolic of the flesh that still needs to be dealt with. I had never made the connection before and, immediately, the Old Testament rules regarding a woman and her monthly cycle came to mind.

Actually, I've always felt that the Old Testament God was somewhat chauvinistic in his attitude toward women. It seemed like his cleansing rules were set up to punish women for a natural body function over which they had no control. Other passages in the Old Testament seem to set women below men. Now, I'm not a feminst but it seemed to me that God, who was supposed to be impartial,was being partial and favoring men.

The speaker on the mp3 audio helped me to see that God was not opposing women. It was the uncleanness of the flesh that he was dealing with. Any man who touched the woman during her monthly cycle or anything she sat on or laid on was declared unclean. This has always seemed harsh and unfair to me but I now understand that Father was dealing with the flesh and not the woman.

The good news is that Jesus came to set us free . . . men and women. Because of his death and resurrection, we've been given a new covenant. We've now been made clean and we no longer have to go through an elaborate cleansing ritual before entering his presence. He's taken up permanent residence in us so that we are now always in his presence. All distinctions between men and women have been done away with and together we can experience the love and acceptance that Father has given us through Jesus Christ.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Pleasing God

I was reading Hebrews 11 this morning and came to verse 6 which says, "But without faith it is impossible to please Him for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him."

Since coming to an understanding of grace, this scripture has always confused me. If God is pleased with us because we're in Christ and not because of our behavior, how does this line up with his grace? This scripture seems to be promoting a works mentality. I assume I must be missing something so I thought I'd bring it up to see if anyone has any thoughts because if Father's pleasure in me is based on my diligence to seek him then I'm not so sure I would pass.

Any thoughts?

Friday, March 7, 2008

A week-end with Wayne

This will be my last post for a few days since Wayne Jacobsen will be in S. C. and I'll be spending that time with him and a group of other believers who will be gathering together for a time of fellowship. For those unfamiliar with Wayne, he travels by invitation and goes for the purpose of encouraging the people of God. It's normally done in a more relational setting than in a "church" building. We'll be gathering in a home and, as far as I know, there is no set agenda. We'll just go with the flow. I understand he may not even be at some of the gatherings. It'll just be God's people getting together to share His life.

Anyway, never having met Wayne or been to any of his meetings, I can't say anything more. Actually, I've never met anyone who will be there except maybe through email. I'm sure I'll have more to share when I get back.

I wonder what my inbox will look like when the week-end is over. Yesterday, when I got home from work, my inbox had 22 emails in it. Mostly comments from all of you regarding different blogs. Then, I got at least 10 or 12 more during the evening. Catching up may be a job but it'll be worth it because of all of the good things that are shared. I'm the type of person who doesn't like to miss anything.

Well, I'll miss all of you. I feel like I'm leaving my family but I hope you all have a great week-end. Kent from Faithfully Dangerous will be hosting Paul Young, author of The Shack, for a few days. You might want to check out his blog next week. I'm sure he'll have some great things to share too.

Depression

I tend to be a very positive person so I don't normally stay down for very long. Since I've come to a greater understanding of this grace walk, my down times are even shorter. However, I do know that there are believers who suffer from deep depression. Because of our religious mindset, they suffer in silence afraid to share their deepest hurts. Some have been bold enough to share with others but even as they share the feelings of guilt and shame come through. Steve McVey posted this video on his blog discussing this topic and I decided to post it here as an encouragement to anyone who has experienced depression and the accompanying guilt and shame.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Thoughts about The Shack

I was going to make this a comment on Joel's blog but since it kept getting longer and longer I decided to post my own blog and share my impressions of The Shack. I'm really glad Joel brought up this subject. First, I'd like to share some background information.

I’ve been involved with Wayne Jacobsen’s ministry for about 2-3 years. I knew about The Shack when he first read it. I even got to vote on the cover design before it was published. Wayne and Brad spoke frequently about the book on their podcasts and they spoke very highly about it so my excitement was stirred up. I got the book several weeks after it was published. By that time, several people on Wayne’s forums had read it and the reports were glowing so I read it with the highest expectations. Unfortunately, I was very disappointed. Since the glowing reports kept coming in, I assumed I had missed something on the first reading so I decided to read it again and I did. Being goal oriented, I forced myself to finish it.

I’ve said it on Wayne’s forums so I don’t mind saying it here. I would not recommend the book to anyone. I don’t initiate conversations about the book since I don’t want to discourage anyone who might read it and enjoy it. I really have tried to find out what people like about the book but most of the comments are so vague that they’re not helpful. I’ve only gotten a couple of specific comments that have helped me to understand why those individuals are so taken with the book. I try not to share my thoughts about it unless someone else brings it up because I've sensed some defensiveness about it. Not from Wayne but from others who love and have commented about the book. I don’t think that’s a problem here so I feel I can freely share my thoughts. I hope I don't offend anyone who may have enjoyed the book.

I’m sure now everyone is wondering what I didn’t like about the book or if I’m one of those doctrine police Wayne talks about. Definitely not! I think very highly of Wayne Jacobsen as I do Paul Young and Brad Cummings. As a matter of fact, Wayne is going to be in S. C. for the first time this week-end and I plan to go meet him and spend time with him and the others who will gather there. I can't wait. I've been praying about meeting Wayne for a long time now.

My problem is that I just don’t like Paul’s style of writing. I don’t think symbolically so I couldn't figure out most of what he was trying to say. I much prefer someone to just say what they mean without me having to figure out what their intentions were. That’s why I was hoping people would tell me specifically what they liked about the book so that I could learn it too. Apparently I needed an interpreter to help me understand it. I can be pretty thick at times so the problem may be with me and not Paul.

Also, I had problems relating to the characters and some of the situations. In my opinion, the parts of the book that were supposed to be very dramatic were rather cheesy. Again, the problem may be with me and not with Paul but I'm just being honest about my impressions.

I hope I haven't discouraged anyone from reading the book. Everyone is different and will react differently. There are people who I trust and respect who have been greatly impacted by the book. Perhaps I'm in the minority or maybe the ones who like it are more vocal. I don't know and it really doesn't matter.

What is important is that believers not let this book become a source of division. Paul, Wayne and Brad never meant it to be that. It's merely a book that shares one man's journey into a deeper understanding of Father's love. Joel quoted what Wayne said and I think I'll repeat it again. "I never view a book as all good or all bad. It’s like eating chicken. Enjoy what you think is the meat and toss what you think are the bones." I think that's good advice when reading any book or listening to any teaching.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

He's An On Time God

I mentioned this song on Nicki's Godblog and I thought I'd post it here. If you haven't heard it before, I think you'll enjoy Dottie Peoples version. It really rocks.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Majoring in the minors

Joel has posted a series in his blog entitled The letter of the New Testament parts 1, 2, 3 and 4. His posts and all of the comments have been very enlightening.

This morning, while reading Hebrews 7, it occurred to me that one of the reasons why the New Testament is read as law is because we have a tendency to major on the minors. This particular chapter starts out telling the story of Abraham's meeting with Melchizedek and it relates how Abraham gave him a tithe of the spoils of war.

This portion of scripture has been used by legalists to demand that believers pay a tithe to their local "church." I believe this is an example of how organized religion has misused scripture to support their doctrines. Although the tithe is mentioned in these verses, I don't believe this scripture in any way supports the modern method of collecting tithes from God's people.

In most groups, the people are instructed to "pay" their tithes as though it is a bill or a debt that is owed. Verse 2, however, says that Abraham "gave" the tithe. Giving has an entirely different connotation than does paying. While paying refers to a debt that is owed, giving refers to a gift that is freely bestowed. (Look! I made a poem.)

Also, the entire book of Hebrews is a contrast between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. It was written to Jewish believers in order to prove to them that the New Covenent is a better covenant based on better promises.

Chapter 7 follows this same pattern. In this chapter, the writer is explaining that the priesthood of Jesus, which is similar to that of Melchizedek's, is a better priesthood than that of Aaron's and he uses Abraham's giving of a tithe to Melchizedek as proof of the superiority of Jesus' priesthood. In no way does this scripture encourage or teach New Testament believers to tithe. It was meant to be an encouragement to the church. Instead, it has been turned into a law that is keeping people in bondage.

Another example of how organized religion tends to major in the minors is Ephesians 4:11-13. These verses have been used to emphasize what has now become known as the 5-fold ministry gifts. This scripture has been used to teach God's people unquestioned obedience and submission to their leaders. Since all of the verses surrounding them are discussing unity among the believers, there is no reason to assume that verses 11-13 have changed emphasis and that now the 5-fold is the main topic.

With a legalistic mindset, scripture can be twisted to support a legalistic interpretation. Jesus, however, came to set us free from the law. He didn't come to establish a New Testament law.
Reading the scriptures through the eyes of grace instead of the law will cause us to see the freedom and life that is available to us as New Testament believers.