Glorious Good Friday

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“I have suggested in conversations that whilst church and religion is a great “starter pack”, just like kindergarten, there should come a time when “church” says, “That’s it – now leave here and find the world, find others like you, grow as you will never grow staying here – goodbye.”

I have never had a positive response to that.”

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Another “reflection” on the annual Easter Festival now underway.

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“Either “The bible says we should gather together – that is church”, or “But where would we go, and how would we find others like us?”

Just like questioning Easter.  Tinkered-with and sexed-up to keep it fresh – but essentially the same thing year after year – a surprise party without the surprise.

Does this sound jaundiced?”

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“Yes it sounds jaundiced.

Because there is an alternative.  To actually be one of those “radical faith festival celebs” (just without the festival or the celeb).  Radical faith is no more than thinking outside the (religious) box – enjoying the freedom to allow God out of that box – finding “nourishment” more and more in the everyday AND the everywhere AND in everyone.”

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Why not head over to “Does this sound jaundiced?” and have a look – it is Good Friday after all.

Thank you –

Paul

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Making God in our own likeness (r)

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We are built for the light.
The light of life. The light of new living.
We are built for the light.

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We are built for the dark.
The dark of night. The dark of renewal.
We are built for the dark.

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You are each built diverse.
Strength in diversity. Richness in living.
Why do we not value diversity?

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We are taught to fear.
Not good fear. We are taught bad fear.
Why do you do that?

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You are taught control.
Not control to balance. To control all-everyonething-crap.
What “diversity” in that?

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We are taught un-love.
Transaction of fear. To confuse one with the other.
And now you fear love.

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You talk of false teachers.
Those who teach unfear as love.
We prefer correctness and belonging.
We prefer a flock the same we call diverse.
A monogamous diversity all the same.
Safe to bitch and unchange.
Safe to whine and unlove.
Safe to transact “love” and “law”.
And blame “God”.
Or somethingone else.
Have no other gods … ?
We have made biblically and scripturally correct
Your new God of Gods.

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Correctness in fear (of being wrongalone)

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And so you teach correctly
To (correctly) fear and (correctly) unlove
To (correctly) seek sin and (correctly) transact grace
To (correctly) bind together those who (correctly) follow
To (correctly) out-reach those who (incorrectly) unfollow
We don’t want our (correct) bible changed (really)
We don’t want change (really)
And this is taught as correct (biblically)
And that results in fear (and unlove)
Which isn’t false teaching at all (really)
You teach
Our new God of Gods (really)

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But taught un-falsely correctly

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(r) = reproduced from “Making God in our likeness” – Just me being curious 

Achieving unconditional love

 

If Unconditional Love

Really is

“Unconditional”

Against what

Am I measuring my achievement

Every time I believe

That I have achieved

A state of

Loving

Unconditionally?

 

(i.e.  how is

any achievement

“unconditional”)

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See today’s post:

“These few words of orgasm”

which prompted that question

Love is Not a Metaphor

©susanirenefox
©susanirenefox

The Lord was drinking some water out of a glass. There was nothing wrong with the glass, but the water tasted terrible. This was in a white building on a vast wasteland. The engineers within wore white uniforms and bootees on their shoes and gloves on their hands. The water had traveled many hundreds of miles through wide pipes to be there.

What have you done to my water? The Lord asked. My living water…

Oh, they said, we thought that was a metaphor. (*(©2016, Joy Williams)

Love can conquer fear and hate if we allow ourselves to love.

At the same time, love will cost us something.

Agápē love is the highest form of love. It is the kind of unconditional love which comes from God –a love that transcends behavior or circumstance.

It is the love the apostle Paul described in his first letter to the Corinthians. He urged them to use their Spiritual gifts from this place of agápē love, and explained to them if they did not, their gifts would be useless and bankrupt.

Love is patient; love is kind. There is no arrogance in love. It’s never rude or crude; its not self-absorbed, easily upset or keep score of wrongs. Love doesn’t celebrate injustice, but truth is love’s delight. Love never gives up, never looks back and never loses faith. Love is always hopeful endures all things through every circumstance. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

As my focus becomes more about following Christ and pointing to him as a loving, compassionate and inclusive God, some of my own brothers and sisters in Christ have denounced me for this focus and said, “You are not my sister.” Some have even defended Christ, saying, “Jesus wasn’t a weakling!”

On the contrary, our God is powerful; Jesus is powerful and does not need defending. Agápē love is powerful. Agápē love is courageous. Agápē love is dangerous.

You cannot be a weakling or timid or a coward to love like that. It takes being filled with strength, fearlessness and sacredness to bestow agápē love.

Conversely, if you are unwilling or unable to love like God, you have not let go of powerless, fear and disapproval. You have not yet allowed the fullness of agápē love to replace those other things that choke out the love of God.

God is love is not a metaphor.

Love God is not a metaphor.

Love your neighbor is not a metaphor.

Love each other is not a metaphor.

They will know you are My disciples by your love is not a metaphor.

Love your enemy is not a metaphor.

Perfect love casts out fear is not a metaphor.

I am thankful today for my Father’s love, for the love of Jesus Christ. I will be thankful tomorrow for the fullness of His unconditional love, grace and forgiveness. I am thankful He has taught me how to give agápē love.

I pray this day that tomorrow you pray a humble and sincere prayer of thanksgiving and choose agápē love.

Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit—you choose. (Proverbs 18:21, The Msg)

 

*(©2016, Joy Williams, Wet, from ninety-nine stories of GOD, Tin House Books)

Unconditional Love – (III)

The bible says a lot of things.  A lot of it I don’t get.  I have never got.

Which is bit like loving someone but not knowing them at all.  And at some point – always at some point – the nurtured “image” will crack and poison will ooze.  That kind of let-down hurts – is not pretty – is usually a relationship breaker.

So just what has that got to do with God and the bible?

Well … how many “Christians” do you know who have been hurt by “God”?  How many folk do you know who blame God for letting bad things happen?  Who blame God for anything that is not “good and loving” (and usually – but not always – “unconditional love”) for them?

I know loads.  I was one of them.  I am a Christian who blamed God whilst at the same time excusing God.  I am someone who created my own God – my creation not His.  And to do that I had to excuse God time and time again – I had to sweep all the messy bits under the carpet.  And I knew they were/are there – but I would never admit that (not out loud anyway).

Because the real God is not someone I could love.  Not the God in the bible (and the God in the bible is unlikely to love me either – not really).  But I am a Christian. I was brought up in a church-going, God-fearing, God-loving family.  I read the bible.  I sat in church.  I sang in the choir.  I was confirmed.

And I never knew God at all.

I knew the God everyone told me about.  The sanitised God.  The neat and tidy God.  The God the vicar talked of.  The God in the bible reading notes.  The God in the prayers we learned, the hymns we sang, the God in the church socials, the God everyone agreed on – the neat and tidy God – the sanitised God – the God who, unless you believe in Him, will fry you in Hell for ever God!

And I was a Good Child – so I believed what I was told – I accepted what I was told.  I worked at being good. I worked at being forgiven.  I worked at fitting in.  All of which involved not being me at all.  All of which involved a lot of public pretending.  Pretending at being a Good Christian.  Doing my Mum and Dad proud.  Doing what was expected.  And because rejecting God comes at a cost.  Rejecting God means rejecting people who believe in God.  The people who believed in me.  Because when I rejected God I let people down.  But I have to say this –

It is really liberating!

Did you know that un-believers are as honest and dishonest … as full of bull and truth … as loving and as hateful … as hardworking and as lazy … as false and as sincere as any “believer”?  Mostly the difference is that us believers dress up on a Sunday, smile our “face smile” a lot, and would never tell you to your face that you are talking bollocks (although we will behind your back).  And we all feel guilty about so much – and for so much of the time – without it fixing anything at all!  But – apart from that – I couldn’t tell you who was a believer and who was not a believer.

Could you?

And did you know that un-believers can (and do) kick the shit out of the bible and God and not feel ANY guilt at all!  Did you know that un-believers can live how they want – find their own way – their own morals – their own ethics.  And – yes – that will be somewhere where they also have to fit in.  That will also be with those who see things the same as them.  And there will the same codes and “language” to learn.  And there will be consequences for not fitting-in, for not learning the right language, for not being “one of us” (or should that be “one of them”?).

Like I said – can you really tell the difference? (I won’t tell if you don’t)

And that is what hurts me more and more now.

I walked away from all of “that” decades ago. Because “that” doesn’t give God a good name. That isn’t love. That isn’t worship. That is like having an affair. That IS cheating on those I love and God (not to mention my own morals and ethics)!  And “that” is just plain WRONG!

And now – because He and I found each other again – the “old answers” are no answers at all.  The “Good Christian” stuff is no longer enough. The God in the bible IS messy – he IS inconsistent!  And I want to know why – I want know the real God – and I am not waiting any longer.  I am not being put off any more – and I will certainly not wait until I die.  Because that means pretending – again – just in a more grown-up way this time around.

And I am beginning to think that almost all Christians carry this dilemma.

The God in the bible is not a Loving God. The God in the bible is not a consistent God. The God in the bible leaves no physical trace behind so many of these world shattering events we read of in the bible. And He did wipe out whole nations – did demand so much blood and gore – and is really easy to make fun of – as atheists do …

Atheists usually know the bible so much better than “us” – just like the devil in fact (don’t we learn that the devil also uses the bible against us).  And all our best memorised verses come tumbling down.  We are mocked.  So we call that “persecution”.  We call that “defending God” (which earns us a few more points to be redeemed in heaven).  Good Christians have to reconcile all of “that” with THE message of love and grace and salvation.  And we do.  We do that really well.  We are believers.

“You cannot tempt us – get thee behind me Satan (and all that) – I am on the narrow road to the narrow gate!  Yay!”

And I also wonder more and more if that is why I see so many slumbering Christians. So …

Will the real God please stand up … ?

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And now for some serious bible study …

“This church isn’t loving enough!”

Why do you suppose it is that some churches are considered to be “loving” while others aren’t? Maybe a better question would be, “Why is my local church more loving sometimes than it is other times?”

I remember one time several years ago when I received a phone call one Saturday evening from a very ticked off woman from church who spent at least 20 minutes yelling at me because someone else in our church had been rude to her: “What happened to the love in this church?” she demanded to know.

To tell you the truth, I wasn’t exactly feeling the love in that moment either. She abruptly ended the call by telling me that unless I did something pretty darn quick that she was leaving for good.

So often I hear things like this…

Why are some churches “loving” and others aren’t  why is my local church more loving sometimes than it is other times?

I don’t know about anybody else, but I think the answer to these questions lies in the very nature of love itself. Perhaps we can find a clue in the great “Love Chapter” of 1 Corinthians 13…

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (13:4-7 emphasis added)

These are some of the most beautiful and familiar verses in all of Scripture, and I’m sure that if anyone reads these verses and then goes back to the little incident I just recounted, you’ll come up with a working theory on the questions I posed… I hope that before going further, everyone will read the entirety of the chapter for context… Of course, speaking of context, this chapter is in a larger section on spiritual gifts that runs from chapter 12-15 and thus love is a side note. Theologically speaking the real “Love Chapter” in the New Testament is 1 John 4, a very interesting bit of writing to say the least.

In verses 1-6 John is speaking about the spirit of antichrist which is afoot in this world and that may seem odd in a chapter about love, yet God’s love in us is the perfect antidote for the spirit of antichrist. John tells us that we have overcome that dark spirit already (4:4).

At first glance vv. 7 ff. appear to be redundant in the extreme. Yet upon closer examination this isn’t the case, for John in these verses is making the case for love itself, and he is doing so in a manner that is simplicity itself: God loved us and sent his Son to die for us, therefore we love Him. God loves our brothers and sisters, therefore so do we. Since all of this is true, anyone who does not love their brother and sister does not love God.

Notice how John links God’s love to us in 4:10 to Christ as “atoning sacrifice”, and recall that it is by his atoning sacrifice that our sins can be forgiven tying God’s love together with His forgiveness. Look carefully and you will see the same approach again in verse 14 where John tells us that by God’s love we have received the Holy spirit and give testimony that Jesus is Savior (by forgiveness of sins). Notice the same linkage in both verse 17 and verse 18 by making reference to the connection between love and forgiveness on the day of judgment. And then go back to the end of verse 17:

In this world we are like Jesus.

What was Jesus like? Jesus was the very embodiment of love in action who brought forgiveness into the world.

The chapter ends with this:

Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister. (4:21b)

We are commanded to love one another, and what is plain in 1 John 4 is that love is inexorably linked to forgiveness, and how many times should we forgive our brother, seven times?

Well, I think you already know the answer to that one.

Combine this with 1 Corinthians 13:5… love does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love forgives first and foremost.

“Church” is not an institution. Rather it is a community of people who love Jesus Christ and wish to follow Him. Yet it is the human condition that as long as each of us is imperfect, we will all sooner or later say or do something that we shouldn’t have said or done. If anyone who reads this believes him or herself immune from error, please let us know in a comment so that we might recognize you for your achievement of perfection!

If on the other hand, you like I myself have not quite achieved such an exalted status just yet, them please understand that you will need forgiveness right along with everyone else at some point in time, and that all of us need to forgive if indeed we love one another, for there is no love without forgiveness. Since church is not an institution, but instead is a collection of believers in community, when someone stumbles, it is our place to love them, not to complain about them to others. If they have upset us, then it is our place to forgive them, not to condemn them, and if we feel that our local congregation is not loving enough, then it is for us to love more and forgive more, not for us to complain more and to become angry, for anger and complaining are not the actions of love.

Does that sound crazy to you?

If so, please remember this: You ARE the church; if you don’t love, then who will?

Church is simple. But it isn’t.

I spent many years thinking “IT” was simple. Unlike science, the arts, medicine, romance and love.  “IT” was computers.  That’s all.  Simple.  And even though I never understood computers – I knew what “IT” was.

And then I found I didn’t.

IT is not “computers”. IT is lots of things others than computers. Networks, programming, data management, servers, patch panels, coding, testing, AND helpdesks.  “IT” is as diverse as science and medicine and romance and love.

Which makes it simpler and more complicated – both at the same time.

“When the crowds were increasing, Jesus began to say, “This generation is an evil generation; it asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah. For just as Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh, so the Son of Man will be to this generation. The queen of the South will rise at the judgment with the people of this generation and condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to listen to the wisdom of Solomon, and see, something greater than Solomon is here! The people of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the proclamation of Jonah, and see, something greater than Jonah is here!” ” Luke 11:29-32

I used to be guilty of that same “thinking” with Church: Church is simple.  God is simple.  Love is simple.  So Church – which is all of that is also simple:

“See, something greater than Jonah is here!”

So simple, that – God in the Old Testament, and God Soft Hands Jesus in the New Testament – both say it – time after time after time after …

And then I found it wasn’t.

The first time around Church never hurt me. The first time around (at fourteen years of age) I decided I was “acting” at being a Good Christian – and I walked away from Church (and developed a knowing disdain in the decades which followed).  What I never really understood (or if I did, never cared enough to really “get”) – was that “Church” is people.  Church is ONLY people.  Just  as “IT” or “science” or “the arts” or “medicine” is all about “people”.

Church is simple. But it isn’t.  Church is people.  But it isn’t.  Church is love.  But it isn’t.  Church is all are welcome.  But all are not.

“See, something greater than Jonah is here!”

Church is relationship.  And our relationship with God is just the tip of the iceberg.  The one with “people” is the rest.  And people need (even though unconditional love doesn’t). People do need (and love does not).  People need to feel safe.  People need to be heard.  People need to know they matter.  People NEED to matter.  And to God we do. To God we can do no wrong.  Not a wrong that means He cuts us off.  That He rejects us for.  That He never speaks to us again because of.  That He gives up on us for.  But people do that to people.

The bible is stuffed full of people giving up on God and each other. And how God never gives up on anyone.  Ever.

“Make disciples of all nations.”

Is that why “this bit” is often quoted but rarely delivered? Because we give up on each other so quickly … because we “spend our love” as we spend our money … on special things and special people?  And “People of Church” do the same – spend on the people who see things (and God) just as I do – the ones who will also “spend theirs” with me?  And if “they” don’t … ?  We BOTH choose to walk away. People letting people down.

The “second time around” Church has taught me this.

That, if “making disciples” was always top of the list – we would never give up on each other. And we would find ourselves (surprise, surprise) doing that “other bit” … the “Through this they will know you are my disciples” bit.  The “unconditional love in reality” bit.

Because if unconditional love “works” for me and God – but ONLY with you so long as you agree with me … Then we will screw each other and God every time.

Which brings me to the “unspoken prayer” I have been taught the second time around …

“We pray you bring light and wonder to the lost and lonely, dear Father. We ask that you heal the hurting, dear God.  We fall at Your feet in wonder and awe.  We worship You.  We love You as you Love us.  And we pray for the fallen.  We pray for the un-churched.  We bring our petition to you and ask this for others.  But for myself … just a mere trifle … a small detail you can so easily grant.  Release me from the burden of making disciples in my own church.  It takes so much time.  And I have so many more urgent things to do for You (otherwise You know  I wouldn’t even ask at all).  You know me, dear Father – I am Yours!  So thank you dear Father – in Jesus’ name, Amen.”

What is that other “bit” we all say … ?

Be careful what you wish for …

 

>> and a PostScript – a PS:

You might want to pop across to Just Me Being Curious and  – “My naked God Soft Hands Jesus” – also written today.  These (three) posts seem to be as one: this post, one by Don Merritt, and now “My naked GSHJ”.  Over to you …  

🙂