Wednesday, 18 April 2012

BIG gospel

Take a step back...

Look at all the differences in doctrines, denominations. Every variation in belief over 2000 years. The passionate, religious, traditional, legalistic, free, gnostic, mystical, charismatic, pentecostal, fundamental, you-name-it interpretation of a "religion".

A religion that by its very nature allows for thousands of interpretations, because its a religion that deals with individuals, one on one in relation to God himself. He left a book for us all that could be read like a list of rules and standards, or passionate relationships, or any way we choose really.

But the point is, God planned that, it was His idea. You see, He wants every single person to figure it all out by themselves. Everyone has their own unique journey in this life, and God, knowing this from the beginning, reconciled everyone by what Jesus did, so they are free to pursue that unique relationship with Him. We are all free to accept, ignore, struggle, argue, embrace and wrestle with life and God's love any way we choose, because He is unendingly patient, loving and knows each person's heart and all the pain and passion that makes them who they are.

Jesus didn't die and rise so that we could follow a strict set of criteria to avoid eternal damnation and squeeze into heaven down an extremely narrow path. He opened the door to freedom so everyone can explore and find who they truly are in Him. So we can willingly embrace Him because He has met us at every level in our life and stand with Him and in Him with integrity, unashamed, and knowing fully who we are.

We have no right to impose our journey on others. We can present the freedom and joy of truly knowing Father and how it has impacted us, but we must honour every single person's unique journey. Only God knows their heart and what it takes to draw them into His presence, and the perfect timing of every step - his unforced rhythms of grace!

The gospel is BIG, much bigger than our favourite doctrines. God isn't worried about if we get everything right. He doesn't care if we learn Greek and Hebrew and study every nuance of scripture. He's not concerned if we wonder off into some gnostic waffle or literalist nightmare. He is concerned for each persons heart and will never give up - always giving us the space to work through it all while patiently pouring out His love to us.

Lets draw each other to Him, lets share His love and goodness, the freedom of His love and grace, allow Him to love us so that it can't help but overflow to everyone around us.

Monday, 16 April 2012

The Book of Jim

An allegory - few holes in it, but serves a purpose...

A friend has written a book about me, well both of us really. Kind of like the story of our relationship over the years; how we met, kept bumping in to each other, discovering similar interests and ideas, finding we had a lot of the same friends. How we flatted together, and became the bestest of friends. I told all the stories of my past, my family. Shared my heart about nearly everything. So yeah, I guess we are pretty intimate, no secrets, we love each other, respect each other.

So here's this book about us, from his perspective. Of course, he ran it all past me, I read the first draft, and I liked it - the good and the bad. There's stuff where he's made a lot of assumptions about me despite our relationship, I mean, there's a limit to how much he can really get inside my head! And there's the limitations of the written word. But I like that it's his heart about me, even if he doesn't quite get me at times.

There's lots of great stories about things we did together, and stories he remembers me telling him, well, his version of the stories, lol! Sometimes he just gets me all wrong, as friends do, but I love that he's put it all in there, because that's what relationships are all about - getting to work through these things. Knowing that in the working out, the friendship grows deeper. Oh I trust him, totally, because we are besties, and what he doesn't get now, he'll get later on.

So its a great book, warts and all, and I wouldn't want it any other way, cos even though its about me, its really about both of us and how he sees that. Not sure if it will ever really be finished, but its published anyway!

Monday, 9 April 2012

Taste God and see that He is good

This was a response by Todd Peirce to a post about Penal Substitution. I loved it so much I had to blog it as well!

In the garden Adam and Eve's perception of God was corrupted by Sin and the lie crept into their minds. They now saw God as someone to be feared and hid in the bushes. We have inherited that mistrust and wrong perception of God from Adam. Penal substitution is just a natural wrong understanding of what happened at the cross, it seems so logical but that conclusion has been corrupted by the lies that still invade our minds.

Colossians 1:19. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 1:20. and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. 1:21. Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behaviour.

It says we were enemies in our minds because of our evil behaviour. When we sin the first thoughts that flood in are God is angry or disappointed and we feel like hiding from Him. I believe the world is full of people that are still trying to hide from God due to their behaviour. That is why I believe that what Paul wrote in II Corinthians is key to changing peoples faulty perceptions of God based upon the Lie. We can shine the light of the gospel into the bushes and let them come out and see that God loves them.

II Corinthians 5:18. Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, 5:19. namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. 5:20. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 5:21. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

God says to taste and see that He is good. That says that until we taste we assume that He is not good. My hope is that someone who reads this might be encouraged to taste of God and see that He is good.

~ Todd Peirce

Monday, 2 April 2012

Another UR rant, sigh...

I was reading an article by a wonderful man who has an incredible grasp on the the grace of God and our life of perfect unity with him. And there are many who teach the wonderful freedom and joy of  the finished work of Jesus and our union with the Triune God.

But, I am saddened by the ignorance of many of these guys those who oppose Universal Reconciliation (UR)! Now I know many fundamentalists would not even give the idea the light of day, so I'm not addressing those. I'm talking about those who understand something of the wonderful grace and love of Father and what it means to live loved, yet take some aspect of UR, line it up with their interpretation of some scriptures and declare it to be wrong. The problem I've found in every case, is they have misunderstood the depth and extent of the concept of UR, and based their premises on a small part of the argument. They refuse to think that God could be bigger than their paradigms, biases and traditional teachings.

The most popular argument against UR is in regard to those who say we are all saved but just don't know it. They say this denies any act of faith or belief on our behalf, so assume that all UR beliefs are in error based on this assumption. Now I can understand that, because if we say we don't have to apply faith or belief or acceptance in some form, that is a total denial of vast quantities of scripture. So I agree. To be "saved" we have to make a decision, to act upon a conviction, to change our minds.

But the real concept of UR paints a much bigger picture. We are talking about far more consequential questions:

  • At what point is it too late to accept Jesus for who he is - to make that decission?
  • Does the "final judgement" mean most will be eternally tortured in hell with no hope of redemption?
  • Why does God outline the depths of love in 1 Cor 13 yet not apply the same standards to himself?
  • When God says He will never give up on us does that meant NEVER?
  • What about the mistransaltions of the words for Hell and eternity throughout the bible?
  • What about the early church's position on UR for the first 400 years?
  • What about all the scriptures that DO point to UR. They are probably in equal quantity to those that are used against the argument, so how do we reconcile them?
  • Do we totally ignore the obvious similarities between the modern interpretation of hell with classical Greek and medieval mythology? 
  • What about the total absence of the concept of Hell in the Old Testament?
  • If Hell is so important why wasn't it an integral part of the gospel?
  • Why didn't Paul even use scripture, let alone references to eternal damnation in his Mars Hill address in Acts?
  • Why are three different words that have nothing to do with eternal judgement and torture, translated as Hell in the New Testament?
The list goes on and on. I've found at best people just talk round in circles, battling one scripture against another. Surely that in itself tells us something! If it was really that clear from scripture then there would be no argument, but its just not clear, whatever way you look at it, and to say it is would be just pig headed dogma!

So, like I usually end up saying, we have to rely on Holy Spirit to sort things out. God did that on purpose! He didn't write a user manual with clear instructions. He compiled a bunch of letters and documents about relationships. He gave us the fullness of Himself to live in union with Him, and the brains to think for ourselves - to question and reason and wrestle with Him about everything!

So, back to UR. What does our heart say? What do we know about the unconditional love of God? What about the prodigal son, the lost sheep, what about 70 x 7? What about the god who lovingly hand assembled every human being and breathed His life into, knowing that most of them would be damned for eternity?

Most christians, if asked in confidentiality, will say they either wish all would be saved, or that hell was not really eternal torture, or that God has something better in mind and we don't really understand these things.

The final question we end up with is: will everyone ULTIMATELY be saved. Will some face a judgement that requires refining before they can accept Jesus? Will some fall on their knees in joy at the very sight of Him? Will some realise that all their "sin" was dealt with and run to jump in Father's arms the moment they see him face to face. And will they be told "too late"!

What kind of God do you know? What is his true heart of unconditional love and justice? Why would you even want to enter into a relationship with a God that would even consider eternally torturing most of the creatures He created. It just doesn't make sense on any level. Unless of course you are happy to put your God given faculties aside, and believe the staus quo!