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A Commonsense Hope and the Need for Balance – Part 2

We do not need to think about God all the time, pray to Him, ask Him permission to do certain things and the like - it makes people really quite weird. In the Institutional Church, believers have trained themselves to inject Biblical statements and catchphrases into every other sentence. I recall listening to a Free Believers Network podcast in which one of the hosts, Kim Scott, who said that she literally had to wean herself off saying words like, “God, Jesus and church”, every other sentence. That might sound heretical to some people, but it is common-sense and practical. We can honour God, whilst at the same time, not being over-spiritual to the point of appearing fake and weird.

I listened to the The Free Believers Network podcast today entitled Spiritual Veal – 8th October 2010. In this podcast, Darin and Aimee discussed the way in which Christians often wait for God to do things in their lives, often in supernatural ways, instead of just doing something for themselves. I think there really is a need to just get on with life like any other normal person, making decisions as necessary without complicating things by introducing layers of religious performance. Christians become rather weird when they impose all sorts of religious, seemingly Biblical concepts on their lives. Life becomes complicated when almost every single decision that you make must first be validated against the Bible, prayed about and discussed with a prominent member of the church you attend.

Charismatic preachers have given us the impression that a life in Christ will always be exciting, prosperous and full of miracles - but I don't get that impression at all. Surely, miracles by definition are rare? Revivals in the past, such as the Azusa Street Revival are often held-up as a standard to which all Christians are to attain through diligent spiritual practice. But I wonder to myself if such revivals are simply one-off experiences that occur from time-to-time, rather than something which is to be ushered in through our own efforts and experienced on a daily basis? All I know is that when I was praying for revival at Kensington Temple during the late nineties, it was really quite weird, obsessive and oppressive. Furthermore, nothing substantial and lasting happened.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t get the impression that God is desperately trying to move in the lives of Christians in order to make them perform miracles so they can stand out in the crowd. I don’t find many parents disappointed with their children because they aren’t prodigies, such as a maths genius or a music maestro. Most parents love their children even when they come out with naïve statements that make no sense, make mistakes or fall on the floor and hurt themselves. Neither do I find children who are devastated at performing a simple school play rather than appearing in a professional Hollywood production. I’m not opposed to miracles, they have their place, but I’m not going to get obsessive about them like I was encouraged to do in the past.

There really is a need to accept yourself as you are other people as they are and the circumstances of your life as they are. There is a great deal of peace and joy, even prosperity to an extent, to be found in contentment.

A Commonsense Hope and the Need for Balance – Part 1

A recent Free Believers Network podcast episode entitled Getting God to Perform – 5th October 2010, very much summed-up where I feel I am right now from a spiritual perspective. This podcast also relates how charismatic Christians have been fed a diet of incredible stories of how God moved in powerful ways in the past. All of this has the effect of prompting us to hold on to specific expectations of how God is going to move powerfully in our own lives, typically through some sort of miraculous manifestation.

People who put their hope in something incredible happening in their life reminds me of naïve teenage girls who dream of becoming pop stars. The X-Factor has become very popular now: what makes the X-Factor hugely popular is not just the truly talented people who appear on the show – it is also the people who believe they can sing, but couldn’t sing to save their life. I think one of the most extravagant examples of this is that of two teenage girls who called themselves “Ablisa” – you can see the video on You Tube: X Factor 2010 - Girl Gets Punched Onstage (Full Ablisa Audition). What got these two started on this track was probably the two just singing to pop songs in their bedrooms. It amazes me that these two unpleasant and untalented teenage girls actually believed that they had what it takes to become professional singers.

When you put your hope for a happy and fulfilling life in what you do and what you have – you somehow become deluded into thinking you have what it takes to make something incredible to happen, and for Christians, that God will back you all the way.

We need to build a foundation of knowing that God accepts us as we are, is not mad at us, will never leave us, cares for us and lives within us. From that moment on, I believe, we need to just get on with our lives like any other normal person. One of the reasons why I really enjoy listening to The God Journey podcasts is that the focus is very simple and narrow: it is all about living in the love of God. I also enjoy listening to the The Free Believers Network podcasts – what makes these podcasts so refreshing is not so much the sense of anti-I.C. (Institutional Church) sentiment, but rather, their focus on living simply, knowing that you are loved by God, accepting yourself as you are and loving others. If during your pursuit of living in the love of God eventually leads you to leave your church, then so be it.

The idea of just embracing everyday life and getting on with your life just like any other normal person, might seem dishonouring to God at first, but I believe it is the most realistic way to live. As soon as we entertain the idea of the existence of God – we get caught-up in all kind of religious cobwebs. It can take a lot of time and effort to sift through all the religious chaff, until finally, we are left with the wheat. When we get to that place we might find that a life in Christ looks a lot different to what we were told it would look like; it might actually look a lot more like normal, everyday life than we once thought it would. This might seem disappointing to some people, but everyday life sparkles with a wonderful, joyous glow when we allow the light of God’s love to flood the darkness of our souls.

Abandon the God Idea?

I recently read a post on the Free Believers Network forum entitled, Abandon the God Idea. In this post, the woman related how she had grew up as a Christian, with the idea that God would be like a perfect father to her. But as time went by, she realised that this was more of an ideal rather than a true experience. She then left the church, wondering what to do about the whole concept of God as a Father – should she let go of her God ideas? Should she even let go of the belief in a God altogether?

I kind of get what this person is feeling here. I don't think it is the concept of a God who created the universe that we should consider letting go of - it's all the religious junk that comes with it. It's when we over-spiritualise things that we get into bother. It's when we pray for God's protection when we go on holiday and get other people to pray that our luggage won't go missing and so on.

We talk about God as if He was separate to ourselves, instead of being one with us. This was discussed in a recent podcast by the Free Believers Network entitled, The Oneness Revelation – 2nd October 2010. The ramifications of the separation mentality are huge: instead of just making spontaneous decisions, we are supposed to check the Bible to see if there is a verse that validates our decision; we have to pray about every little single thing we want to do, discuss things with a pastor or elder in the church and so on.

I think to a great extent we need to get on with our lives without having God in our mind all the time. There is a need to get on with our lives without worrying if we will get caught-up in some kind of sin. We should not go out with the intention of sinning, but be mindful that all we can do is our best – if we end-up making a mistake or succumbing to temptation in one way or another – so be it. God loves us the way we are and when we try to earn his acceptance of us through something that we do for Him – we end-up missing the whole purpose of righteousness by faith.

I believe that a life in Christ really should look a lot more like everyday life than what the church has led us to believe – that is something that disappoints and frustrates some Christians. When someone has lived a disappointing and frustrating life, they can tend to hold-on to thoughts of a better life as a means of coping. But the adherence to fantasies is not real hope: hope is an expectation of good and the Bible tells us that it is an aspect of love, just as kindness and patience is. When Christians put their hope in something amazing happening in their life, they experience the anxiety of trying to control their life. This inevitably results in disappointment when the thing they were hoping for does not materialize.

We should not feel the need to abandon the belief that God exists. But we should strive to attain a balance: honouring God where appropriate, whilst giving ourselves credit when we achieve something good; seeing God as living within us, whilst having the sense of freedom to make decisions for ourselves.

The Divine Nature | TNB