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The Grace Message I Believe Now - Part 2

Its no surprise really that many of the Christians I began this grace message with on Facebook, are now silent when it comes to discussions about grace – or they’ve even deleted their account.  The Gospel should be something that you do eventually “get”, without the need to constantly learn and debate with other people.  The church has kept people bound in a religious vortex from which they are unable to escape.

There seems to be a lot of expectations that people attribute to God, the Bible and the Christian life in general.  The Charismatic movement during the nineties and the Word of Faith message, created a prosperity and believing-God-for-something attitude that still persists to this day.  Even grace believers have been told, by the likes of Joseph Prince, that they can “just rest in the finished work of the cross”, as a means to prosperity and “victorious Christian living”.  I do believe in this, to an extent, but it does seem to foster a great deal of fantasy and unrealistic expectation.  I wonder if this is the reason why so many grace Christians, who were so active on forums and social networking media, have suddenly become so silent.

I believe in goal setting, but in the institutional church – it was always over-the-top, with the miraculous sprinkled in somehow.  Whilst I believe in miracles, they are, by definition – rare.  I’ve been running now for 2 years and have competed in about 4 10k races (6.2 miles).  A realistic goal for me would be to run a half-marathon (13 miles).  What would be unrealistic would be for me to consider running a 50 mile ultra-marathon – at this stage, at least.

The more you progress and mature in the grace message, the more you realise that it has a lot to do with permission to be yourself.  The church portrayed the Christian life as a continuous striving to be, do or have something you don’t already experience.  Hence, the fantasy aspect to Christianity: trying to be someone you’re not, whilst anxiously striving to attain unrealistic standards – standards of behaviour and lifestyle.  In fact, you might find that as you embrace this grace message – you become less and less of what you were told a Christian should look and act like.  Ironically, the Gospel seems to be, to a great extent, an anti-religion message.

It’s comforting to know that God is in my life, although I know that I can’t use clever formulas and principles to control my life circumstances.  I know I can’t make God do what I want, when I want; and I know that I can’t always avoid those things I consider to be bad and negative.

Although I’ve matured and improved as a person over the years, I still struggle somewhat with anxiety.  It was anxiety and its many varied toxic side effects that originally draw me to Christ.  In fact, I’d say that many, if not most, Christians come to Christ through some sort of issues.  Whilst the grace message has done a lot to help me deal with anxiety, particularly those induced through abusive religious beliefs and practices, I’m still left to deal with the anxieties of everyday life.  I would say that the Gospel only goes so far in dealing with this.

What I’ve personally found to be more useful in bringing peace of mind is a practice called The Work of Byron Katie, also known as Inquiry.  This practice is based on four simple questions and what is known as a “turnaround”.  Byron Katie asserts no set, institutional, centralised beliefs, as such.  But when people are invited to do The Work for themselves, a kind of focus and consensus of beliefs and attitudes comes to the fore and a kind of philosophy and approach arises out of that.  This approach has a lot to do with accepting “what is” and not arguing with reality.  This does not mean we should not be passionate, have opinions and take bold action – it just means freedom from stressing over things we cannot change.  The Work can, at times, seem rather extreme and controversial: there’s no way a religious Christian could adopt this approach.  But the grace message makes it possible for Christians to do this.  You might think that The Gospel and The Work don’t quite mix well – but I believe that they do.

I suppose you could say that my spiritual beliefs are rather unique now.  If I could summarise what I believe now, I suppose I’d say a foundation of Biblical, faith-righteousness, as popularised by Joseph Prince and Bertie Brits; with the core being a fusion of The Free Believers Network and The Work of Byron Katie.

I’ve invested a lot of time and effort (and frustration) in the pursuit of my spiritual beliefs.  I still don’t feel I’ve arrived and as much as I’m excited and enthusiastic about it all – I’m still inclined to be frustrated, confused and inclined to give it all up, at times.  Many have been the time that I’d pursue a concept with a passion – only for it to lead me to a dead-end.  It’s for this reason why I’m not so inclined these days to push my beliefs on to other people.  But I’m passionate about being totally honest and expressing my beliefs and opinions from genuine experience – rather than just simply quoting someone else.  I could be wrong with my current beliefs – but it seems to be working rather well and making sense, so far.

The Grace Message I Believe Now - Part 1

Like many Christians, I’m very grateful to grace preachers such as Joseph Prince for helping to bring Christianity out of the dark ages, from stifling religion to enlightenment and spiritual freedom.  But I notice that there’s often a significant disparity between the beliefs of even self-proclaimed grace believers.  It indicates to me that this is a journey in which a person’s beliefs evolve and, hopefully, mature.  The first major obstacle to overcome is the concept of faith by righteousness alone – I see this as the linchpin when it comes to grace.  It is little wonder that many believers, who come into this message, feel the need to avidly share and discuss this revelation with others.

But this journey goes even beyond faith-righteousness.  As a believer begins to experience freedom, they begin to question more and more the things they once held as sacred and unquestionable – things like the tithe and church attendance.  It’s refreshing to see that whilst some grace preachers, such as Joseph Prince, still believe in tithing; others such as Bertie Brits, are against it.

I find that as you progress along this path of freedom, you begin to engage the heart more, as the tough questions you always wanted to ask, think for yourself and engage with others in a meaningful, heart-felt manner.  Gone are the days when you needed someone else to teach you the very things that ought to come natural to you – such as loving others.  As you engage the heart, you find that you no longer study the Bible as an intellectual pursuit.  In fact, you find that you use the Bible less and less as the Christian life shifts from an intellectual study, something theoretical, towards a genuine experience.

As you shift towards living according to your heart, rather than your head, you find that you no longer need to listen to the faith-righteousness message of Joseph Prince and the like.  I mean you get it – you really get it.  It’s at this point that your interest is no longer on studying and quoting Bible verses but living the journey.  It’s at this point that you’re more inclined to listening to The God Journey and The Free Believers Network – Into the Wild podcasts.  These are not preachers who are teaching you something, but discussions between like-minded grace believers who are out of the system of organised religion (church) and are now living from their hearts.  If you’re not used to these podcasts you might find them pushing the boundaries of what you find acceptable – you might even find them a little shocking.  But I’m grateful to these podcasts because they had the effect of “sandblasting” the last vestiges of religion off me.  Although I no longer need to listen to these podcasts, as I believe I’ve fully absorbed this message, I still listen every week because I love their rawness, honesty and humour.

It surprises me just how religious some so-called grace believers can be.  It seems that many Christians still hold onto certain concepts that they deem sacred and taboo and are willing to guard with their life.  For some its repentance for others the tithe, another might still hold to church attendance or whatever.  You can tell what belief a person is clinging onto when you see rather animated discussions on forums and social networking media such as Facebook.  I used to go on Facebook a lot when I came into the grace message – it helped establish me in my beliefs.  But I think you reach a point whereby you no longer feel the need to do discuss and argue with others about your beliefs.  I suppose this is because you’re a lot more confident and mature in your beliefs.  There are some people who feel the need to convince others of what they believe.  This could emanate from a genuine desire to help others.  But it’s just as likely to come from a need for significance, as they try to establish themselves as a grace-guru.  I just see some of the discussions on Facebook between mature and immature Christians – and I can already predict the futile circles it will go.  I see the Bible quotes and the big blocks of text and it just makes me wince!

For me what marks-out a religious Christian is the way they feel the need to quote a Bible verse for every little thing they say or do.  It’s as if they have to speak in Bible verses.  I believe the integrity of the Bible and that it’s inspired of God, but there is a need to get on and live your own life according to your own God-given destiny.  Otherwise, you simply read about, and quote, the lives of godly men and women from the ancient middle-east

The “Bible Bug”

091216-N-9187B-007 GRAND BARA, Djibouti (Dec. 15, 2009) Army National Guard Sgt. Rafael Rivas approaches a water-station during a 15K run through the Grand Bara Desert, Djibouti.  Sgt. Rivas, 55, placed second overall in his age bracket finishing in just under 58 minutes.  Hosted by the French Foreign Legion, the 27th Grand Bara Run included runners from American, Japanese, French, and local Djiboutian militaries.  Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Joshua Bryce Bruns.My sister-in-law was always trying to persuade me to join a local running club that she goes to. I came close to going a few times, but I felt put off by the long distances they would run. I relocated at the end of 2010, so I decided to join a local running club early in 2012. I’m really glad I did! I enjoy going to the running club every week. It seems to motivate me to run better when I’m with a group of other people. I tend to be a fair-weather jogger and sometimes struggle running when it’s cold and dark outside. But I find that if I can just get into the car and drive to the meeting place – I’ll be okay from there. So far, I’ve hardly missed a session – never because I don’t feel like it.

There seems to be such a buzz of excitement when you meet with other people around a shared interest. I tend to be rather quiet at the running club. Unlike church, I don’t feel compelled to introduce myself to everyone and to talk a lot. But I do find that I naturally engage people in conversation during the session – in a way that feels normal and comfortable. The people are often excitedly discussing upcoming races they’re going in for – be it a 10k, trail race, half-marathon, full marathon or even something more. Some of the people travel far and wide for races, such as Berlin or Budapest.

The “Race Bug”

Suffice to say, you find that in a running club you feel more motivated and, if you don’t already have it, you find yourself catching the “Race Bug”. I’ve already done three 10k races this year and plan to do another race by the end of the year. For me, running a race is exhilarating and I excitedly anticipate each one I go in for. The desire to set goals, achieve them and to perform in general – is intensified. When you’re running with other people, there is a subconscious desire to keep up with other, faster people: to maintain a pace that is faster than you would normally run at – which is great.

The “Church Bug”

This made me think about the way in which a person’s motivation is increased when they’re around people who have a shared interest. This then led me to consider the way in which this concept applies to the church. People get the “Church Bug” as they get excited about attending church and discussing upcoming church events and visiting speakers. There’s always someone who announces they’re going to attend more than one service on a Sunday, or they’re going to a conference over a hundred miles away – you feel that you should do the same.

Pep Talks

As I pointed out in a previous blog post entitled Pep Talks, much of the preaching and overall focus of the typical charismatic church, is positive thinking and encouragement. I see a lot of preaching in charismatic services as being akin to a Biblically oriented Anthony Robbins seminar. On the surface this seems to be all well and good, but I’ve found from my own experience that it tends to get a person all excited – but without actually being able to instil the necessary wisdom and patience to sustain the required effort over the long-haul. There is also a tendency to raise the bar to a very high standard, which is difficult to achieve for the average person. The net effect is often disappointment and frustration as you try to be, do or have something that you don’t already experience.

The “Jesus Bug”

At church, you soon catch the “Jesus Bug” – you find yourself using the name of Jesus much more than you normally would do. You find creative ways of diverting a conversation from something secular to something about Jesus. You learn to divert the focus away from your own life and your relationships – to Jesus.

The emphasis then turns to being like Jesus. In the 15th June 2012 Into the Wild podcast Challenging the Man of God Teaching, the hosts discussed the way in which Christian men have been encouraged to be like Jesus. The problem with this is that no-one really knows what Jesus was like, because there are only scant writings about Him and, of course, no video footage. I understand that the church seeks to encourage people to adopt the obvious, and Biblical, positive attributes of Jesus: what Paul lists as the fruit of the spirit in the book of Galatians. But what often happens is that the church forms an impression of what Jesus was like, which ends up being non-confrontational, soft and rather feminine – instead of just being normal and expressing, rather than repressing, emotions.

The “Bible Bug”

Church also fosters the “Bible Bug” – you find yourself memorising and quoting Bible verses on a regular basis. In fact, you would look a bit silly around your new found Christian friends if you didn’t learn to sprinkle your conversation with a good amount of scripture. I suppose this aids people who struggle to talk about themselves, because they feel their life is not interesting enough. If you find conversation running dry – why not tell your buddies at church that you’re believing God for some material thing, according to Philippians 4:13? Soon you can become an expert at finding analogies from the Bible, quoting chapter and verse, for almost any situation in everyday life.

In the 13th April 2012 Into the Wild podcast The Day the Music Died, Darin Hufford remarked on the way in which we’ve substituted the Bible for God so, instead of looking at our hearts for answers to life, we’ve been taught to look to the Bible. I’ve found my need to read the Bible is now non-existent.

Church – Did it Do Me Any Good?

When I look back on all of that church life now, I can’t honestly say that any of it did me any good whatsoever. I can’t think of many sermons that I’d like to keep and to reference in the future. I can’t claim to have benefited in any way from constantly quoting Bible verses. I can’t think of one instance when I’ve “believed God” for something, according to scripture – and it has come to pass. Neither can I see any benefit of injecting Jesus into my conversation. I believe in Jesus, honour Him, perhaps even love Him to an extent. But I’m not sure if I, or others, were really supposed to talk about Him as much as we were trained to do in the church. Now that I’m out of the church, I wonder sometimes if I’ve backslidden, because I don’t talk about church, Jesus and the Bible – anywhere as much as I used to.

I believe that the institutional church has painted a picture of the Christian life, which is far removed from reality; I also doubt if Jesus and the apostles meant for Christianity to become what it has over the centuries. Despite all the spectacular stories we read in the Bible and hear at church - I think the Christian life looks more like everyday life than anything else.

I believe it is good for Christians to get together over their shared interest. But who says it has to be in buildings dedicated for that purpose? Who said we had to meet on a Sunday – or every Sunday for that matter? Who said we have to focus on and quote the Bible so much? Who says that we should even focus on Jesus as much as the church does?

Photo Guardsman places second in 15K run through Grand Bara Desert, Djibouti courtesy of The National Guard.

Sin and Dysfunction – Part 4

Sin vs. Human Dysfunction

I feel as if there is a need to make a distinction between sin as depicted in the Bible, and this state of human dysfunction. If we don't make this distinction, struggling Christians will continue to either believe they are still sinners being punished by God, trying to merit God's favour (legalism), or they will foolishly ignore the warning signs that their dysfunction produces (licentiousness). It is not the case that God punishes Christians for their sin, it is more of a case of being less able to function effectively in life, particularly relationships, and to make good decisions.

For instance, health problems related to poor lifestyle, such as a junk food diet and lack of exercise – cannot be attributed to punishment from God. Such health problems are obviously the natural consequences of a person’s lifestyle choices. These poor lifestyle choices are obviously the product of apathy, which in turn is the effect of negative thinking and a bad disposition.

I also believe that people with a good disposition are better able to attract positive people and experiences as a natural consequence. Even this, having positive-minded, good-natured people around you, is itself highly conducive to a good disposition, happiness and success.

Sowing and Reaping

This asserts the Biblical concept of sowing and reaping, which has a lot more to do with the heart than it does to material things. The biggest hindrance to Christians accepting the grace message is that, if rules and the fear of punishment are taken away - there will be nothing to mitigate wrong behaviour and actions.

They need not worry because human dysfunction carries its own means of self-correction. If someone has a disposition that leads them to live reckless lives – whilst it may seem like freedom to them – it will more harmful. If a person has a selfish personality, if they are angry and proud, it will have a detrimental effect on their relationships. Relationships are absolutely vital to life – to happiness and success. So, if your personality does not endear itself to others – you are likely to struggle in life.

My Own Journey

When I look back on my journey through the grace message, I can see the changes in me: my thinking, emotional health and lifestyle. I think that my transition through grace has been paralleled by a steady victory over human dysfunction: fear, pride and so forth. When bad things happened in my life in the past, as a Christian it was often instinctual to think, “God is punishing me for my sin.” But as my beliefs steadily became more entrenched in the grace message – which belief in punishment began to dissipate.

I gradually learning that when bad things happen in my life, it is often no result of my wrongdoing – things happen in life, good and bad, for seemingly no reason at all. But there have also been many times when something unexpected and unwelcome has happened, and I have been able to trace it directly to a fault in me: a bitter attitude, worry, timidity, inability to get on well with a group of people, and so on.

A few years ago I experienced a major battle with pride which culminated in a great deal of struggle, frustration and feelings of utter worthlessness and emptiness. Now that that battle with pride is over with, I find myself in a position whereby the mist is clearing and I find myself happier, more confident and getting on much better with people around me. This has also been mirrored by significant positive changes in my lifestyle and life circumstances.

Sin and Dysfunction – Part 3

Legalism vs. Licentiousness

Some Christians have wholeheartedly accepted the grace message, yet they also strive towards highlighting overindulgence and the abuse of grace: referred to by some as licentiousness. See the blog entry Dead Off Center.

Grace author Dr. Andrew Farley wrote the following recently on his Facebook page:


A. legalism:

1. forgiven, but not really forgiven- still need to ask.

2. free, but not really free- still need the Law for morality.

3. new, but not really new- still need to try to die to self.

4. Christ in us, but not really- out of fellowship half the time.

B. licentiousness:

1. totally forgiven so behavior doesn't matter.

2. totally accepted so behavior doesn't matter.

3. totally new so I never struggle, nor does it matter.

4. Christ is in me, so it's all Him, none of me. I go passive.


1. we are forgiven of all our sins, once for all.

2. we are dead to the law; Christ is the end of the law for us.

3. our old self died; the battle is between the Spirit and flesh.

4. Christ is in me, 24-7, without interruption.

5. behavior matters; it can be an expression of Christ and saves a whole lot of earthly consequences.

The Thought Connection

I, like many others, have made the connection between life's struggles and unhappiness - to a person's thinking. It seems that if people hold on to negative thoughts and beliefs, it gives rise to wrong ideas, emotions, motives, attitudes and, ultimately, behaviour. If you make a habit of reading my posts you'll no doubt see the words dysfunction and disposition a lot - I use these words to try to identify what could be called human dysfunction, which seems to cause problems in people's lives. It’s this human dysfunction that seems to impair a person's confidence, self-esteem, intuition, motivation and character. I suppose the Bible would call this human dysfunction – the flesh.

I see this human dysfunction as being like a sliding scale from debilitating apathy, depression and fear on one end - with a great deal of pride, anger and bitterness on the other. Fear creates an apathy and lethargy, a lack of confidence and feelings of low self-worth, which produce a low energy state, which makes it difficult to do the simplest of things at times. In stark contrast, the high energy state produced by pride and anger can motivate people to action. I think a lot of successful lawyers and greedy businessmen fall into this high energy category.

Sin and Dysfunction – Part 2

Will God Bless You When You Sin?

Whether God will bless you if you sin is a heavily debated topic. I do believe that God can, and will, bless people when they sin. This is sometimes referred to as serendipity and we see evidence of it in the Bible, such as Abraham being made wealthy even when he lied to Pharaoh. Then there are the accounts we read about in the Gospels, when Jesus and His disciples deliberately flouted the religious, Jewish laws – but were justified.

But I notice that those people whose manner, attitude, behaviour and personality do not seem altogether right - tend to struggle somewhat in life. Conversely, I do believe that attaching to the idea that God punishes wrong behaviour, somewhat negates the work of Jesus on the cross. It seems like something of a conundrum.

In fact, the biggest opponent to Christians fully embracing the modern-day grace message appears to be the need to embrace the grace message, live in the freedom of the Gospel – yet somehow militate against wrong beliefs, attitudes and behaviour. It is this reluctance that often leads to heated debates on Christian internet forums.

Living in Freedom

So it seems that the Gospel permits us to sin – but if we love God and the Holy Spirit lives in us, would we really want to do those things that are inappropriate and harmful? Grace is often referred to as a license to sin. Even Darin Hufford of The Free Believers Network believes that this freedom we have in Christ should not be used as an excuse for behaving in a way that is harmful.

When a set of rules is created by a religious institution – it becomes stifling and prevents us from living in freedom. However, I believe that people ought to be allowed to develop their own convictions and opinions when it comes to how they live their life. It is important to find out, through experience, what works for you and what doesn’t – that’s freedom. There is also a need to relax somewhat when it comes to the incessant desire many Christians have, when it comes to forcing their opinions and beliefs on others. At the end of the day, a lot of what we believe is indeed nothing more than personal opinions and preferences.

The Bible says that the works of the flesh are evident (obvious). I believe that we don’t need a law that says we must not steal from other people or commit adultery – these things are obvious. If you need to be quoted a Bible verse that states you must love others, before you will love them – then there is something seriously wrong!

Sin and Dysfunction – Part 1

Sin and Punishment

When we think of sin we typically think of wrong behaviour culminating in some kind of punishment from God - the ultimate punishment being hell. But the Bible is perfectly clear that Jesus bore the sin of the world and was punished on our behalf so that we could be completely righteous before God. There is a notion that if a Christian believes that he is right with God through Christ - he will tend not to sin. I do believe in this, to an extent, because trying to resist sin just makes it worse. This struggle with sin is depicted in the Bible in Romans 7:7-8.

7 Well then, am I suggesting that these laws of God are evil? Of course not! No, the law is not sinful, but it was the law that showed me my sin. I would never have known the sin in my heart--the evil desires that are hidden there--if the law had not said, "You must not have evil desires in your heart."

8 But sin used this law against evil desires by reminding me that such desires are wrong, and arousing all kinds of forbidden desires within me! Only if there were no laws to break would there be no sinning.

Romans 7:7-8 TLB

So it seems that creating a set of rules enforced by some kind of punishment, such as the Old Testament law, ineffective in preventing people from doing what is wrong. So it would seem that a more effective method against sin is to throw away the rulebook, so to speak, and remove the threat of punishment. When the threat of punishment of sin looms over our heads, it prevents us from living life to the full. There is a need to let go of the fear of that punishment, knowing that Christ already bore that punishment on our behalf. Then we are free to live our lives, making mistakes along the way, like any other ordinary person. For more information on this topic, please read the blog entry The Fear of Sinning.

“Grace Junkies”

There is a belief, based on the Bible, that when you believe in Christ’s righteousness, the divine nature lives in you and causes you to live right. But I have found that just believing that you're right with God does not always seem to stop people from indulging in wrong behaviour, neither does it release them from negative emotions or prevent bad things from happening in their lives. This can lead people to become “grace junkies” as they seek to expose themselves to as much grace teaching that they can lay their hands on. But I wonder if this is the correct approach?

Something Amazing Can Happen! – Part 2

Yesterday I pondered the fact that something amazing could happen in my life. As soon as I did, I experienced a "gag-reflex" from the stories and testimonies from the I.C. . (Institutional Church) I suppose those stories have created a "cry wolf" situation, like many others in the church system, causing believers to "throw the baby out with the bath water". So as I pondered these thoughts, I experienced a maelstrom of mixed emotions. I felt a huge sense of inadequacy, as if I didn't deserve good things.

My mind raced, scrambling to find some nugget of self-worth to make me feel good enough to experience something wonderful. I seemed to fall short in every way: intelligence, physical appearance, personality, job title, salary figure, material possessions, past achievements, etc. I felt a whole catalogue of past failures flowing through my mind, just like a film reel.

One way of describing the experience would be to say that I felt naked. I felt that if something amazing did happen soon - it would not be because of anything I have or am - it would be because of God's grace. Why is it that God's grace doesn't always seem to be good enough for us? That we have to augment it with something that we have or do?

There's been enough evidence in the last few years to cause me to think that my life is finally moving forwards. I know I can't "believe God" for things. I also know that my life might never rise above the ordinary. Peace and joy is the true prize set before me now. But who knows what great things are set before me, as I find myself, my life, finally getting into gear?

I believe that emotionalism and the miraculous in the church, as well as the neurotic human condition, tends to shun contentment in everyday life, in favour of the miraculous and the extreme. We all need to be open-minded about the notion of something amazing, perhaps even miraculous, happening in our lives. But at the same time, we need to be prepared to live our lives as if nothing amazing or miraculous will ever happen - and be okay with that. We need to rediscover the everyday supernatural and the joys of normal life that was obscured to us during dark times of our lives.

There is a need to recognise covetousness and to have real solutions in place to be able to deal with it. I suppose expecting something amazing was something I'd repressed and as I went to that place in my mind again - I found that I was not ready to deal with it and it surprised me. I have to be able to walk where God sends me and I can't allow myself to miss-out on any of the good things that God might have for me.

It is the simple, but wonderful and beautiful things of life that we often take for granted. A person could, for instance, live in an area of outstanding natural beauty, but if that person is depressed and looking for something bigger and better - they miss out on what is around them.

The tendency towards the sensational was instilled in us through the I.C. They saw the reaction of the crowd to their remarkable stories and testimonies and decided to milk it for all its worth. I always think of it as being just like glossy magazines over the past ten years or so: front covers would occasionally use the word "sex" in one of their headlines; people got excited about that and sales went up, so they did it more and more, until, now you can't see a single magazine in a shop without the word "sex" on the cover. But I suppose there would not be such a positive reaction from the congregation if an evangelist excited recounted a time when he sat by a beautiful lake on a sunny day and felt happy.

The expectation of miracles and blessings caused me to make foolish decisions with property, which led to me losing tens of thousands of pounds - I'm still not fully recovered from that experience. Oh well, at least I learned a big lesson!

Something Amazing Can Happen! – Part 1

When I look back on my life I can see that the last three years of my life have seen some significant positive changes. Well, I just pondered the thought yesterday that perhaps something really wonderful, amazing in fact, could happen in my life. I'm not saying that something amazing will happen - just that it could.

For instance, I've been writing quite prolifically about my Christian journey since around 2005. I do believe that I have a gift for writing and that my whole life has been conducive towards knowing God. That "knowing God" has necessitated a lot of hardship and anxiety; a lot of failure and long periods of sadness and loneliness; a lot of frustration as I navigate the treacherous waters of institutionalised Christianity.

I really envy those people who seem to be honed into highly functional adults by the time they leave school - becoming happy and highly successful individuals. In stark contrast, I believe that my life has been pre-engineered to promote stress, as I battle with feelings of failure, sadness and despair. But all of that pain is for a good reason - it has to be! I believe that its time that people on the grace path began to share more with others and help them on this journey - this could be through podcasts, blogs or books. I honestly believe that I could write a book about Christianity and perhaps that is my calling.

In the I.C. (Institutional Church) there was a great deal of emphasis on over-the-top stories of amazing achievements and people who overcame incredible hardship. There was also the notion that the more you suffer - the more you will be blessed. There is a popular Christian adage that states, "Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy", or something like that. But the way of thinking has led to a lot of Christians becoming depressed, as they realise that all the incredible things they were expecting - have not, and probably will not, materialise.

One of my main areas of focus in recent years has been acceptance of reality. I've had to come to terms that I might be just a normal person and that something that could be classed as "amazing" might never happen in my life. I realise that there has been too much emphasis on the fantastic, the miraculous, performance and achievement. I have awoken to the belief that there can be something truly wonderful to be found in the kind of life that we were led to believe was "average". Divine peace and joy makes normal life something really special, I believe.

Tangents – Part 2

Another phase or tangent I see emerging quite often amongst grace believers is that of Universalism or Ultimate Reconciliation. I can see why this concept emerges amongst grace believers, as they struggle to come to terms with how a loving God could punish people for eternity - just because they didn't say a "sinner's prayer". I would say that it has a lot to do with the psychological condition known as Cognitive Dissonance: where a discomfort is caused by holding conflicting cognitions (e.g. ideas, beliefs, values, emotional reactions) simultaneously.

Personally, I stand with the hosts of the God Journey and Into the Wild podcasts on the subject of hell: basically, I don't really know. There seem to be compelling arguments either side of the hell argument. In the Bible, Jesus talks about the Second Death and Gehenna. But there are verses in the Bible that say that everyone will be saved. There is also a website called tentmaker which gives a very compelling argument against the concept of eternal damnation.

The Universalism versus hell argument is typical of Christians who often get carried away with other-worldly, future-based concepts - instead of focusing on the present. It is in the present, the here-and-now, which we find ourselves. This is where life is happening, right here, and right now. Yet Christians prefer to discuss matters that no-one can really know for certain, things that science cannot prove. I do believe in spiritual things and I'm open-minded about miracles and such like. But the more people tend to veer away from present-day reality - the more insecure and just plain whacky they tend to become.

For me, the Bible points me towards Jesus as my Saviour. I'm loved by God because He first loved me and sent Jesus to die that I might have life. That's a spiritual concept that science cannot really prove; a concept that not everybody believes - but I do. But we have to come to terms with the fact that this message of Good News, this grace, is so we can live our God-given and God-ordained lives - right here, right now. I like what the hosts of The God Journey podcasts often say, "We should love the people that are in front of us now." The bottom line in life really comes down to living our normal, everyday life, loving others and being content with what we have. It can be hard to let go of fantasies - but it is essential if we are to be normal people who are able to get on with others and get on with life.

Eternal life is to be lived now! In the New Testament, the Greek word Zoë is often translated as life and eternal life: it is the life-giving presence of God; it is joy and a source of a vibrant personality that other people are attracted to. The Bible talks about the light of life: this speaks to me of having the expression of the presence of God; the expression of fullness of joy. Instead of focusing on heaven, hell, end-times and other such concepts - we should really focus on having the life of God in us now. Wrong beliefs and attitudes, more that what we see as sin, is what diminishes that light of life in us.

A really good book that I would recommend on this subject of tangents is Phil Baker’s hilarious, but relevant and honest book, Weird Christians I Have Met. It amazes me that this book was actually written at the peak of the charismatic movement; it deals with all the excesses and pitfalls that charismatic Christians often get caught-up in. It uses fictional characters, like End-Time Ed, that epitomise that particular tangent.

Tangents – Part 1

What I’ve noticed on this spiritual journey is that people often get caught-up in tangents. I‘ve already discussed in previous blog entries how Christians go through phases and stages on their Christian journey. But they also tend to get stuck on particular phases for rather too long. They can also tend to get carried away with certain concepts – hence the term “tangent”. I wouldn’t mind if these tangents were beneficial but, most of the time, they tend to be anything but beneficial.

There are various tangents that Christians get caught-up in once they come into the grace message. One such tangent is that phase of being angry with the institutional church for the perceived abuse that they have had to endure at the hands of that entity. I think it is natural, even necessary, to go through a phase of being angry at the religious system that most of us believers have been through at some point. But there is a definite need to let it all go and to get on with your life.

I, personally, dislike "scare-monger" preachers such as John Bevere - someone well known for frightening his followers into obedience. But Bevere does have a point, I believe, when it comes to the assertion that holding onto a bad attitude can cause problems in your life. This bad attitude could be unforgiveness towards a person or bitterness towards an institution, event, and concept and so on.

I do honestly believe that in order for people to be free - they should be allowed to sin. The notion that people will not sin once they know they're right with God is akin, in my opinion, to the ideal that once Christians discard tithing - they will end-up giving more to the church. There is a need to have the freedom to be where you are right now in life - to live in that space and to progress in your own time and in a way that is right for you. The analogy of being God's children is an accurate one - this should serve to help us to see that God loves us as we are - even when we make mistakes.

There are natural shocks in life which have the effect of shaking free the wrong beliefs, attitudes, ideas and behaviours that we often cling on to. There is a natural correctative mechanism which does put pressure on people when they are not walking in God's perfect will for their lives. This mechanism can be anything from a vague sense of uneasiness about something or a mild sense of discontentedness - all the way up to a significant level of depression and anxiety about something.

In order to get on with our lives, and to get on with God, we need to throw out the antiquated way in which we have viewed sin and punishment and our relationship with God. No longer is God judging us and punishing us for our sins. Now, it is more a case of living the life that God has already predestined for us to live. It goes without saying that God has a perfect will for our lives, and that the closer we adhere to that life-plan - the better our lives will go for us and the more contented we will be. Conversely, the more we veer away from God's perfect will - the more frustrated we will become. Once again, this all comes down to the analogy that the Bible gives us of a father-child relationship.

God does not punish us for our sins, neither are we cursed: Jesus bore the curse of the law and the punishment for sin at the cross on our behalf. But it must be said that having a bad attitude in life will make trouble for you in one way or another - so will poor decision making and destructive habits. No-one can say they're being punished for their sins by God, because they contract lung cancer from heavy smoking, for instance.

For me, having established the foundation of righteousness in Christ by faith - I am left wondering, "Where do I go from here?" It is for this reason that I find myself in a new phase of letting-go: of wrong beliefs and attitudes that do not serve me. I no longer rail against the institutional church - I've gone through that phase.

Now, I see taking the fastest path to peace, as the most important thing for me right now. I cannot see any benefit to my life, by constantly reminding myself of past abuses by religious organisations. Some people are not going to like this, but neither can I see the benefit of constantly studying what the Bible says about my righteousness in Christ. For me at this moment in time, my struggle is with finding contentment and lasting peace.

If continuous Bible study could bring me that peace - that would be great. But I find that the "joy-stealers" in my life are not caused by a lack of Bible knowledge or even the devil - it has a lot to do with my own ideals and taboos. I find that the primary cause of anxiety tends to be what we believe we ought to be, do and have; this naturally extends to other people and things, such as the government, weather, job title, etc. Find freedom from these ideals and taboos, and you'll find lasting peace and joy. Knowing that you're right with God through Christ is very important - but haven't you already come to that conclusion yet? Therefore, it would seem that intensive Bible study itself, can become a Christian tangent.

The Divine Nature | TNB