Letting the rest “rest”

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What might Christianity look like if the Gospels had become ink before the Epistles?  … “The Good News” – Andrew Blair

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I have heard many “let’s go back to The Early Church” exhortations.   I have thought it myself.    Seems to me that replacing much of the “Temple Industry” practices/preferences still endemic in religion today with a “pure” faith (like what Jesus taught) to be an exceedingly good idea.

Except at what point do we drop the flagpole of The Early Church … ?

Before or after The Cross … Before or after Paul … ?  If before The Cross where would the “The Big Reveal” of evangelising be?  And if after … would that be before or after The Ascension – and if after how much after – and if before … why?

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What might Christianity look like if the Gospels had become ink before the Epistles?

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What a profound question from my blog partner!

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For The Early Church was riddled with as much dissent as we have now – just that we prefer to paper over the cracks as we do today.  The Early Church writings have as many tellings-off and “scandals” as today.   The same “role model” churches as today.   As much missionary work as today.   A Head Office structure just like today.   And – just like today – it was (and remains) a numbers game …

“How many have you brought me?”

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I think it another good reason for going bible-blind.  For being selective not in finding proof-verses that kill debate, but in finding the essence of the bible and letting the rest “rest”.

We are addicted to bible study, bible teaching, bible preaching.  We have created an academic-theological language more complex than the most difficult of The Difficult Verses.  We have idolised the verses of burden and sacrifice and hardship and persecution – idolised the verses of soul-saving-counting – made it all such hard work!

We have gone bible-blind in the same way as we have gone Love-blind –  we read the bible and prefer to see darkly – we cannot live without sin and choose to Love sparingly.  And we have that wonderful mantra written on the hearts of every believer:

“We are all but sinners saved”

Which is the get-out-of-jail-free-card used again and again as an excusing of our own weaknesses (or addictions) – along with the superstition at the end of almost every prayer “… in the name of Jesus we ask, amen”.  Or else we won’t get what we ask for!

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What might Christianity look like if the Gospels had become ink before the Epistles?

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I think worth thinking about.

Thank you, Andrew.

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What is sin?

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Is perhaps, for me, now the most irrelevant question to debate.

We have The Law and the Old Covenant.  We have The Cross and the New Covenant.  We have this Book and that Book.  We have the Scales of This and by the Grace of That.  We have prayers of intercession and repentance.  We have The Garden and our unworthy impregnated genes ever since.  We had the ability to NOT sin taken from us (allegedly) … and if that isn’t enough – we make  the ability to Love (without condition) part of the sin package – so make the ability to Love (without condition) also beyond our wherewithal.

In fact – if I was to believe all the religious teachings I have been taught – I would think myself stripped and neutered of our Creator’s intended template and very much faulty-goods.

I used to think that.

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But then I got to thinking.

Why do we excuse ourselves … ?  Why is it that Love (without condition) is the remit only of God and not me … ?  Why must I wait until I die before I experience/become Love Without Condition … ?  And it’s all because of what I was taught.

So either I was unlucky and had a load of false teachers – or The Teaching I got has the seal of approval from God.

It can’t be both.

But more than that – I got to thinking that Sin is the fuel on which religions and faiths (of all creeds and colours) run …
* All require me to be indebted to a God.
* All require me to seek forgiveness (on a regular basis).
* All demand my obedience and sacrifice.
* All promise – in return – that I will live for ever.
* And all because of Sin.

Take away Sin and there is no reason for all the embedded/correct transactions and conditions.  But keep Sin embedded/accepted … and Love (without condition) becomes unattainable because of Sin.  Because “Love (without condition)” I was taught requires no Sin.  And as we are all “sinners” (I was taught) I cannot Love (without condition).  Catch-22 (or biblically correct).

Now call me unqualified in God, but the God I know hasn’t a bad bone in his vaporous body …

I haven’t been baptised … I don’t pray (in the taught way) a great deal … I am known to use the odd swear word or three … I am not perfect but neither am I imperfect BECAUSE of sin … I am “imperfect” because there are a load of different ways of seeing/doing the same stuff – a load of different conclusions/actions depending on who you ask.

So whatever I do (or don’t do) someone else would do it differently.  And when I am deemed to have been “wrong” or “bad” … ?  It’s a hop-skip-and-jump to “I have sinned”.  Because I always will.

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And then we are straight back to “what is sin?”

“When I was bad doing that – was it sin” … “When I was wrong to think that – is it sin … ?”  And then what level of involvement do I need from God … ?  One hundred Hail Mary’s or a spiritual slap on the wrist and don’t do it again?

And so I walk this earth confused AND convinced both at the same time.

Confused as to will I ever get out of this “sin-quicksand” I am taught that I am in – Convinced I never can get out because God says (allegedly) that I must live in this sin-quicksand my whole life.  Is it any wonder I consider myself incapable of Love (without condition)?  Is it any wonder that “I” cannot stop reaching for “my” selective proof-verses that prove(!) why “I” cannot Love (without condition) – and that “I” must sin?

It’s because God says – that’s why.

I am unqualified in God.  I have no pieces of paper from any earthly seminary or theological college.  I cannot speak Greek, Arabic or any other “biblical language”.  I don’t read the bible much, I don’t pray much, and I don’t go to church much.  I tick many boxes of a sinner of the Lost World – perhaps worse than that – perhaps a false teacher.

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But the God Soft Hands Jesus I know never sees me that way.  Never judges me that way.

GSHJ seems content to walk my wayward walk.  To be with me on Sundays when we both should be in church.  To talk with me about the bible without ever opening a page.  To celebrate the good in me and comfort the bad I can and am from time to time.  God Soft Hands Jesus has all the time in the world for Love without condition.

But has little or none for sin.

Isn’t that The Way?  Isn’t that being a disciple? 

Isn’t that what he spent three years teaching and living?  Isn’t that why he took the established “church” to task so often?  Didn’t he find being “biblically correct” something incorrect?  Didn’t he question “privileges of service”?  Didn’t he focus on Love (without condition) with ne’er a “how many times have your prayed” …read the bible … attended church … volunteered for this that and also the other … how much have you tithed … are you dressed appropriately … are you a man (you are welcome) or a woman (cant lead I’m afraid) … ?

We see Pharisees only in the bible.  We see The Law only in others.  We think we are correct in our bible understanding.  We buy-into being a mature or immature Christian.  We love our Christian celebs and writers.  We praise ourselves for our ecumenical broad-mindedness.  We think the pews in church should be full to overflowing.  We think our church better than their church.

Even when we read the bible we don’t “read the bible” it seems.

But we do worry about sin.

We don’t think we can ever escape it.  Nor do we think we can Love without condition.  Which means this wonderful planet will always be a sin-riddled-cess-pit to us.  All because we obsess over sin.

All because we need sin more than Love.

Thank you.

Paul

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Religion like in the good old days

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HEADLINE: “In U.S., Decline of Christianity Continues at Rapid Pace”

OPENING CONTENT: “The religious landscape of the United States continues to change at a rapid clip. In Pew Research Center telephone surveys conducted in 2018 and 2019, 65% of American adults describe themselves as Christians when asked about their religion, down 12 percentage points over the past decade.”

Who thinks Christians are a Resource …?

The samples from these political polls are not as large as the Landscape Studies (even when all of the political polls conducted in a year are combined), but together, 88 surveys from 2009 to 2019 included interviews with 168,890 Americans.

So let’s slice and dice …

Religious “nones” are growing faster among Democrats than Republicans, though their ranks are swelling in both partisan coalitions … Furthermore, the data shows a wide gap between older Americans (Baby Boomers and members of the Silent Generation) and Millennials in their levels of religious affiliation and attendance …  The data suggests that Christians are declining not just as a share of the U.S. adult population, but also in absolute numbers …  Catholics no longer constitute a majority of the U.S. Hispanic population …  There is still a gender gap in American religion …  Religious “nones” now make up fully one-third of Democrats …  The religious profile of white Democrats is very different from the religious profile of racial and ethnic minorities within the Democratic Party …  The share of U.S. adults who are white born-again or evangelical Protestants now stands at 16%, down from 19% a decade ago … 

 

In U.S., Decline of Christianity Continues at Rapid Pace

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Is this what it’s all about?
The labels and percentages.  The numbers and the affiliations.
Keeps them from seeing Love.
Keeps you from being Love

You think you are persecuted?
You are a Resource.

 

 

Just like the good old days.

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I was confusing care with treatment

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“I was confusing care with treatment”

A post with that in the middle is worth a read.  Confusing “care” and “treatment” – and this from a qualified practicing professional?

“People who we had believed weren’t able to speak started speaking,” Thomas said.

This post is about one working with older folks-dementia.  That familiar “the lights are on but no one’s home”  fear which many have at some point:  Will that happen to me? … Will I die to those I love before I die? …  Will I know those I love will still love me?  …  How will that happen? …  How does that work?

The title of the post … “Making lives meaningful in old age”, Otrazhenie … is too specific for me.

Smacks of function and form.

“Meaningful” suggests value is only found in contributing, in functioning as we expect (whatever that means).

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But “I was confusing care with treatment” applies to me and how I live with others right now.  Not as a qualified professional but as a human being amongst human beings.  As one who is the same more than I am different.  One who needs no qualifications to “meet you where YOU are”.

One whose “qualifications” can often get in the way.

Confusing care with treatment is something I do right now every day: “You have a problem, let me fix it … You look distracted, let me refocus you …. You are bored, well get off your butt and start living again … You just want to be “heard” – that’s it? .… You don’t want to talk about it – well I can’t help you then … Open up to me – I am on your side … How dare you treat me like that – you make it hard for me to love you … I think you owe me an apology!”

I confuse care with treatment fixing things.

Fixing things is what we do: “Problem, solution, outcome … Don’t thank me – it’s what I do!” And we move on to the next problem.  And where there are no problems to fix we I so often find one: “Are we really as happy as we should be … We seem to be plateauing here … We don’t talk like we used to talk … Are you bored with me us?”

“They laughed their butts off,” Thomas said…. They were so patently incompetent that most everyone dropped their guard and simply pitched in – the residents included… “

Being qualified in God is accepted as a calling, a vocation, a necessary step into being a pastor, a shepherd, a priest , a vicar a minister – one able to lead (those who want to be led).  But what about those who don’t.  Who see no reason or need to be “led” from a Lost World of sin and depravity to a “woke” world of salvation and service?  A world wherein burden and sacrifice figure highly.  Where “fitting-in” becomes even more important than before.  Where “treatment” of the lost soul takes precedence over “care” of another human being.

Religion trains “treatment” – trains fixing things – trains leading the lost to salvation.

“People who we had believed weren’t able to speak started speaking,” Thomas said.

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We can all speak.  But we are taught to remain silent.  And (if we are being really honest) the training of qualifications in God demand silence.

Demand the leader leads and the led listen.  For what use is a shepherd if the sheep are all over the place?  Isn’t that where the old anecdote about a shepherd breaking the leg of a rebellious flock-member so the rest of the flock can be kept safe comes from … ?

That is “treatment”.

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None of us have to be qualified to be “qualified” …

Love IS the great leveller.

Which is why Love is ALWAYS the greatest of these.

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Wowwwwww!

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We fight so much over the bible and whether what we believe is correct or incorrect.

We fight so much over the wonderful gift we have been given.

We fight over this so much we create it a problem.

We then attack each other with “love” because of this problem we have created.

And in the process make “love” a problem too.

And we waste so much.

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Cruising Facebook as you do I came across this video.

It has overlaid slushy music.  It has the “inspirational” tag.  

Yet the ordinary extraordinary ordinary human being at the heart of this video …

This ordinary human being who never mentions the bible or God or all that stuff we fight about …

That we make a problem …

That we can’t forgive …

… … … 

One word:

Wowwwwww!

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(see what you think)

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Thanks –

paulfg

 

Become childlike

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Just like anything in the bible – I can ask of that statement many questions:  what age is “childlike” … what culture … what social demographic … what educational level … what time and place … does ALL THAT apply to me or not … ?

And isn’t that the main reason we interrogate the bible:  Does that apply to me or can I ignore it?

Become childlike.

If my definition of “childlike” is of a spoiled brat always wanting and manipulating others to get their own way – then I think I am missing something profound.

Likewise, if my definition of “all that” requires the evidence and correctness to allow myself to be instructed to comply – I am missing something profound and simple and commonsense.

Like Love. 

Without condition.

Become childlike.

Is the essence of something simple.

Something beyond “innocence” – beyond “youth” – beyond “education” – beyond “naivety”.   Beyond all those “conditions” we surround ourselves with (as barriers to the perceived vulnerability of Love without Condition being childlike).

But isn’t “childlike” to have no vulnerability – to be unsurrounded (by all the stuff we surround ourselves with)?

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I am prone to facial spots.

A teenage affliction – not a “six-decader” affliction.  It marks me out(!!) – colleagues and family and friends … their eyes are irresistibly drawn to look/glance/away.

We mature grown-ups cannot help but be drawn to impediment and/or difference.

But it isn’t the glance.

It is the absence of anything but the glance.

And in the absence are the conditions:

I mustn’t mention this or I’ll be seen to be rude.  I’ll ignore this impediment and/or difference and pretend I haven’t noticed.  We’ll continue as if there is no impediment and/or difference – even though we both know there is.

Childlike?

Children don’t even notice or if they do they ask, “What’s that?”  And I answer – it’s a spot.  And they say “Oh.”  And that’s the end of it.  The impediment and/or difference is no longer even visible to them.

It no longer registers.

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Isn’t that what we all seek from love?

The unconditional de-registering to all the impediments and/or differences we all carry through life?   Our scars, weaknesses, preferences, blemishes, strengths that become liabilities, good stuff that becomes tarnished through living, bad stuff that becomes our self-defence responses –

Isn’t Love someone who doesn’t register any of that stuff to see the real me inside?

Like a child.

A child doesn’t register if I am rich or poor, handsome or ugly, competent or fearful, bigoted or inclusive, gay or hetero, religious or atheist … But a child knows if I am happy or sad, angry or calm, ill or healthy, connecting or withdrawn, fun or boring … And THOSE “registers” are immediate AND immediately reversible …

Because in the moment is what I am.

Nor is that connection tarnished in them as in our accumulated “baggage of living”.

Children are blind to so much we are not.

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So too the bible.

Bible-blind is not to dismiss the bible – but to embrace the bible in the moment.  Is not to find a counter argument.  Is not to research what is correct and what is not.  Is not to find what I must do – what I can avoid doing – what I must defend as incorrect – what I must defend as correct.  That is not the bible-blind I am becoming.   The bible-blind I am becoming is to see Love always.   To see imagery – poetry – parables – religion doing what religion must – and not let it register over and above Love.

And I have come to think that we are all bible-blind …  like this –

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“I am biblically AND scripturally correct!”

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Is also bible-blind.

Just a grown-up educated qualified institutionally correct conditional blindness to Love.

And whichever blindness we choose or allow – we will find the “evidence” and “fact” and “truth” and “correctness” in the same bible.

Because just as Love does not instruct but invites and desires – so too the bible.

Just as You have seen it written but I say … ” 

Just as in every moment we have a choice to allow or to disallow.

To Love with condition (which ain’t Love) or without (which is).

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Become childlike.

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Isn’t that the same as …

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“The greatest of these is … “?

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The perfect time to walk the walk and talk the talk

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Hey Jesus, will you be attending tomorrow’s media focus meeting?  We have a few issues needing your input.  No biggie if you can’t – we are well-versed (guffaw!) in what needs to be done – but might be nice if you showed your face to the troops on the ground … the personal touch always makes a difference.

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Here in the UK we are in the middle of the latest election campaign.  All the main parties are making all the usual pledges and plans and “promises”.  All of which may or may not be acted upon come the result and the future “plans, pledges and promises” once the dust settles.

I remember the amazement when Trump acted upon the pre-election rhetoric of “The Wall”.  WOW!  A politician who’s actually doing what he said he would do!  Revolutionary!

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And that other conversation – if Jesus was around today would he be using social media to get the message out?  Would he – like Trump – spend his evenings/early mornings not in prayer, but in twitting.  Firing out policy and process to a global audience well-trained to salivate at each bunch of limited characters.  An audience trained to applaud or puke.  But whatever your response – we’re all are in awe of “the reach”!  The numbers.  The size of the audience.  The absence of anonymity.  Of our inability to ignore the man and his pronouncements.

God would had to have had some of that (we say with envy)!

Make disciples of all nations?

Jesus would have done that in a heartbeat if we had twitter back then!  Imagine all the Insta feeds!  All those “little children” pics and storyline!  That would have got the message out ….  Instead of the dusty peeps we would have the techno peeps!  All heads-down with micro-targeting!  Bringing the message in just the right way to just the right people!  Just like pyramid-selling … One disciple makes XXX believers … XXX believers make XX disciples … makes XXXX believers … makes XXX disciples makes …

Numbers are so much easier to work with than all that “campaign-trail-anecdotal-stuff” (we call the Gospels today).

I am not so convinced Jesus would have.

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My reasoning?

If the Son of God picked the perfect time to walk the walk, talk the talk, and be The Man amongst his creations … why then? Why not now?

Why NOT hold back the eternity of infinity for another 2000 years – a mere drop in the ocean of time that is eternity?  Why then when even “reading and writing” was a biggie … when even carrier pigeons hadn’t been invented … when civil rights – human rights – were not on the agenda … when social housing and social equality – inclusion and inclusivity – were not even a pipe-dream …

Why THEN?

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If that was the perfect time – then I accept that was the perfect time.

Which implies big numbers … big data … global reach … all that “Great Commission” logistics “stuff” run by money even today … perhaps that is not “it”.

Perhaps it’s not “how many I bring” to Him.  Perhaps it’s something else.

Perhaps it’s all about me – who I am – what I am – who I have become – who I can become – who I choose to be – what I choose to be.  Perhaps my one insignificant drop in this vast ocean of humanity (over all eternity) does matter.

Perhaps I am the reason for all of this.

Not in what I tweet, not in what I preach, not in how many I bring (or don’t) … but in MY journey – MY choices – MY decisions – MY relationships – MY living and MY loving.

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Because the “campaign trail” notes (we call the Gospels) that I read are not about global reach – but about those who sought-out (rather than those who were sought-after).

So I question whether Jesus today would reach for his smartphone in the dead of night and fire off some “global reach” message.  I think we would find him as we journeyed our own lives one day at a time – one bumping into one someone at a time.  And come to think about …

That’s pretty much how it still happens today.

(isn’t it?)

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eyes on God

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There are times I am caught and held in the moment of a word, a scent, a sound …

This post caught me – moved me one way with sadness and then another with joy. Even today it seems we have to break free of reading the bible right. Maybe especially today.

And it is moments like this post which remind me we keep on doing it to each other! And I have no idea why.

Thank you Rebekah!

Paul
((hugs))

My Beautiful One

My sister is home from the hospital now. They gave her some medicine to be on for a while. I asked her if she cared if I wrote on my blog that she was officially diagnosed with bipolar disorder. She said, “No, I don’t mind. This is reality, know what I’m sayin?”

Yes, I do. I know what she’s saying.

One of my favorite stories in the Bible used to be the one about Peter walking on water. I say “used to be” because that was before all these voices out there got me so self-conscious about seeing yourself instead of Jesus in the pages of the Bible.

I felt like I related a lot to Peter. He seemed to be the one to get himself in situations.  He was eager, but misguided. Determined, but lacking. One minute he tells the Lord to depart from him, and yet another time…

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Being number #1

Jesus had a connection with children. We would be suspicious of that today I think.

Avery is a growing child. The daughter of someone I love like a sister. Avery writes with clarity and simplicity. It reminds me of me before I made everything complicated. And then spent the following decades unpicking it all to reclaim clarity and simplicity. I think that’s what Jesus sees in children – clarity and simplicity. It makes “the greatest of these” easy-peasy.

So Avery, with Melissa’s permission and oversight, if you want to join the (mostly absent) Church Set Free list of authors – please let me know and I will make it happen.

I think Jesus was on to something 🙂

Thank you Avery.

Meditations for Kids

Hi I am Avery, Melissa’s other daughter. I would like to share with you about kindness and your part in the world.

I think everyone can show kindness. A lot of people find it hard to show it. For most people it is hard because they either have stress, anger or just are not in the right mood. Well just so you know, everyone feels the same way at times. We are all human beings with feelings. Just because you are in a bad mood does not mean you still can’t show kindness. Actually showing kindness puts you in a better mood. Let’s say you are mad at someone, after if you apologize and be kinder to that person it puts you and them in a better mood. It is a win-win! You don’t always have to be perfect though, everyone makes mistakes,. You just have to try your best…

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It’s just no one can see it anymore

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Over at justmebeingcurious today …

“Love conquers death.  Love conquers a hard-heart.  Love’s the first and last thing we each know – whether by love’s presence OR by love’s absence.”

As we say at Church Set Free: Love is always the answer.

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“When were you last at confession?  When were you last at church?  When did you last read the bible?  When did you last pray to God the Father?  When did you last give?  When did you last … “

As we say in church.

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This Sunday, why not spend a few minutes with

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Dearly beloved …

As we gather here today …

 

 

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Thank you,

Paul

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