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Where I Am Today, Spiritually Speaking – Part 2

I used to be heavily focused on the grace message from a Biblical perspective. During much of that time, I attended a popular mega-church in London called Hillsong. Joseph Prince has preached at Hillsong London several times. In fact, the leadership at that church often say that his initial visit to the church changed the direction of the church towards that of grace.

I would often get annoyed with Hillsong Christians, because I didn’t get the sense that they were as excited as me about the grace message. They always seemed to be much more interested in church building, getting people saved (first time commitment to Christ) and fellowship. These people were typically very sociable people, so they took to the demand to fellowship, like fish to water! Now, when I look back on those times, I can see that their attitude and approach to the Christian life was more like what I’m like now. In fact, I’d rather be around laid-back down-to-earth Christians who in-tune with reality and excited about relationships – than someone who’s more interested in the Bible and spiritual concepts!

There are some Christians who are intent on relating over-the-top stories of Biblical heroes and other believers. But I’m much more interested in what you believe, how you relate to this spiritual journey and how the Gospel message applies itself to your life – right now. The Bible was based on the accounts of real people, in real situations during those times. Although we can learn something from those accounts – there is a real need to experience God, and life, in our own lives and in our own way.

There seems to be too much fantasy in the lives of Christians. There is too much focus, I believe, on the supernatural – instead of focusing on normal, everyday life; there is too much of a focus on heaven than on planet earth; there is too much focus on the afterlife and end-times than on the here-and-now. In fact, the more a person dwells on anything other than on reality – the more weird and dysfunctional they become. This is something that was discussed in the Freebelievers Network podcast entitled Glossy Eyed Spirituality, dated 23rd November 2011.

I tend to enjoy listening solely to The Freebelievers Network and The God Journey podcasts. I love the format of these podcasts: a discussion between two or more believers who seem to be at a similar stage as me in this spiritual journey. I absolutely love the honesty of these people and the way in which their sense of humour helps me to relax and enjoy the discussion. I prefer this format a lot more than someone who purports to have all the answers, which he or she needs to teach me.

In the absence of any real, tangible fellowship with other Christians who are on the same wavelength as me – I almost feel as if I’m in the same room as these podcast hosts, listening to their discussion and being amazed at how their beliefs and experiences are similar to my own. I believe that there’s not much new understanding I can glean from these podcasts now, as I feel as if I get the message. But often when I’m bored and on my own, I like to listen in to enjoy the humour, honesty and experiences of these people.

The Gospel message was never meant to be what it seem to have become today – an obligation, an institution and set of staff that we are somehow dependant on. I don’t even believe that the Gospel is a message that we need to hear over and over again, in order to get on with our lives and be happy and effective in life. As we mature in the freedom that the grace message brings us, there should be an unfolding independence that develops in us, as our reliance on religious leaders and institutions gives way to our own understanding and dependence on Christ. We should expect a veering away from the teaching of others and focus on Bible verses, towards our own heart-felt knowledge, confidence, wisdom and intuition which enable us to get on with our own lives.

Where I Am Today, Spiritually Speaking – Part 1

Nowadays, I tend not to focus so much on the Biblical aspects of the grace message. It is not that I don’t disagree with the Bible or that I don’t see its relevance. I just feel as if I have established a solid foundation of the Gospel message, from a Biblical standpoint. I would also say Bible verses are often used to manipulate people by distorting the truth and focusing on things that, in the grand scheme of things, aren’t really that important.

I am by no means perfect and I still make mistakes. Dare I say it – I still sin. The consensus amongst grace preachers seems to be that if a person sins, it is because they don’t know they are already righteous through Christ. I agree with this concept, in part – it is true that a person will typically be prone to sin if they are trying to be right with God through their own efforts. But this concept can lead to people continuously listening to Joseph Prince sermons, with the belief that doing so will dramatically change their behaviour for the better. There also seems to be a popular idea that focusing on righteousness in Christ will bring all sorts of blessing and favour, such as wealth. Again, I’m not sure I entirely agree with this approach.

If I’ll be honest, I’ll admit that I’m much more interested in what I, and others, believe in their heart – rather than just mindlessly following words written in a book – even if it is the inspired Word of God. Many Christians seem content to simply quote Bible verses, with some sort of implied meaning in mind. When believers are unable to live from the heart, they revert to head-thinking, following the Bible like a rulebook. In this way, Christians can become like religious robots, devoid of the wisdom, confidence and intuition required to live life happily and effectively.

It’s as if some Christians can only speak in snippets of Bible quotations, like some kind of messed-up sacrosanct version of Bumblebee from Transformers (the yellow car dude that can only communicate by flipping between radio stations).

Even grace believers often revert to speaking in Bible verses. The grace message is a rather short message. In times gone by we used to get a broad spectrum of ideals, taboos and spiritual concepts from the pulpit. This smattering of ideas and ideals used to rely heavily on a huge variety of Bible verses. But now, grace believers, quite rightly so, only focus on a small sub-section of New Testament verses – those which reveal our freedom in Christ. So, with this need to provide scripture to back-up any spiritual concept they wish to convey – we often hear the same Bible verses quoted, again and again. Furthermore, these Bible verses are used to create popular grace quotes, such as, “It’s not about law its about grace – you can’t be justified by works of the law.” I’m more interested in people – their own lives, beliefs and experiences – instead of hearing some well-used quote from a popular preacher.

Phases and Stages of the Gospel – Part 3

Freebelievers / Letting Go / The Journey

Yes, the Free believer path is in a category of its own. This is named after the website and podcast, The Freebelievers Network. This is the focus on living free, exposing religious abuse, reconnecting with the heart and restoring balance.

This message can be construed by some as being an anti-church message, but is actually more to do with love and freedom. Darin Hufford, the founder of the Freebelievers Network, asserts that people tend to leave church when they are free to choose to no longer go; he insists that as people discover love, they no longer feel the need to adhere to the religious duties that they once held onto – such as going to church.

I have found that this liberating message has a lot to do with letting go – of past hurts, guilt, shame, fear and strongly held beliefs that did not serve us and only brought misery. Even though I immersed myself in the grace message (righteousness and oneness with God), I still held tightly to typical, religious approaches that were instilled in me by the church. I call these religious mindsets of a grace believer, an Institutional Carry-over.

The church has attempted to create a central point of administration for all Christians; a central point where Christians must gather for fellowship and to hear the Word being preached. But I believe that this has taken away the freedom for Christians to enjoy their life-in-Christ in the context of their own individual lives, with their own unique relationships and life-plans.

As believers begin to accept the grace message, they often seek a grace equivalent to all those things that the church insisted that every believer should have and do. There becomes a need for grace fellowship, in a grace church, with grace worship, with grace believers. I can see why people seek other grace believers, but it only seems to be The Freebelievers Network and The God Journey which dares to challenge this age-old concept that Christians must have fellowship by gathering together, on a regular basis, in dedicated buildings with other Christians.

I recall the final years of my church attendance, how I felt compelled to serve God by serving in the church. I can honestly say that ever since I became a Christian, I have never served in church out of anything other than a sense of obligation. By listening to The Freebelievers Network and The God Journey podcasts, I was able to experience a freedom that Joseph Prince’s righteousness message alone could not bring me. I needed a rawness and honesty that could enable me to let go of the last vestiges of religion. It’s as if listening to these podcasts literally sandblasted the religion off me.

Phases and Stages of the Gospel – Part 2

I see certain main categories of the grace message emerging, as follows:


The focus on the belief that God lives His life in-and-through us; we can do nothing apart from Him. We have the illusion that we are in control of our lives, when we are not. This approach is thoroughly Biblical and focuses on the divine nature and the Holy Spirit. The emphasis shifts away from what we can do for God, onto what He has already done for us through Christ; as well as the continued work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. The Unionist message is freeing because it does not put standards and obligations upon people. This is the main focus of Bible teachers such as Major Ian W. Thomas and Norman Grubb.

I will admit that my transition into grace was through my own revelation of this Unionist message – even before I’d even heard of grace preachers and their message. The unionist message has brought me a lot of relief from religious demands, but I wonder what its benefits are and whether there is a downside to it all. I, like many others, got off on a tangent of believing God for things - I have Word of Faith to thank for that. So I believe that placing expectations on God can meddle with the purpose of the unionist message. This message is meant to bring freedom and peace, rather than become a means for insecure Christians to become obsessive about performance and achievement; believing that they can have, be or do something that they don’t already experience in their life.


This is the focus of grace teachers such as Joseph Prince, Bertie Brits, Steve McVey, Paul White, et al. This takes us away from the focus on our own efforts to be right with God and, in accordance with scripture, emphasises the redemptive work of the cross. Just like with the Unionist message, the righteousness message veers away from imposing standards, obligations, rules and principles on the believer and looks to the cross and the right-standing we have through Christ, once and for all. This is a very liberating message and brings an enormous sense of relief to the guilt-ridden, anxious believer.

Like many other believers, my appreciation of righteousness had become diluted through the traditional approach of the church, which asserted that we are all righteous in Christ – but it is up to us to ensure that we no longer sin and we strive to serve and obey Him. After my encounter with the Unionist message, I began to re-discover this incredible righteousness message which I could not apprehend and appreciate before.

Phases and Stages of the Gospel – Part 1

It seems that it is no longer sufficient to meet someone who calls them self a Christian and to be confident that you’ll be able to adequately relate to them with regards to their spirituality. There are the traditionalists who seem to bear the label “Christian”, without knowing the basics of our redemption in Him. There are the staunch moralists who see the Bible as a rule book to be followed by our own willpower.

Then there are those who interpret scripture correctly and lay aside all of their own efforts, as they look to Christ’s redemptive work on the cross. The Bible uses the term “grace” to describe this unmerited favour and liberty that we have in Christ. It is therefore no surprise that this re-focusing on our freedom in Christ, rather than keeping rules, is called the Grace Message.

When I look back on my spiritual journey so far, I can see how I passed through what could be described as phases and stages. Each one of these phases and stages seemed to have its place in bringing me to where I am today. Now, I can see that the oppression that I encountered in the charismatic church, with its emphasis on rules, was necessary in drawing me to appreciating my right-standing in Christ.

Nowadays, it seems that this revolution of the grace message is spreading, bringing a new-found freedom to people and places that once saw Christianity as a set of rules, and God as an oppressive task-master who demanded perfection.

It seems to be important to make this distinction between the mixture of old and new covenants, which kept people bound; and the message of freedom in the pure new covenant. It is for this reason that we use the terms grace message, grace Christian, grace preacher and so forth.

Many people believe that there is just one grace message and that there is nothing beyond that. It is certainly not my intention to suggest that grace is not enough or that there is something “extra” required. But if I will be honest, I will admit that I have progressed through different phases and stages of understanding and focus, after my initial encounter with grace. In my own life I can identify different phases and stages of the grace message. As with each phase and stage that brought me to grace, I can see the importance of each phase and stage of the grace message, which I have experienced.

Third-Hand Revelation

If you think about it for a moment, most Christian’s appreciation of scripture is what could be called Third-Hand Revelation. By this I mean that, to begin with, we read in the Bible about the thoughts and experiences of someone from ancient times in the Middle East, especially that of the Judaic tradition – this is the first-hand revelation.

Then, a charismatic preacher comes along; his entire focus is on running a religious institution, much like a business. This preacher will present the Bible in a way that stirs-up the crowd emotionally; making all sorts of unrealistic promises; presenting God and the Bible as a spiritual vending-machine. The preacher will tell you some over-the-top story of some sort of victory and achievement (typically oriented towards the institutional church). Then, he will tell you how that experience somehow ties-in with one or more scriptural texts. He will then present that text to the congregation as a one-size-fits-all principle or formula that will yield similar results. This is second-hand revelation.

The third-hand revelation is when a believer takes that testimony or sermon of the preacher, the second-hand revelation, and uses it as the basis for his or her own expectations, beliefs and fantasies – this is third-hand revelation. In this way, scripture becomes loaded with all sorts of meaning, implicit and explicit, which often seems to have very little basis. In this way, the thoughts and experiences of someone in an ancient, middle eastern context, becomes the basis for tying God down to a set way of doing things; trying to manipulate God into getting what you want in your life now. This leads to insecure, desperate Christians trying to believe God for things, such as miracles and wealth – citing verses of scripture as the basis on which God is meant to perform and deliver in a certain way.

I remember when I first got into the charismatic movement – I found this third-hand revelation rather strange at first. I remember a well-known evangelist during the late nineties who visited my church in London. He related some story of a financial need that he had, a new building or airplane or something. He was asked, “Do you have a letter from the bank?” To which he replied, “No, but I have a letter to the Philippians.” By this he was referring to Philippians 4:19.

19 And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:19

This verse was a message of the apostle Paul written to the Philippian church, at a certain time, for their own particular situation. What makes us think we can take that verse and “use” it as a formula to get our own perceived “needs” met? I thought this approach was rather strange at first. However, I got enticed into adopting this approach, because I thought that it gave me a formula for getting what I wanted – when I wanted it.

It’s for these reasons that I tend not to read the Bible as much as I once did. I believe that the Bible has served its purpose in my life: it helped reveal Christ to me, the Gospel and how it affects me personally. With this foundation, I would rather experience God in a way that is specific to my own life plan.

Naivety in Perspective

One of my favourite T.V. programs is a series called Banged Up Abroad. I started watching Banged Up Abroad when I watched a couple of back-to-back episodes: the first episode told the story of and Cullen Thomas, working with his girlfriend "Rocket", arrested trying to smuggle hashish from the Philippines to South Korea. The second episode I watched was about Lia McCord, an American teenager arrested in Bangladesh for trying to smuggle heroin. I’ve been an avid fan ever since that first time and have watched several more since.

I don’t normally watch “Reality TV” – I find programs like the BBC’s Airport rather boring – who wants to watch a bunch of frustrated tourists arguing with airport staff for half and hour?

I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised by Banged up Abroad – it was very well made, well acted and it appeared to use the original locations (or very close to it at least). All-in-all the program seemed to put you in the shoes of that person, during that time. It seemed to invoke the feelings they would have felt, as you watch the actors in real locations, with the actual person narrating their story. The people talk about their thoughts and feelings in a way that brings the whole experience to life for the viewer. I felt the ups and downs, the sense that you would never get caught, the uneasy feeling that something was about to go wrong.

I’ve got very little patience for criminals, “Lock them up and throw away the key”, was my motto. But this T.V. series has shown things in a totally different light for me. I come away from watching each episode with a deep sense of compassion for the individuals. I mean, your heart goes out to them as you watch. You find yourself rooting for the person and thinking, “Oh no! Don’t get caught!” Each episode is a white-knuckle ride that will have you on the edge of your seat!

These people are not hardened, violent criminals – they are just normal everyday people who are just down on their luck. I suppose that’s what makes this T.V. series so hard-hitting – you feel you can relate to the people. As their story unfolds you see how, step-by-step, they were lured into the trap that got them banged-up in jail. Each person can typically pinpoint that one moment, the pivotal point, when things went horribly wrong for them. But besides that, you can see the way the person was led step-by-step towards their incarceration. Typically, stories often involve smuggling drugs out of a foreign country.

But I think what struck me the most was that all-too-familiar sense of naivety: I can totally relate to that sense of feeling that I’m right, when I’m dead wrong; or to be emphatic that nothing can go wrong when something awful is about to happen; or having an uneasy feeling about something you are about to do – but dismissing that feeling. I have lost count of the amount of times I’ve done something, only to regret it later.

Thankfully, I’ve never done anything on the same scale as these people. Nevertheless, it hammers home the point that there exists in humanity the propensity to make grave errors of judgement, which land you in a great deal of trouble. This leads one to consider what it is that makes some people make rather petty mistakes in life and for others to make some massive mistakes – perhaps just one mistake that spells doom for their finances, reputation and/or freedom.

When I watched Banged Up Abroad I could relate to that naïve sense of, “This can’t go wrong, no-one will notice, I’ll do this just one more time, I’m making a big fuss over nothing…” The only difference between the people in the documentary and me is that their naivety landed them in a lot more trouble than mine ever has. I’m grateful that I’ve been spared making such stupid mistakes, but I have made some really big mistakes myself. So why have I been spared and these people have not? It just makes me feel vulnerable that perhaps something like that could happen to me. I mean, I’ve lost count of the amount of times I was convinced I was right and nothing could go wrong – when it turned out to be wrong. I suppose that’s what makes Banged up Abroad so exciting, and nerve-wracking: there is the overwhelming sense of, “That could have happened to me!”

We all seem to rely on that inward alarm, that “buzzer” that goes off in our heart when we’re about to do something stupid. So why didn’t that “buzzer” go off in these people’s lives? Or if the alarm did sound – why, how were they able to ignore it? You could say, “Well, they knew it was wrong but they chose to go ahead and do it anyway. So it’s their fault – they’re wrong.” Well, if the difference between Heaven and Hell here on earth is all down to my mood, how I’m feeling on any particular day, then I’m in trouble!

During the conclusion of each episode, the individuals often look back and relate how the experience has changed their life. In episode 3, Jake Libbon was arrested in Mexico for selling marijuana, and then was falsely accused of shooting two police officers. Jake reflected on the way his experience has caused him to value the little things in life and to treasure each day of freedom he has now.

I was struck by something that Lia McCord said during the end of the Bangladesh episode: she said something along the lines of her not ever wanting to go through her ordeal again; but she also said that if she could, she would not necessarily avoid going through that experience either. What happened to Lia when she was young and naïve changed the course of her life, something good came out of it and she grew up very fast!

There is a great deal of opinion and controversy over the Christian topic of suffering. Some Christians baulk at the idea that God would use suffering to bring you into a closer relationship with Him. But no-one can deny the fact that it is often life’s shocks that make the greatest changes, even beneficial changes, to us.

The Irony of Faith

When I started reading Kenneth E. Hagin’s books on faith in 1997, I’ll admit that what attracted me to them was the ability to use faith to control my life.

Kenneth E. Hagin’s Faith Teaching

If you read a typical book by Hagin, you’ll notice that he uses a particular, regular style in order to convey his message: a proof text, followed by an anecdote, then an explanation of a principal that ties the proof text to the anecdote. The idea seems to be that as you read the book – you learn the principal, which teaches you the meaning of the Biblical text.

Hagin’s books are full of anecdotes, usually miraculous, life-changing events. Therefore, you often get the impression from reading these books that Hagin experienced miracles on a regular basis. This notion promotes the idea that Christians should be experiencing miracles on a regular basis as well, and they could, you reason, if they followed the principles set-out in Hagin’s books.

There is something exciting about knowing God so well and having such incredible faith that you experience miracles on a regular basis. But people often fail to realise that what you read in Hagin’s books are the highlights of 60 years of incredible ministry. Hagin admitted that he made a lot of mistakes and would sometimes go years without experiencing miracles. I do believe Hagin when he wrote about a certain time, when he was pastoring a certain church, when they would experience miracles regularly. But we still have to acknowledge the fact that miracles are, by definition, rare.

Miracles and Ministry

There is also the matter of Hagin being in full-time ministry: we should not fall into the trap of confusing full-time ministry with everyday life. Ministry is for the purpose of ministering to a group of people, typically from a church platform and pulpit, or perhaps through other media such as television, radio, books and the internet. All Christians have a ministry of reconciliation and are ambassadors for Christ. However, the way an individual ministers to others and the way a pastor ministers to others, are two different things?

People who are not in full-time ministry cannot expect to experience signs and wonders on a similar scale to those of pastors and evangelists. Signs and wonders are for the purpose of bringing people to Christ and edifying those who believe – it is not really meant for personal edification. God can still perform miracles in your life, but it’s usually on a different level than ministry.

The Fear Behind so-called “Faith”

When a believer is exposed to many different miraculous testimonies, it does give the impression that you should be experiencing those things yourself, on a regular basis. You can begin to wonder if you’re praying enough, if you have enough faith, perhaps there is sin in your life. There is something exciting and enticing about the miraculous; the ability claim what you want and control your life is alluring, to say the least.

What I have noticed from my own experience is that the more fearful a person is, the more inclined they are to want to control their life. It would seem that the Word of Faith teaching, as it has come to be known, of the likes of Kenneth E. Hagin, actually appeals more to neurotic Christians than to confident Christians. The more fearful a person is the more confused and gullible they are – the more likely they are to make mistakes, miss out on good opportunities and to be deceived. I know what it is like to be convinced that you need to buy more books on faith so that you can find the “key” that you are missing: there is often a frantic search for a faith “formula” that will give you the power and control that you’re looking for. There is often the thought that if you could just have “this” or “that” – everything would be fine.


The irony of faith is that the more faith you have, the less inclined you are to try to control things. The more faith you have, the more you trust in God and in life to make things work for you. The more faith you have the more you are able to relax, consciously, and allow things to happen without your need to consciously control them. When you have faith, you can relax in the confidence that when something needs doing, when a decision need to be made, it will happen. Faith welcomes the unexpected and does not panic when things happen that aren’t included in your original plan.

The Sin Red Line – Part 2

1507078_36ceae5caa How do we curtail wrongdoing? I've found that if a person has the desire to do something society considers bad or wrong - they're likely to do it anyway. But the fear of punishment does not take away such desires - it represses them, if they're not expressed.

The act of simply saying, "This is bad - don't do it", can result in the creation of a taboo. Whilst, saying, "This is good - everybody should do this", can result in the creation of an ideal. Taboos and ideals are no replacement for living from the heart, in fact, they usually make matters worse.

There is the threat of the legal justice system which keeps crime at bay; there is also our own conscience, our heart. I also believe that sin carries its own form of punishment through emotions and circumstances. Its tempting to believe that sin is fun, exciting and liberating, whilst in actual fact, it is limiting, addictive and destructive.

Trying to determine the "Red line of sin" can be a slippery slope. The Bible says that all sins are as bad as each other when it comes to being rejected by God. This is why we needed a Saviour - Jesus Christ. The Gospel sets us free from condemnation and allows us to have a relationship with God, progressing at our own pace.

What people often do is that they'll compare themselves with other people and conclude that there sin is not as bad as theirs - like the Pharisee and Tax Collector in Luke 18:11. Jesus does away with this futile like-for-like comparison and shows us that no-one is good enough to meet God's perfect standards.

I'm a firm believer in once-saved-always-saved. But I do wonder about whether the life of God, zoe in the original Greek, is operating through someone who sins. I've found that the adulterer and the homosexual both seem very much seem to be alive - more so than the repressed Christian. I'd say that many homosexuals are genuinely nice people and have wonderful, lively personalities. But I suppose whether or not these people are really happy deep down on the inside, is anyone's guess - I suppose they aren't.

I have learned a way of simplifying my beliefs, a way that could be considered controversial for Christians - it is The Work of Byron Katie, also known as Inquiry. I’ve learned to ask four simple questions and allow my heart to give me the answers, as a way of finding peace. Katie asserts that contraction around a belief, to the point of stress, is the only evil in life and must be questioned. This is controversial because it can be taken to extremes, such as deeming a convicted criminal as innocent. But I've found in my own experience that this approach makes the most sense and is the only way.

Picture red line ~ vertical courtesy of striatic (Hobvias Sudoneighm).

The Sin Red Line – Part 1

1507056_26034216b9 Christians often debate the idea of taking grace too far. Are there some sins that are covered by grace, such as a little white lie. Whilst there may be some sins that do not merit the grace of God, such as rape and murder.

I think its human nature to seek the boundaries and workings of something, such as moral conduct, and create a set of guidelines and rules about it. If I was going to take up a hobby or new business venture such as cheese making, carpentering, gardening or whatever - I'd want to study the facts and methods of best practice about it. Even a set of actions, such as mountain climbing, warfare or policing, I’d want to know the methods of best practice as well as the legal constraints.

There have been a slew of self-help books on relationships and successful living over the last fifty years or so, such as The Rules of Life, Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus and The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

But I think that's were we get it wrong when it comes to morality: we want to define a set of rules and guidelines for life. This approach doesn't work because it attempts to intellectualise something which must be spontaneous; it moves us from the heart to the head.

I like what Frank Viola wrote in Pagan Christianity: Christianity has become a combination of Greco/Roman culture (morality or rhetoric) and frontier revivalism (the drive towards salvation). This approach, again, moves us away from the original intention of the Gospel: relationship with God through faith in Christ.

God lives His life in us and through us - this is the mystery. But we still find ourselves like Paul in Romans 7: we often do what is considered wrong. In fact, the more we try to force ourselves to follow rules, often under the threat of punishment - the more we struggle with sin. What this shows us is that the Gospel is intended to set us free from the law: we are free to live our lives without fear of God's wrath. This allows us to live our lives freely so that we can progress and mature in our own way and timing. This is the only way it will work, because God does not seem to zap those wrong desires out of us.

What I've found is that everyone is born into a rather unique set of circumstances: parentage, birth-place, education and so on. Some of these factors are conducive to healthy development, whilst others are not. By the time someone reaches adulthood, they literally become the product of all of those conditioning factors. It will not work to simply place unrealistic expectations on certain people, according to their development. We humans seem to forget this important fact, but thankfully, God doesn't.

God meets us right were we are in life and beckons us into a relationship with Him. This is evidenced in the ministry of Jesus, like when He met the Samaritan woman at the well, or when the Pharisees brought to him a woman caught in the act of adultery. While the law and the Pharisees cry "Stone her!" Jesus says, "Neither do I condemn you." This shows us the contrast between the Old and New covenants.

Picture red line ~ horizontal courtesy of striatic (Hobvias Sudoneighm).

The Gospel and Inner Transformation (Part 2)

431876990_b88b3bb845 I think Christianity has got to be one of the most confusing things on the planet. One group of people alludes towards the attainment of wealth and the manifestation of miracles, whilst one group emphasise living frugally and being content with what you have. It is often preached that we are righteous, having been made right with God, and yet, Christians are intimidated into not sinning on a weekly basis.

Since around 2005 I have become part of the growing trend amongst Christians who are part of the grace movement. My beliefs have changed dramatically since 2005, I used to be heavily into the Bible, something of a theologian. But now, I hardly ever read the Bible, as I am much more interested in living freely and developing my own convictions, in my own way and in my own time.

I am much more inclined towards accepting myself, life and other people, just as they are, than anything else. In fact, the most popular grace preacher today, Joseph Prince, often preaches that it is our very efforts to not sin that actually keeps us captive to sin. Knowing that we are loved by God and accepting ourselves as we are, is one of the greatest, most freeing things we can ever do.

As far as modalities to change the subconscious mind are concerned, I don't use prayer or affirmations any more. I use releasing through The Sedona Method. I also use another method, which I prefer to releasing, called The Work. The Work is a method of self-inquiry that asks four simple questions in response to an anxious thought:

1. Is it true?

2. Can you absolutely know that it's true?

3. How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?

4. Who would you be without the thought?

The four questions are followed by something called a "turnaround" - the opposite of the anxious thought. For instance, "I hate my job", becomes, "I don't hate my job." But rather than jumping too quickly to the turnaround, you take yourself through a gentle process so that the turnaround is not so harsh.

Rather than trying to answer the questions using logic - you allow the questions to be answered from the innermost part of your being, from the heart. A few years ago I'd reached a lull with my prayer life. But when I started using The Work, I found that the answers just flowed out from me - almost as if The Work was doing itself and I was an observer. I typically seem to spend about 20 minutes in one session, spending most of the time on question number 3. I always feel a profound sense of peace after doing The Work.

You can find out more about The Work at the official website:

Photo Transforming silk again courtesy of fdecomite.

The Gospel and Inner Transformation (Part 1)

431754663_1dcea3cdf5 I've struggled with depression and anxiety, to one degree or another, for most of my life. It was this struggle which motivated me to become a Christian. As soon as I got hold of Word of Faith teaching - I thought I'd hit the jackpot! Before I became a "serious" Christian, I had read The Power of Your Subconscious Mind by Dr. Joseph Murphy - a classic book on the effect of your thoughts on your subconscious mind and how you can use affirmation to re-program your mind. Like many other Christians, Word of Faith became a Christian version of positive thinking and affirmations for me.

Just like me, many people become Christians because they have had emotional issues, have struggled with everyday life and needed something to change their life for the better. It's shocking what some Christians will do in order to try and get God to bless them. It’s unfortunate that all of those religious antics can become a massive distraction for some Christians, when all they probably need is professional, psychological help. I think maybe some regular deep relaxation would probably be more beneficial to them than what they do.

According to Psychology, internal change starts with the old subconscious, you move it to the old conscious, then the new conscious, then the new subconscious.

We have behaviours, thoughts, feelings in which we are not aware of as being destructive, let alone where they are sourced. This is the old subconscious. You discover/uncover these things. This is the old conscious. You deconstruct them and learn new truths/patterns. This is the new conscious. After repetition these things become the norm in you. This is the new subconscious.

Any means of establishing this change in the new subconscious could be called a modality. A modality is defined as a means of attaining an end; a method. As far as modalities to effect change of deep-seated beliefs are concerned - Christianity is certainly not one of the best. Christianity is not really designed for that purpose, but for salvation and relationship with God.

Unfortunately, you cannot develop a profound, close relationship with God when you are wracked with fear. In fact, religion exacerbates the situation because you start to believe that God is punishing you for your sin, or that you need to read your Bible more, give more in the offering, and so on. It’s as if as soon as a neurotic believes in the existence of God, it opens up a whole new world to them and a whole new way of thinking, in a way that is potentially very negative and damaging. Previously, a person might have wondered about the effects that his excessive drinking has on his health, but now, he also has to worry about whether God will punish him for it and so on.

I was baptised in the Holy Spirit in 1998 and it changed my life for the better, for all of two months. But during that time I felt like God was telling me, "You see, my love is all you need. See how all your wants melt away when you have my peace in you?" I suppose I have been trying to re-establish that amazing experience and peace of mind in my life ever since - without much success.

Regrettably, I have tried to establish happiness in all the typical ways that humans use: wealth, success and with Christianity, the pursuit of miracles. Wealth and success in themselves are not wrong, if that was the case, King Solomon would be the most evil person who ever existed. No, it is the desire for these things that corrupts. If I was to simply accept myself as I am, with all my faults, be content with what I have and quit worrying, I think that I’d find the happiness, freedom and even success and prosperity that I’ve been seeking all along.

Photo Möbius transformation courtesy of fdecomite.

The Scope of the Gospel – Grace, a Message of the Heart

4266283238_b908761e95 There is a desperate need for Christians to arrive at their own conclusions, to establish their own convictions, in their own way, through their own experiences and in their own time. It simply will not do to have people who assert their spiritual authority above others, to come along and dictate what is right or wrong to others.

The Gospel is not a matter of determining what is right or wrong: such a pursuit constitutes eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil – notice it is the knowledge of good and evil, not good and evil themselves. It becomes religious oppression when a minister forces their will and opinions on others, especially when their attitude is patronising and threatening. Even if universal morals are established which most people agree to – there is no way to enforce those morals other than through fear-mongering.

The Gospel is a message of the heart, not the mind. The Gospel must be known, in the heart, not logically reasoned and debated. If you don’t come to know the Gospel, the message of God’s love for you, in your own heart – you will be left intellectualising the Bible.

Word of Faith teaching drummed into me the importance of following the Spirit and The Word, “The Word” meaning the Bible. Bible teachers like Kenneth E. Hagin would emphasise the importance of finding back-up verses in scripture for everything that you do. But experience told me that you cannot live your life like that. If you do, you find yourself anxiously scouring the Bible for verses that you can creatively take out of context to mean what you want them to mean.

I believe that to the greatest extent, Christians really have to live their life from their heart, according to their own convictions. As soon as rules and standards are imposed, people live unnatural, restricted lives, becoming someone they are not. Rules suppress honesty and integrity, promoting dishonesty and repression. Rule keeping turns people into actors as they make a performance out of trying to behave like someone they are not. This way of life is unappealing to others as they think you have got something to hide and you can become rather weird.

James 5:16 in the NKJV begins with; “Confess your trespasses to one another.” We make this into some sort of stuffy, formal, religious practice. But I believe that The Living Bible translates this more accurately, “Admit your faults to one another.” I believe that instead of making a big fuss over sin, which has already been remitted, it would be better to simply be honest with other people about your faults – rather than trying to pretend to be someone you are not.

Sure, people are likely to make mistakes, but they have to be allowed to live their lives, without the constant pressure and fear that comes from constantly matching against the Bible. I believe that there is no replacement for love, self-acceptance, confidence and self-esteem – not even the Bible! It is for this reason that people in the world win hands-down when it comes to living life in freedom, love, happiness and fulfilment.

Grace allows people to be just as they are in that moment. Grace allows people to establish their own convictions, in their own way and in their own time, without external coercion. Grace does not seek to determine universal rights and wrongs, but lovingly welcomes people’s differences and shortcomings. People have to grow, mature and develop in their own method and timing. My Christian life turned around when I realised that simply establishing and holding onto a sentiment, was not enough for me to establish positive changes in my character and behaviour.

Photo Heart courtesy of seyed mostafa zamani.

The Scope of the Gospel – The Bible (Part 2)

4542432287_96a61d3213 We can learn a great deal from the Bible, especially the Epistles of Paul, which provide us with an account of what happened after the death of Jesus, together with a revelation of the redemptive work of Christ through the cross. But a lot of the Bible is actually history, such as the Book of Numbers.

The first five books of the Bible are known as the Pentateuch, this is the Mosaic Law. We can learn a lot about the Old Covenant established by God through Moses. From books such as Leviticus we can see how exacting the standards were; we can see how awkward and oppressive those rituals were as a means of knowing God and being accepted by Him.

We can clearly see when we contrast the Old and New Covenants, why the New is a better covenant. We can see just how much freedom we really do have in Christ. This freedom is conveyed in verses such as Romans 7:6 in The Message, “But now that we're no longer shackled to that domineering mate of sin, and out from under all those oppressive regulations and fine print, we're free to live a new life in the freedom of God.”

This understanding lends itself to an appreciation of the way the Gospel seems to be intended originally for the Jews. In fact, the Jews already had a covenant with God, but in a way that was not perfect and was actually oppressive. You would have thought that the Jews, who knew of a Messiah to come, would have embraced this Good News message wholeheartedly, but they rejected it. In fact, it was the Jews who demanded the crucifixion of Jesus. The rejection of Jesus as the Messiah was conveyed in the Parable of the Wicked Husbandmen in Matthew 21:33-44.

1 Cor. 1:23 states, “but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness”. Jesus was not easily accepted into the beliefs of the Jews or the Greeks (Gentiles), for various reasons.

For the Jews, it is suggested that:

(1) They were expecting a magnificent temporal prince. Their hopes were dashed when they heard that He was crucified.

(2) They had common feelings of pride, and self-righteousness, by which they rejected the doctrine that we are dependent for salvation on one who was crucified.

(3) They convinced themselves that He was the object of the divine dereliction and abhorrence.

For the Greeks, it is suggested that:

(1) They saw the whole account a fable.

(2) The message disagreed with their own views on the way of elevating the condition of man.

(3) They saw no truth in the doctrine that a man of humble birth was put to death in an cruel manner to make people better, or to receive pardon.

(4) They had the common feelings of unrenewed human nature; blind to the beauty of the character of Christ and blind to purpose of his death.

The Gospel is difficult to comprehend, as something relevant, practical, powerful and freeing in today’s society. Our reasons for rejecting the Gospel now might not be too dissimilar to those listed above. But I would say that the concepts of righteousness, sin and so forth, have very little meaning and application in modern life, it seems. Indeed, words such as righteousness and sin are never used in modern speech, and are only found in the Bible.

There is a legitimate, practical scope of the Gospel for today’s culture – but it must be understood by the heart, not just intellectualised in the mind. The Gospel must be responded to with honesty and integrity, in a way that is relevant to the person, according to his lifestyle, convictions and disposition.

Photo Open Bible with pen Antique Grayscale courtesy of ryk_neethling.

The Scope of the Gospel – The Bible (Part 1)

3517373312_2cc93a0861 I think we can determine the scope of the Gospel from studying the Bible to see how they spread the message and how they would have responded to it. I have come to the conclusion that the Gospel would have been the Good News that would have been conveyed by word-of-mouth.

The printing press was not even invented until the fifteenth century according to an article here. There would have been no Bible to speak of and up until the 60th century AD, only the Old Testament would have been written. A list of the books of the Bible and their approximate year they were written, can be found here.

The Old Testament would have been written on stone and clay tablets – you can read more in an article here. Access to the Old Testament would undoubtedly have been restricted to the Jewish scholarly elite.

As the Gospel would have been communicated via word-of-mouth, it would have been in a local language and dialect that people could relate to. The Bible as we know it is a medieval translation of ancient Greek and Hebrew texts, originating from ancient Middle Eastern culture. So it is little wonder that it is often difficult to understand and relate to against the backdrop of modern, western culture.

I understand the argument in favour of having a literal translation, such as the King James Version or the New American Standard. But I would say that in order to get the true essence of the Gospel message, it would be better to read a modern paraphrase version, such as The Message, or my personal favourite, the original 1971 The Living Bible.

Over the centuries, theologians have poured over the scriptures, analysing them in great depth, to such a degree that the original essence has been lost. The Bible as it has been written is very much open to interpretation and is often the subject of heated debate. Unfortunately, most people tend to be inflexible in their beliefs, only looking for and perceiving what they want to see and believe. The Bible seems to be full of contradictions, but I believe that the Bible must be read as a whole in order to gain the full picture.

Verses of scripture are often taken out of context and repeated like slogans in support of a person’s own personal beliefs and motives. Pro-prosperity Christians become fixated with verse such as 2 Cor. 8:9. Whilst the anti-prosperity crowd often quote Heb. 13:5. There is no doubt truth to each of the verses and arguments, but I believe that a balance can be found.

Photo Gutenberg Bible 02 courtesy of jmwk.

The Scope of the Gospel – The Church (Part 2)

people A key to understanding the Gospel is in the original meaning of the word, which from the Greek translates to “the nearly too good to be true news”. The Gospel is the Good News of salvation and redemption through belief in the New Covenant in Christ’s own precious blood.

The Gospel is not necessarily church meetings, neither is it the rituals we associate with it, such as sacraments, the rosary and so on. I believe that early Christians would not have had buildings whose primary purpose was for fellowship and worship – they would have gathered together in people’s homes around food and drink. Early Christians would have known each other, rather than sitting in an auditorium, surrounded by strangers, as they listen to a man on stage preaching.

The meaning of “church” is the body of Christ, the people – “church” is not a building, as it has become today. The church would have gathered in social settings to discuss the Gospel – it would have been a celebration. There would have been no intimidation from a pastor, desperate to instil discipline and elicit acts of servanthood. There would have been no paid staff and little in the way of formal rules – it would have been natural and spontaneous, truly as the Spirit leads.

When attending a church becomes mandatory, a religious obligation, it often becomes stifling, coerced and even boring. Church has got to be allowed to form through natural, organic relationships. When this happens, the relationships are primary and the Gospel becomes secondary. This sounds sacrilegious at first, but it is the only way it can work. Otherwise, what happens is that people end up following religious routines in a church meeting, developing false friendships.

I honestly see no evidence, Biblical or otherwise, to support the notion that Christians are meant to gather in organised religious settings every single Sunday, engage in corporate “worship”, listen to a sermon and engage in religious ceremonies. Neither do I see any evidence to support Christians talking about God and Jesus as much as they do, or even reading the Bible as much as they do. My experience and heart tell me that once you know the Good News message of the Gospel, to the greatest extent, you are supposed to get on with your normal life, in a way that is natural for you.

For more information on organic churches, check out the book, Reimagining Church, by Frank Viola.

If all the things that man has attributed to the Gospel, don’t actually work, it begs the question what response from man the Gospel was meant to elicit?

Photo Eröffnung Restaurant Rheinspitz (Altenrhein, 07. Mai 2009) courtesy of Poiseon Bild & Text.

The Scope of the Gospel – The Church (Part 1)

church Ever since I became a “serious” Christian in 1997, my journey into Christianity began with a fascination in Word of Faith, through Kenneth E. Hagin’s books. I’ll admit that my motives for becoming a Christian were born out of a desire to seek a better life: security, prosperity, success and happiness – the usual things.

But now as I look back on those years I’ll have to be honest and say that the Gospel does not seem to have been conducive to improving my life in any of the ways that I would have hoped. I’m not sure what my life would have been like had I not become a Christian, I suppose I’ll never really know; there must have been some benefits to becoming a Christian, but it just becomes hard to tell. It is certainly too early to tell what benefits my belief in Christ will yield in the afterlife.

One thing I can certain vouch for is the confusion and frustration that seems to have been perpetuated in my life through what seemed to be my pursuit of the Gospel and intimacy with God. I think many Christians tread a similar path in their quest to know God, many ending up confused and frustrated as I have become. Some Christians end-up leaving church, but still believing in Jesus, whilst others give up on believing in Him altogether.

My Christian life has led me to ponder the scope of the Gospel: what was it intended for? Who was it addressed to? How are we to respond to it and incorporate it into our lives? These might sound like fairly obvious questions, but many Christians don’t stop to ask themselves these questions.

I think the reason why we don’t stop to ask ourselves the scope of the Gospel, is because we have been spoon-fed other people’s Christian beliefs, rather than being permitted to formulate our own. We have become accustomed to sitting in church and shifting the responsibility to the pastor and ministry staff for our spiritual development and welfare.

Sure, the Bible talks about the “five-fold ministry”, consisting of pastors, teachers, evangelists and so on – but I’m certain that we have lost sight of what these roles entail. For instance, we have become acquainted with the role of Evangelist as a very charismatic, and typically well-renowned, Christian speaker who travels to churches to motivate people who are already Christian, whereas an Evangelist in the Bible would be someone who brings the Good News to the unsaved. I think an example of the latter would be someone like Reinhard Bonnke, who would preach the Gospel in crusades across Africa.

I would recommend the book, Pagan Christianity, by Frank Viola, which dares to question the way we do things in church and explores the often Pagan roots of the institutional church as we know it today.

Photo Church courtesy of Bruce Fingerhood.

The Anatomy of Fear

Just like many other spiritual people and Psychologists, I always find myself desperately searching for spiritual formulas that can cut through the haze of spiritual teaching, something that can simplify things, expose fallacies and re-focus my attention to what really counts. I believe I have made some progress towards understanding the anatomy of fear: ideals, taboos, fantasies/expectations and fears.


These are the "shoulds", the standards that people set for themselves and others. Ideals are used as challenges and platitudes, such as, "The Bible says that we should love one another, if you loved other people you would do this or that." The Bible is a veritable source-book of ideals - Christians often quote Bible verses as a universal, one-size-fits-all set of ideals to aspire to.

Ideals can move a person away from love by coaxing them to do things out of fear. There is often a sense of failure amongst Christians if they do not attain, or at least aspire towards, the standard, accepted ideals that have been set for all Christians.

Ideals are used to coax people to take action through the threat of guilt, shame and rejection. With ideals there is encouragement through striving towards a perceived reward, such as a blessing from God for following Biblical rules.


These are the things we have been conditioned to avoid based on what other people tell us. Taboos are established when someone tells us, "Don't do that! That's really bad. If you do that then this or that might happen!"

To an extent, taboos seem to serve us well. We have been told that being bitten by a rattlesnake is painful and that we might die - so people will do everything to avoid one when they see it or when they hear that distinctive rattle. But taboos only serve as a safeguard for people with a fearful disposition. Taboos become part-and-parcel of rule keeping, which does not bring freedom and empowerment.

Churches attempt to control the congregation through the application of taboos. But the truth is that just making a taboo out of something cannot change a person's disposition from fear to love - assuming that love also includes confidence, common sense, self-discipline and so forth.

Christianity seems to thrive on taboos, especially in the area of sex. Taboos involve a great deal of rejection - as evidenced in the churches stance towards homosexuals.

The truth is that taboos only serve to contribute towards a person's sense of fear and moves them further away from love. With taboos there is encouragement through avoidance of a perceived punishment, such as a curse from God for doing something that the Bible forbids.


Fantasies seem to be an aspect of the various self-defence mechanisms that the human mind creates when under duress. Fantasies seem to be a substitute for hope when there is no hope. The abused child uses fantasies, like the little girl who dreams that she is a fairy-tale princess in order to escape the abuses of her life, in her own mind.

I do believe in hope, which is an expectation of good. But hope is more often then not a vague sense that everything is going to be okay. Hope is conveyed in the words of Jesus in Matthew 6:25-34. I particualrly like the message about “the birds of the air” in Matthew 6:26 and not worrying about tommorow in Matthew 6:34. Hope has confidence in God and I would also add in self (to some extent) and in life (others and circumstances – seen and unseen). Hope does not need to have all the answers, but just happily goes with the flow of life.

When a neurotic becomes a Christian he inevitably hands God a "to-do list" of things that he expects God to provide him with. There is a place for genuine dreams and aspirations, but it seems that the neurotic confuses these with baseless fantasies. With fantasies there is a belief that if you had that thing - it would make you happy. This of course is not true because a person's happiness does not depend on a person, place or thing. Happiness is a state of being which only oneness with God and cooperation with Him can bring.

Apart from stark fantasies and the God aspect - many people still hold onto expectations, like the little boy who says that he is going to be a policeman when he grows up, but probably ends-up doing something entirely different. Christians often hold onto expectations in relation to God, such as, "God would never let that happen to me", or that favourite amongst the Ecclesiastical elite, "I'm against abortion and war - and so is God!"

Just like opinions, expectations become negative and harmful the more emphatic we are, to the point of being stubborn, and the more stress they induce in us.


I suppose fears are similar to expectations in that they are things that you expect to happen to some extent. But whilst expectations are for something good to happen, fears are an expectation of something bad happening.

Fears are the "what if" syndrome, "What if it starts raining today? What if she doesn't call me? What if I fail?" A lot of the time the sense of dreading something going wrong is worse than the actual thing happening. In fact, there can be a sense of relief sometimes when something bad does happen so that we no longer have to dread it. People often attribute seemingly related events to their fears, such as food and fuel price rises meaning that they won't be able to pay all their bills. Sometimes, our fears can be completely baseless.


So if we bear in mind the anatomy of fear, we can see straight away what is happening in churches across the world. If we begin to see fear in relation to these four categories - we can quickly identify spiritual abuses and move away from them. This also gives us an insight into what love is: perhaps love is simply the identification of where fear is manifesting in our lives? Fear exists only in our mind and if we can see it for what it is - it should help it to dissipate of its own accord.

Sowing and Reaping in Relation to Money

6 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 7 Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.

2 Corinthians 9:6-8

From the outset this extract from the Bible seems to point us towards principles and formulas: the more you give, the more you get. But as some of us know from our experiences with Word of Faith and the prosperity message, in fact, works-based Christianity in general - principles and formulas don't work.

With works-based Christianity what we get is a bunch of neurotics or self-justified people trying to prove their spiritual status according to what they achieve. But we all know that does not prove a thing: just because someone spends time on a Sunday working for the Sunday School at church - it does not mean that they are a kind, generous person.

So, it is for these reasons that I have switched focus from works to disposition, or you could say nature, personality, etc. When we change the lens from works to grace, when we read the Bible, everything changes: those demands for performance are seen for what they really are.

I believe it is the same situation with 2 Corinthians 9 - this is not pointing towards works with a view to encouraging people to works - I believe that must be referring to a person's state of being, their disposition. As always, writers of the Bible often attempt to get a handle on unseen, spiritual concepts, which is what Paul is doing here - we see this in the parables of Jesus.

In 2 Corinthians 9, Paul attempts to get a handle on the difference between a good and bad disposition. Here, Paul is contrasting the difference between a generous and a miserly spirit. If we think outside of the Bible-box a moment, simple logic tells us that this is a difference between a secure disposition and an insecure disposition: if I have a sense of security, I'll be more generous with my money and vice-versa.

This contrast of security versus insecurity was something that Jesus related in the Parable of the Talents. Again, the Parable of the Talents can be seen as a call to works - he who gives the most finds favour with the Master, whilst he who does not, earns His contempt. But in actual fact the Parable of the Talents is a contrast of dispositions: the insecure person feels the need to preserve what he has for fear of losing it; whilst the secure-minded person is confident, willing to take risks and is more likely to part with his money. An insecure person will always struggle financially because of the unwillingness to take risks which his fear brings and a sense of apathy. I also believe that there is probably some kind of spiritual aspect to that as well - something to do with trusting in God for provision. Faith is, after all, trust in God.

I believe we also see a clue in verse 7, "Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion." It could never be about works because that involves a sense of coercion. If a person gives generously out of a genuine heart of kindness - the is no compulsion there - he is a "cheerful giver".

In conclusion, we either see 2 Cor. 9 in relation to works or disposition - if we see it in reference to works, the result is an endless striving, guilt and an inevitable sense of hopelessness; but if we see it in the light of disposition, the perspective changes to who we are in Christ and the new nature.

What I Believe About the Supernatural

The thing with the supernatural in the church is that it is part of the bigger problem: the one-size-fits-all mentality was people cease to think for themselves and just get swept away with whatever is dictated to them. I'll admit I've been there; I got carried away with the supernatural when I attended Kensington Temple in London, well known for signs and wonders, during the late nineties and early noughties. It was during this time that I went to see Benny Hinn at the Royal Albert Hall. I witnessed healing, being slain in the spirit and all of those things. I honestly believe that it is this period of my spiritual journey that attracted me to church and to Christ. I'm sure I would have given up otherwise.

Now, I look back on all of that and laugh - it seems ridiculous to me. I feel led to think of those things in line with the experience of Elijah when he ran from Jezebel.

11 Then He said, "Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord." And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake;

12 and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.

13 So it was, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. Suddenly a voice came to him, and said, "What are you doing here, Elijah?"

1 Kings 19:11-13 nkjv

It seems that Christians become distracted by anything seemingly supernatural to the point whereby they just get all excited, carried away by the experience, but they don't think. We need to ask ourselves how these experiences pertain to us, otherwise, we take these occurrences as a rubber-stamp of approval that what the showman in a suit on the stage is telling us is actually true.

We need to step back, calm down a, take a deep breath and ask ourselves, "Okay, so someone just fell down on the floor and started shaking after an alter call - that's pretty weird. I'm sure that's God, because it doesn't normally happen. Nevertheless, how does this pertain to me, in my particular journey with the Lord? Does it even apply? I need to know because I could end up getting carried away with this and getting distracted." We blame the snake oil salesman on stage for duping us - but, as they say, it takes two to tango: he might have manipulated a situation - but I was the sucker who was naive and desperate enough to believe what he was saying.

I have experienced the supernatural in my own life on several occasions. The most incredible moment of my life was when I was spectacularly baptised in the Spirit in October 1998 - it really did change my life. Then there was the time when I found two ten pound notes, in two different locations, on the same day, within about an hour. Come on! I don't care what anybody says - one ten pound note, okay, but two? That just doesn't normally happen! Ever since I was baptised in the Holy Spirit, I prayed in tongues fervently; that lasted for a couple of years and gradually fizzled out. I used to hear God's voice speak to me audibly, but that too has come to a standstill.

I still believe firmly in the supernatural, but I believe that like everything else in the institutional church - it can become a distraction from the main event - everyday life! “Everyday life” is a dirty-word to neurotic Christians who are enamoured with everything supernatural.  I'd describe myself as a recovering neurotic. Anxiety, I believe, is established and maintained by running away from reality, instead of embracing and working with the life that surrounds you - the people, places and things. Christians read the Old Testament about how God moved in some spectacular fashion, and we want it! We want God to "use a sledgehammer to crack a walnut" on our behalf! We want to feel special and loved of God; we want to stand out from the crowd for all the best reasons.

I'll admit that I have gradually veered towards what is known as cessationism: I believe that spiritual gifts and supernatural occurrences will cease and have already ceased, to an extent. I believe in the supernatural to an extent and I don’t go out of my way to stubbornly refute it, like sceptics such as James Randi. I just take issue with the abuse, manipulation and misplaced expectation that often surrounds the supernatural.

I don't believe in a total cessation of the supernatural, just a fading away as the most important thing takes centre stage - I'm talking about love. When you have love you are able to embrace the miracles that you see in everyday life; the little things around you that you take for granted - birds singing in the trees, the sun shining millions of miles above you in a clear blue sky; the stars that shine at night - light years away; the miracle of child birth and the complexities of the human body; the wonderful, rich feeling of loving someone for no other reason than they exist. This is where God is! This is where the miracle is to be found!

Miracles are, by definition, rare. When we move away from everyday life, we veer towards fantasy, unrealistic expectations and a world of stress! It is so much better to love "what is" and enjoy whatever life brings to you in the moment. When we put all sorts of expectations on God, the end result is always disappointment. I believe the supernatural is designed to bring us nearer to God and closer to love - in one way or another.

8 Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.

9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part.

10 But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.

11 When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.

13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13:8-13 nkjv

Sowing and Reaping In Relation to Disposition

7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.

8 For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.

Galatians 6:7-8 nkjv

Sowing and reaping is often viewed in relation to principles if I do "this" and "that" will happen. But I feel that Galatians 6:7-8 is talking about a person's disposition more than a particular action: if a person expresses or "sows to" their higher nature, they will reap the consequences and strengthen that aspect of their nature - the same is true about expressing the lower nature. This concept of higher nature and lower nature coexisting in a person's personality and vying for attention and expression, brings us back to Galatians 5:7, "For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish."

I just find it fascinating that there is this reference in the Bible to sowing and reaping in relation to disposition, personality or nature. There doesn't seem to be any references in scripture that attribute sowing and reaping to a particular course of action, from which we derive principles.

I concede to the fact that Paul lists the "Works of the Flesh" being things like lewdness and adultery. But again, I feel that Paul is simply stating that these things are typical expressions of a person who is yielded to their lower nature, and therefore, has a "bad" disposition. Apostle Paul is not necessarily saying, "Don't do these things - these are really bad!" There seems to be a mindset in the church that if you can make a taboo out of something, you can manipulate people's behaviour so that they don't do those things - but that simply does not work. We can tie this line of thinking in with the words of Jesus in Matthew 7:15-20.

15 "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.

16 You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles?

17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.

18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.

19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

20 Therefore by their fruits you will know them.

Matthew 7:15-20 nkjv

In conclusion, I believe that it is much more important to focus on disposition, who you are on the inside, rather than a set of principles that Christians should follow.

Disposition and Quality of Life – Part 2

Although not an exact science, it seems to me that it is a person's disposition that determines how well they cope with life, the quality of the decisions they make, as well as the people and circumstances they attract.

As many wise people have concluded in the past: happiness is a state of mind, rather than what you do or have. Ultimately, the things we aspire to attain in life, be it wealth, success or some kind of achievement – is all for the sole purpose of being happy. If I believe that I need such-and-such in order to be happy, but I don’t have those things, then I’m inevitably going to be miserable and discontent. But if I accept myself, the world and other people, just as they are at this moment, I am much more likely to attain that precious happiness that we all seek.

Discontentedness is not a driver for success. Nothing good can come from those emotions that Apostle Paul labels “Works of the Flesh”. Should we just drift through life, content with all that we are and all that we have? I would say “yes” – if that is where peace leads you – why change anything if you are truly happy and content? Shouldn’t we strive for achieve more? People have thought the same thing in the past – and look where Capitalism with its greed and selfishness has got us now. There is a strong, motivating force for good, which God promotes and is the very source of – it is called love. Love does not need to be bitter, frustrated and content for it to function properly.

So it would seem that our level of happiness if affected more by our beliefs, than our environment, possessions and the people in our lives. A person’s disposition seems to affect how well they “flow” with life – I believe that this comes down to a person’s beliefs and how well they are able to accept their life and the people around them. If I believe that you should be different than you are at this moment – it does not help you to change for the better, but it could make it difficult for me to relate to you. If I accept my life situation as it is now, it does not mean that nothing will ever change, but it does mean that I will be happier and more cooperative with my circumstances. Wishing things were different to the point of frustration and bitterness, will not contribute a great deal towards a solution.

So instead of people focusing on taking action through principles and formulas as a means of changing their lives for the better - it would be better to focus on whatever it is that forms a person's disposition.

Disposition and Quality of Life – Part 1

It does seem that there is a lot of confusion around the concept of life "going well" - how do we define it? Some would measure it in terms of health, others wealth, others according to happiness. All of these factors do come into play to some extent when it comes to life "going well" for us. But how do we explain the kind, friendly relative who is taken ill with a debilitating disease? How does the concept of "going well" figure in the life of the rich man who made his wealth through deceit and manipulation? It just does not make sense a lot of the time.

The Christian world seems to concentrate a great deal on taking action to the point of attempting to define what action is right and what action is wrong; the church loves to prescribe formulas which, if followed, will change a person's life for the better. But when it comes to life "going well", I think that it has a lot more to do with a person's beliefs, desires and attitudes. One could say that such attributes form a person's disposition. According to the Concise Oxford English Dictionary, the word "disposition" means: a person's inherent qualities of mind and character. An inclination or tendency. It is a person's disposition which determines whether they will grasp opportunities or if they will procrastinate and shy away from taking responsibility. The Parable of the Talents was all about this contrast of dispositions.

I believe that the classic components of a person's disposition include maturity, wisdom, self-esteem, self-confidence, friendliness and sincerity. Some people are confident but lack friendliness and sincerity. I struggle to understand why God allows unpleasant people to prosper financially. But it is wrong to assume that such people are content in life and will not reap the consequences of their disposition. A lot of people have wealth, but are discontent in life; some people have success, but suffer ill health or relationships problems. It is not easy to say that a person suffers in life because of their disposition; it often seems that good people are the unwitting victims in life. But it seems that it is a person's disposition which greatly influences the choices they make, their behaviour and what they experience in life.

Like often attracts like, unfriendly people often attract people who are just like them. Some women tend to attract abusive partners, but could it have something to do with that woman's disposition? Could she be in a state of fear which leans towards pride and selfishness as a means of self-protection? People-pleasers will often attract manipulative people like a magnet - each compliments the other and sustains that person's flawed disposition, even though they are equal opposites in many respects.

What I Believe About Sowing and Reaping

I believe in every action having a reaction. I think there is a need to get away from the concept of punishment from God. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. When we go along the lines of punishment for sin, it negates the redemptive work of the cross. The whole punishment for sin mentality causes a lot of confusion and stress as Christians anxiously analyse every little thing they do for hidden sin and potential consequences.

I believe that we are no longer punished for sin, but that sin itself has its own built-in correction mechanism. If we bear in mind the grace and mercy of God, and the fact that each of us differ in terms of maturity, beliefs and calling - we find that it is often impossible to predict the likely outcome of certain decisions and actions we commit to.

There is also the issue of God causing suffering to teach you something: I do believe that God allows certain things to happen to us for a reason. I believe that something good can come out of these bad situations. It seems that God meets us right where we are on the journey, knows what's right for us, knows what action we are likely to take and works with us to teach us, refine us and define us. That might have the appearance of punishment to us, but God simply works with us according to where we are on the journey of life. Could certain situations be avoided? Well it seems to be the case, but God often allows us to make the decisions that are in-line with our current beliefs, attitudes and desires. Anything else is divine intervention.

But I think it does help to not over-spiritualise things and just know that every action will bear natural consequences - there's nothing weird or other-worldly about it. If I neglect my need for physical exercise and overindulge in junk food - my physical appearance and level of fitness is likely to show the consequences of that - natural law of action and reaction. I am not being punished for my sin because I get unfit and flabby - there is a perfectly normal, logical explanation for my condition in this example. Now, for me to gorge on junk food and neglect exercise, and maintain the same level of fitness as an athlete, would require divine intervention.

Sometimes God does intervene in our circumstances according to His grace and mercy. But I believe that to a great extent, God prefers us to live out the natural consequences of our beliefs, attitudes and desires - which all culminate in our disposition.

Now, whatever it was that led to the overindulgence in this example, is another matter: it is likely to be a whole chain of thoughts and events along the path of life that contributed to that outcome. In the bigger picture of life, it could be seen as the sum total of all the thoughts you have thought and actions you have taken so far in life.

The Divine Nature | TNB