WHERE DID MY TRUE SELF GO?

The end of a year is always a good place to reflect upon where one’s life is at and where it is heading. My problem is that being a thinker is an intrinsic and essential part of who I am . I think too much, too deep, too often. Can’t be helped! When you meditate on things as often and as deeply as I do, you come to realise that when certain thoughts and ideas keep creeping up is because they need to be considered and acted upon, or else they will haunt you and be forever present as painful reminders of your lack of courage and the hope deferred of what could have potentially been a much more fulfilling, purposeful life. There is something in our consciousness, in our spirit that acts like the rudder of our life. We are the ones turning the rudder but ultimately it is most definitely not us at the helm, or at least that is my own personal experience. I am under no false illusion that I direct my steps, but at the end I would like to think that I was able to at least recognise and act wisely, intuitively on those moments in life when I encountered a junction on the road or when a seemingly accidental curve ball was thrown my way to force me into jumping one way or another, to make a choice, to push forward without fear or coercion.

Perhaps what I have been experiencing in these last few months is nothing more than a mid-life crisis; a point in one’s life when you take stock and ponder on all the what-ifs, all the alternative paths one could have taken or may yet still need to take. It is a cliché to state that in the midst of investing one’s life in raising a family and cultivating a marriage with solid roots; in living sacrificially by putting everyone else’s happiness before your own, one can easily loose their identity and simply be identified as the link that keeps different chains together, be it family, work or relationships. Cliché or not, I have most definitely found this is true in my own life.

The recurrent thought or voice echoing on my head as of late has been saying: “Stop hiding behind what you are good at, what is familiar, and go on the journey to discover what it is you are destined to be, what it is you are meant to excel at. Go on a journey of self-discovery. Put for once in your life yourself first and discover what it is that you were made for, what makes your heart sing. I have spent so many years putting everyone else’s needs before my own that I am beginning to feel that my voice, the essence of who I am has got lost in the midst of life’s demands; my voice has been drowned out by those whose voices matter most or so I thought.

I know this will sound heartless and self-absorbed, but I am all about being honest to others and primarily to myself, and so I call it as I see it. Yes, I must say it: I would like to wake up tomorrow and not feel the ongoing, relentless, unforgiving burden of being a mum, a wife, a sister, a daughter or a friend. I want to know what it feels like to be truly free, free from a heavy sense of responsibility, free from the yoke of religion, education, history, expectations and promises, free from the oppressive sense that our life is all panned out for us; from the predictability of what is to come; the barrenness of what will never be. I long for my chains to be broken so that I can walk forward with only one thought in mind: How can I best use my personality, my knowledge and my gifting to be able to claim when it is all said and done that I have lived my life fully, without reservations, fear or regrets; that I have always been true to myself, pursued my truth and no one else’s?

Every fibre of my being assures me that I was meant for more than what I am today, than what I have achieved so far, and I am not talking about a reputation, fame or material success. I am referring solely to a place where my life will finally reach its purpose and full meaning; a point where I can assuredly say: “I have arrived”; a point where there will be no more internal turmoil, wrestling or strife. Perhaps such a place doesn’t exist, but why then be tormented by a void within that no one and nothing can fill? I know I am not alone in feeling this. When you move in Christian circles, you are told that only God can fill that void, but God’s presence is ever beating in my life and yet that void, that call to something more meaningful not only remains but rings louder and clearer each time.

I do not regret the path I have chosen, far from it, but I do not want to resent it because it stopped me from finding out who I am besides Mercedes the mother, the daughter, the sister, the wife. There is so, so much potential in all of us to do extraordinary things. I do not want to short-change myself by hiding behind what it is I am expected to be doing instead of braving it and embarking on the quest of finding what I was truly made to be. I know that longing I feel burning inside of me is a seed that has been planted in my soul. I did not put it there. To ignore that latent undeniable inner call that incites us to discover what is yet to be achieved, what is yet to be fulfilled is to clip the wings of a bald eagle and expect it to still dazzle us with its majestic presence and skill.

There must be more than this. I know there is!

WOULD YOU PLEASE SUPPORT ME IN RAISING MONEY FOR CANCER RESEARCH? UPDATE

Just wanted to leave an update here on how I am getting on with my Dryathlon to raise funds for Cancer Research. This is my first ever fundraiser. Please don’t think I am in the habit of asking people for donations. It is not in my nature to ask people for anything, so I embark on this plea with much apprehension and fully aware of how irritating it can be to be made to feel like you are not worth your salt unless you part with your cash to support the millions of amazing charitable causes happening today all around the planet.

I am not the adventurous type or maybe I am, but perhaps not in the thrill-seeking sense that motivates so many to challenge themselves with mammoth tasks such as triathlons, marathons, mountain climbing, parachuting and the like. My courage and adventurous spirit are definitely there but shape up in a much more “behind the scenes”, “mingling in the background”, demure way. I am an introvert and don’t fare well at all when I mingle with lots of people all at once or when the limelight is on me, so seen but not heard is how I like to do things, at least when it comes to my achievements. If you have been reading this blog for a while you will know that with regards to my convictions and the principles I stand by, I make a point of being heard or at least of trying to. Some things are just too important, too essential to who I am to succumb to holding back for the sake of peace keeping and compromise.

I am really pleased to say that so far I have raised, including gift aid, a total of £400. Not bad for a month of giving up alcohol, but I know I can do better, and so I have now upped the ante and committed to giving up alcohol for three months if I reach £500 and for 6 months if I raise £1000, which means I may have an alcohol-free Christmas and that is going to be the toughest challenge of all.

I realise when you compare my challenge with the mighty physical and mental battles others take on for charity, what I am doing is nothing to shout about, but I am a great believer in small beginnings and humble efforts. I am convinced that if every single person who is able, used what they have to improve another person’s life, be it directly or indirectly, this world would be a much more balanced and healthy place.

Besides, it is not just cancer which affects so many of us but alcoholism too. You must be wondering at this point whether I am an alcoholic myself. No, I am not, but I do like my wine and if it wasn’t for the grace of God, I could easily be one. I am doing this as a change in my personal lifestyle, but much more so in honour and remembrance of those whose life has been lost to either of these two awful illnesses or to those whose life has been affected in some detrimental way by them.

I hope that if you fall into either category and can spare some change, you can make a donation no matter how small. Who knows? If I was to reach £1000, I may have to consider remaining apart from my dear old friends Chardonnay and Pinot Noir for even a year. Now, that would be a Marathon worth shouting about, wouldn’t it?

Cancer and alcoholism have been in the scene for far too long. I’d say they have definitely overstayed their welcome. Will you stand with me to bid them farewell? If you are a bit cynical and are thinking right now: That will never happen just as “The poor will always be with us..”, I put it to you:

“Where there is no vision, the people perish…”

http://www.justgiving.com/Mercedes-Underwood-dryathlete2015

MY DOUBLE-EDGED SWORD

MY DOUBLE-EDGED SWORD

Being passionate is a double-edged sword

It is a formidable and invaluable weapon if we wish to finish the race

Of pursuing those dreams that burn up inside us

The quests that drives us

In our feeble attempts to leave a better world behind us

But this sword of fire that burns within,

Like the human soul tormented by sin

Rages a ruthless war where for every great battle won

The permanent taste of hurting another renders victories numb.

For she who wants much, will risk much

And it is that same zeal that leads one to triumph

Which all too often also causes irreparable injury and denial.

Being passionate is a blessing as it is a curse

It feeds the fuel that sustains the warrior on his crusade

But in overdose it becomes the poison

That eats up at your better judgement

And alienates you from the dearest of friends

ON THE PRECIPICE OF ETERNITY?

I have often published on my site prophetic words given by Priscilla Van Sutphin. I used to be very sceptic about anyone claiming that they had “heard” from God and felt a burden to be HIS mouthpiece. Indeed, I still feel there are many charlatans out there, many deluded people, deceivers who fool no one but themselves.

However, I do believe with all my heart that this woman “hears” from God and though I have never met her or know anything about her at all, every time I read the messages she shares, I myself sense the presence of God around me in a tangible way. I feel comforted, encouraged and disciplined. I feel His Spirit right there next to me. The words hit me like the words of a best friend, and intimate relation who knows you inside out and can get to those places we all try so hard to keep out of sight from the world around us.

This particular word is an example of how the Spirit of God can make contact with us when we least expect it. It can get to those dark, hidden, secret, sheltered, delicate, sensitive corners of our heart that nobody else gets to see or know about. It can unearth our deepest longings, fears and our biggest regrets, our failures and the strongest desires of our heart which up to that point have laid dormant, numbed by a culture and an existence fast forwarded by commitments, responsibilities, worries, TIME.

Priscilla, if you ever happen to read this, please know that in the past when I have shared your messages here, often I shared them because I felt they would encourage someone else. Well, this time the message was for ME.

I sit here in floods of tears feeling like that person you speak of who feels they have been discounted, who no longer have a role in the Kingdom, is ME. I am the one who has personally been given this promise:

“but I promised I WOULD ARISE OVER YOU.  I promised I would be SEEN upon you.  [Isaiah 60] So do not fall to defeatism, and apathy, and the spirits of heaviness that are lurking in the shadows.”

I am the one who saw myself in a dream doing these very things, flying, being carried, sheltered under God’s wing:

“I’ve called you to soar on eagles’ wings Higher above their domain, to fly with ME in the heavenlies and to see things from MY perspective.”

I am the one who was personally told to:

“Keep focused on ME.  Keep focused on the WORD.  Do NOT get into bitterness and do not allow critical spirits in your heart.  Again I’m not telling you to stop being discerning, and I am not saying do not speak out, because I have called you to speak up against evil.  You are called to be an ARMY, not to be a pacifist apathetic sheepfold.  True justice is the heart of a prophet.  I put that sense of justice there for many of you who are prophetic.  I developed it in you through the sufferings you endured, that you would have MY HEART.  David was a man after My own heart I said.  I have many David’s who have been on the sidelines, participating, but who will now be drawn into direct battle, and into the spotlight to speak out the things I’ve given them to say.”

I am amongst those who have been given this promise over and over again in dreams:

“For I have promised a tsunami of My love for a long time now, and it is about to be poured out.”

I heard this promise too:

“Throw off all the discouragement and expecting of bad things to happen.  For I set a table before you in the midst of your enemies I said.  I AM Your Rear Guard!  I watch over My children like a good parent does.  I provide all that is needed for those who are called to My purpose.  So BELIEVE that I am FOR you and not against you.  Do NOT listen to the voice that makes you feel disqualified, or not good enough.  YOU ARE JUSTIFIED BY THE BLOOD OF MY SON.”

I am that person:

“He seeks always to steal from you your confidence in My love for you.  But it cannot be taken away.  My heart is ALWAYS FOR YOU.  My love is EVERLASTING and ETERNAL.  It is unconditional.  I never stop loving you.  So rebuke him and his minions from your presence and stay your mind on ME and My promises.  Speak them out and sing them out against his ploys.  Dance and sing, and dwell in My presence that you could hear My voice speaking to you in the quiet times.  REST in My arms and you will find all the peace you need.  FOR I AM the PRINCE OF PEACE.  My shalom is encompassing you as you worship me.  Even when you can’t FEEL it, I am imparting grace to you.”

The words: “You are called to be a LIGHT in the DARKNESS” have been given to me time and time again:

“Have confidence that My plans for you are for GOOD and not for evil to give you a future and a hope, that you can be the LIGHT OF THE WORLD you have been called to be!”

Oh! I am the one crying as His words unravel the complexity and the burden in my heart that no human around me is even aware of. He sees in me what no one else can or will see; He alone knows the dreams and promises He has laid on my heart; He alone sees me in the night troubled by visions of Tsunamis and earthquakes that shake the foundations of the Earth; He alone sees the tears I cry when those chosen and called to share the Good News, misrepresent HIM in such an abysmal and hurtful manner, and THAT is how I know this word is coming DIRECTLY from  my Heavenly Father to me.

Thank you Priscilla for being that vessel, that channel which brings this healing balm onto my soul and reminds me that HE WILL NEVER LEAVE ME, NOR FORSAKE ME.

http://www.hiskingdomprophecy.com/the-lord-says-were-on-the-precipice-of-eternity/

The Lord says We’re on the Precipice of Eternity!

“[So I went with him, and when we were climbing the rocky steps up the hillside, my beloved shepherd said to me] O my dove, [while you are here] in the seclusion of the clefts in the solid rock, in the sheltered and secret place of the cliff, let me see your face, let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely.  [My heart was touched and I fervently sang to him my desire]  Take for us the foxes, the little foxes that spoil the vineyards [of our love], for our vineyards are in blossom”   Song of Solomon 2:14-15 AMP.

“You’re on the precipice of eternity, and many are not aware of how close My coming is.  They’ve been lured asleep by compromise, apathy and complacency.  But I am asking you now to be ready for extraordinary change that is coming.  Nothing will ever be the same.  Life as you know it cannot be Counted on.  The things you have taken for granted in the past, cannot be taken for granted any more.

My coming is urgently approaching and so many are sleeping in the church.  Deep darkness has filled many people as the darkness has covered the earth, but I promised I WOULD ARISE OVER YOU.  I promised I would be SEEN upon you.  [Isaiah 60] So do not fall to defeatism, and apathy, and the spirits of heaviness that are lurking in the shadows.  The vultures are ready to pounce if you let them, but I’ve called you to soar on eagles’ wings Higher above their domain, to fly with ME in the heavenlies and to see things from MY perspective.

Keep your oil lamps filled to the brim, for ordinary substances that people count on are not being supplied.  There is a plot to starve out many, and to lay many to rest through cruel and unusual means.  PRAY these things do not come.  I will uncover it all if people will repent and seek My face in this nation.  Change is about to turnover many things they think are established.  You are on the precipice of GREAT CHANGE.  Not the kind some were looking for in last few years, but that which WILL change people’s hearts and expose the hearts of others.

Keep focused on ME.  Keep focused on the WORD.  Do NOT get into bitterness and do not allow critical spirits in your heart.  Again I’m not telling you to stop being discerning, and I am not saying do not speak out, because I have called you to speak up against evil.  You are called to be an ARMY, not to be a pacifist apathetic sheepfold.  True justice is the heart of a prophet.  I put that sense of justice there for many of you who are prophetic.  I developed it in you through the sufferings you endured, that you would have MY HEART.  David was a man after My own heart I said.  I have many David’s who have been on the sidelines, participating, but who will now be drawn into direct battle, and into the spotlight to speak out the things I’ve given them to say.

I am NOT the God of the new age.  I am not the God of the world, though I should be.  But I AM the CREATOR Who made heaven and earth and sent My Son to die for them.  Many have heard and rejected Me.  Many have spurned My love through My servants.  But many have not seen the kind of love I am about to pour out.  For I have promised a tsunami of My love for a long time now, and it is about to be poured out.  Ready your hearts to be enraptured with Your King!  For I AM READY and I see the plans that you cannot see.

I see the plans of the wicked behind closed doors, and I know all things about them, and about you. Do not hide yourself from Me now.  Come to me with your burdens and I will give you rest for your soul.  I will heal the hearts who are corrupted by the enemy.  I will do miracles upon miracles.  Startling miracles will be seen, and people will be in shock, including you, that I do them now.  Others will arise trying to mimic them, but they will be shown to be the frauds that they are.  Ask and you will receive.  Believe that I am GOOD, and that I have your best interest always on My mind.

Throw off all the discouragement and expecting of bad things to happen.  For I set a table before you in the midst of your enemies I said.  I AM Your Rear Guard!  I watch over My children like a good parent does.  I provide all that is needed for those who are called to My purpose.  So BELIEVE that I am FOR you and not against you.  Do NOT listen to the voice that makes you feel disqualified, or not good enough.  YOU ARE JUSTIFIED BY THE BLOOD OF MY SON.  Many continue making mistakes, sinning, but did I not know that when He died on the cross?  Did I not show you the parallels to Israel, and how they wandered for 40 years in the desert because they could not attain to the law, nor get all the unbelief and rejection and bitterness out of their hearts.  IT IS BY THE BLOOD that you have My righteousness, and I see you through that blood.  YOU are My precious possession, and I will make you My jewels.  So fret not, and do not take on the condemnation of the enemy.  Do not allow it in your heart.  He is a liar and the father of lies.

He seeks always to steal from you your confidence in My love for you.  But it cannot be taken away.  My heart is ALWAYS FOR YOU.  My love is EVERLASTING and ETERNAL.  It is unconditional.  I never stop loving you.  So rebuke him and his minions from your presence and stay your mind on ME and My promises.  Speak them out and sing them out against his ploys.  Dance and sing, and dwell in My presence that you could hear My voice speaking to you in the quiet times.  REST in My arms and you will find all the peace you need.  FOR I AM the PRINCE OF PEACE.  My shalom is encompassing you as you worship me.  Even when you can’t FEEL it, I am imparting grace to you.

Have confidence that My plans for you are for GOOD and not for evil to give you a future and a hope, that you can be the LIGHT OF THE WORLD you have been called to be!  I will remove the little foxes that spoil the vine as you worship ME and seek My face.  Don’t worry about the little foxes, just trust ME, that I will remove them as you seek Me.  That is why you find yourself crying in My presence, without knowing why.  I am healing your heart and plucking out all that the enemy has sown that is not from ME.  I love you My bride, and I am at the door, so lean on ME.  Lean on the everlasting arms for I am not weak as man is weak.  Trust me to bring you through anything that you have to go through.  For I am with you always, even to the end.”

My best birthday present to date has been the GIFT of Awareness.

Today I am 44 years old.  Never before have I felt so comfortable in my own skin, so happy to walk in my own shoes, so free to be who I am called to be and to exist in the manner that I was fearfully and wonderfully made to exist.

Of all the presents I have ever received none come even close to the magnitude and beauty that the gift of awareness has meant in my life and that of those who share in this life alongside me.

To me a birthday is not an annual occurrence but a daily one, for each day is a fresh and new opportunity to share in God’s grace, to be showered in his blessings and to find new mercies in Him, and most importantly to be reborn and bathed in His Spirit . I want to spend the rest of my life cultivating a heart that is aware and grateful for all the good things and for the meaning, purpose and reason behind the bad things too.

Today on my 44th birthday I am GRATEFUL:

  • GRATEFUL for the DAILY AWARENESS that we have the opportunity to start afresh each day, for the bad to be washed away through Christ’s redemptive nature and for the new to take hold and meaning.
  • GRATEFUL for the DAILY  AWARENESS that up to this point it is the grace of God and his mercy that have sustained my faith, my marriage, my parenting, my children, my health, my home, our business, our extended families, our friends and those spiritual lighthouses who help us to keep perspective and a righteous frame in our daily walk.
  • GRATEFUL for the DAILY AWARENESS that miracles are not only found in the unexpected, extraordinary, unexplainable, or grandiose occurrences, but much more so in the little details of our existence and that of our environment which we don’t take any notice of because we take these things for granted. There is a miracle in the new rose bud that is about to open, the dove that flies over my garden as I am praying, the weird and wonderful cloud formations that keep me forever wondering, the laughter of a friend who is able to laugh and appreciate friendship despite his personal challenges and struggles, the fight within of a cancer sufferer who refuses to give up and battles with all they have until the power of determination overcomes the power of the illness.  There is a miracle in the Autistic child that can’t make heads or tails of why he feels the way he does but is able to say “Mum, I love you and what am I going to do when you are no longer here with me?”. There is a miracle in the husband who one day fights with the frustration of being let down by his wife and the next renews his affections and love by giving her a gift.
  • GRATEFUL for the DAILY AWARENESS that much will be asked of those of us to whom much has been given and alongside that thought the awareness that I own nothing really but I am a steward to much and therefore have a responsibility to myself, God and others to look after those things and people who have been entrusted under my care; to be generous with them and compassionate.
  • GRATEFUL for the DAILY AWARENESS that millions suffer everyday as they lack the most basic of needs and rights, and the painful DAILY awareness that their joy always manifests within them in equal measure to and despite their pain. What is our excuse for complaining about our own predicaments? How dare we?
  • GRATEFUL for the DAILY AWARENESS that I am here today but may no longer be here tomorrow and what did I do with all my todays and tomorrows?
  • GRATEFUL for the DAILY AWARENESS that today never comes back and so after it is gone would I have left the world or at least “my world” a better place?
  • GRATEFUL for the DAILY AWARENESS that I fail my calling everyday to honour God and to love him above all else with all my heart, all my soul and all my strength, and yet He never fails to continue forgiving and loving me, because unlike me He is not the God of second chances but countless.
  • GRATEFUL for the DAILY AWARENESS that the fire that keeps the coals of my faith burning does not lie within a church, a church family, a religious system or even a house group, but with the Spirit of God Himself and I therefore have a direct source and access to that Spirit for He lives in me and I in Him and it is that constancy and that assurance that keeps my fire burning and not any external agent within the natural realm.
  • GRATEFUL for the DAILY AWARENESS that only when I have failed, I can learn what true success is and how to obtain it.
  • GRATEFUL for the DAILY AWARENESS that every now and then I need to take some punches in order to be taken down a peg or two so that I do not think of myself higher than I ought to.
  • GRATEFUL for the DAILY AWARENESS that my birthday is not today but everyday and with each new day comes a fresh opportunity to become aware of all the things above all over again, an opportunity to stop, take stock and give thanks for the grace and the unconditional love that God gives me and which I do not deserve.

THE BEST BIRTHDAY PRESENT IS KNOWING THAT WITH EVERY BREATH I GET YET ANOTHER OPPORTUNITY TO BECOME AWARE OF HOW BLESSED I REALLY AM AND AN OPPORTUNITY TO DEMONSTRATE MY GRATITUDE IN A PRACTICAL WAY.

IF I CAN ASK FOR JUST ONE THING ON THIS MY 44TH BIRTHDAY, LORD I ASK TO NEVER LOSE THIS AWARENESS AND TO ALWAYS DO SOMETHING WHICH LETS YOU KNOW THAT I AM GRATEFUL.

A graceful, loving but candid and honest depiction of where The Western Church is at today

Below is a transcript of one of Wayne Jacobsen’s podcasts on the God Journey which I have typed up word by word.  I hope I have faithfully put down exactly what he says, but if I haven’t, I apologise in advance.  Please bear with me.  English is not my first language but I am also having to contend with a different accent to the one I am used to here in the UK.  Please let me know if at any point during this transcript I have misinterpreted what was originally said and I will endeavour to edit it accordingly.

As this is quite a long podcast, I will divide it into various parts.  If you wish to listen to the podcast instead of reading it here, please go to Wayne Jacobsen’s site at http://thegodjourney.com/2013/04/05/not-made-with-hands/. The title of this podcast is “Not made with Hands”.

Not Made with Hands – Part 1

“It feels like being able to have a relationship with God is akin to winning the lottery. It happens, people do win but the odds of winning are a million to one.”  Hi, I am Wayne Jacobsen and I want to welcome you to this edition of the God Journey, and that line is one of the saddest lines I have ever gotten in an email. I will look at the rest of the email in just a moment. I think it will lead to a discussion that I hope spawns some conversation among us.  I am going to today try to unpack some of the edges where I am thinking these days and it is not clearly formed in my mind yet, so we will see what comes out.

I have left out here a section from Wayne’s podcast which is not relevant to the subject discussed.  Please feel free to go to the source and listen to the whole thing.

Back to the letter I read to you, I read the last paragraph of this letter. Let me go and pick up a little bit earlier on. It says: “First and foremost, I will take this moment to thank both of you (referring to Brad and I.  I got this letter prior back some time in the fall) for shining as beacons in a tangled wilderness of thoughts, words, actions, dogma and chaos.  Simply said, I had not come across the books and the podcasts.  If I had not come across them, my journey would have been laden with more darkness and despair than I was capable of handling.  At the very least without all these conversations I was able to listen in on, there was a good chance I would have embraced some of the rigid “Do good, get good, do bag, get bad” God paths.

For the past year I have toiled with at least writing something to you. Why? Because crushingly so I felt I was further from a relationship with God than ever.  Over the past few years my thirst to listen to and ponder over the different topics I heard on your podcast and a number of others, has been fading, not because I find fault or flaw in what I heard, but rather I found the distance between me and God could still be measured in light years.”

Agh! You know on the one hand I hate email like this because I hate knowing that people are stuck there.  On the other hand these are the emails I love, because I get these generally  before there is some kind of breakthrough in someone’s life.  I love the hunger.  The sense of feeling lost in it all is a big part I think of somehow us giving up or looking elsewhere than where we looked in the past.

One of the things for which the religion that we have come to know as Christianity enrages me is because it creates hungers in people that it cannot fill for reasons we will talk about in a moment.

It says this, back to the letter, “For a long time I felt that God was the only thing that saved my life. My search for God had ranged full circle: believed as a small child, tattered and torn as I witnessed the judgement and warfare that Christians wedged on others outside the circle of belief. Gone as I raged through life as a full-blown alcoholic and as I began my first tentative steps towards recovery, I read everything I could find about religion, you name the belief, I checked it out. A spiritual experience I clearly felt heard, sensed that Gold told me that everything would be alright and I veered back towards Christianity. I was drawn to those who spoke with authority. God spoke to them and if I did the right thing, God would speak to me. There was the problem though.  In AA I watched and saw that many who had been in the program for years and decades had not grown beyond “I had a crappy day, but I did not hit that first drink”. It made me wonder.  They were just a drink away from hell on earth and obviously they’d not healed the wounds that had driven them to drink.

That is where Brad and Wayne came into the picture. I can’t describe just how transforming and min-boggling it was to hear the two of you tell of your own journeys. For a season I was buoyed to new heights.  There was a God who loved his people, a God who wasn’t striking down folks left and right because he/she momentarily sinned. I had become increasingly alone and to compound the isolation, I had been hounded by a sense that God would strip me of everything, and no matter how hard I struggled to live one day at a time, no matter how responsible I tried to be, no matter how much effort I put into trying to devise a way to care for my family, it is all to no avail. Listening to your podcast had less and less meaning for me, more and more like it felt you were speaking of something I was never going to encounter. I’ve ran endless spiritual miles. I’ve searched countless spiritual havens, and it just never gets closer. And since there is nothing I can do or say to drive God away, I try to leave all the doors open and the welcome sign up 24/7.  The results thus far, more has been stripped from me.  I am far more aware of just how alone I am. To put it in other way: it feels like being able to have a relationship with God is akin to winning the lottery.  It happens, people do win, but the odds of winning are a million to one.

Well, Jim first of all I want to say to you if you are listening to the podcast, don’t even know that you are, but thanks for your letter, thanks for your honesty and this is where my heart breaks. It breaks because Christianity promises people a meaningfull relationship with God, but then it can’t provide it, and that is not a slam against Christianity, it is just the reality. It cannot, not will not, it cannot, and I think that is what many of us at various stages, all the emails I have gotten from doing this God Journey over the years, so many people in religious systems, in Christian systems, hearing promises, having hungers tapped, even having experiences where God makes himself known to them, and then trying to redouble their efforts and trying to find a way into that reality only to watch it fade away and feel isolated and alone, just like Jim does here, and then trying to find another way to make it work, and trying even harder maybe at a different place and again being disappointed that it is not what it claims to be and then in the midst of those things we feel the futility and frustration of trying to work a system that can’t do what it promises.

Now this is not a diatribe against all Christian institution. As I said to you last week, that is a place where my hunger for God was tapped, it is the place that began to nurse a hunger it could not satisfy, but like many of us, there is just moments of coming to grips with the fact that this is not getting me where I want to go.

I was at a funeral last weekend at the Fellowship I pastored at thirty-five years ago, long time and I met people there that I knew back in the day. And do you know what was sad to me, spiritually? Many of them were just in the same place, and not that they are bad Christians.  They are good Christians. They are conscientious people, very well-intentioned people, people who work very hard and committed, they spend their life serving the institution, hopeful that their relationship with God would connect, and I don’t know that most of them are disappointed today.  They kind of swim in the sea of stagnation.  I know because I hear it in their voice, the things they hunger for that they haven’t settled in their heart yet, and then I wonder: why is that so?

As I watched the new Pope installed in Rome a few weeks ago.  I did watch it, just because I am intrigued by that whole thing, but when I see him sitting in that, if you watched it, there is one point before the mass, he is sitting in this canopied throne at the top of the stairs to St. Peter’s. An image of this ornate throne, and the Pope is sitting on it, and it is all covered in this red velvet gold canopy, or so it looked, with gold trim.  What has this in common with Jesus Christ as he appeared to them?  How did Jesus and his disciples, even after 2000 years, how does it get there? How is that recognised as the pinnacle of what religious authority is?

And I know some of us hearing this podcast are going to say “it is not that for me” and I know, I agree it isn’t that but it is regarded as that by so many people.

to be continued

(Please bear with me as this process will take me a long time, but I strongly feel I must do it to get the message out)

“The Church for those who don’t like church” by Dave Yeubanks

I read yesterday a post written by Dave Yeubanks at Truthforfree.com entitled “The Church for those who don’t like church” which floored me, in the sense that it unearthed so many of the feelings and realities I have been experiencing myself over these last few years during which the veil has finally been lifted off my eyes.

I was deeply touched by Dave’s honesty, passion, and righteous anger as he shares with the world his utter frustration with a religious system that is intent on bulldozing its way forward even if that means leaving countless spiritual casualties along the way, even if it means looking like it cares for the needs of others but simultaneously watching those closest to it hurting, rejected and yet doing absolutely nothing to bring healing and restoration to them, because the health of the system is a far, far greater concern to its leadership than the health of the individual Christ died for.

A system that seeks to bring forward the redemption and freedom in Christ with the one hand, but forces out of its way those whose allegiance is first with Christ and not the system, is really not of the Spirit. A love that nurtures with one stroke and severs hearts with the very next and does not care to look back at the mayhem it leaves behind is not really LOVE,  it is born of the flesh and not the Spirit, and it is clearly obedient to the will of men and not of God.

We often talk of the religious system, but what happens when we stop talking about a system and we recognise and remind ourselves that this system is made up of a group of people?  What if we stop referring to a group of people and we specifically refer to the Church as the group of people who stand proud against the rest of the world as the carriers of the TRUTH, the envoys for Christ, the bearers of His Cup? You and I are the Church of Jesus Christ. We have a responsibility to the world and primarily to ourselves to live with integrity and to represent Christ on this earth for who He is and not for what He can do for us, our crusades, our agendas, our own significance and purpose on this earth. When I read my bible, time and time again these words echo in my ears: “You shall love the Lord your God  with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself.” The Christian Religious System has replaced the word “God” with the word “Church” and also the word “neighbour” with the words “Church Leadership”. No fresh living water could ever emanate from a system which by its very devotion to itself produces nothing other than dead works and a people who time and time again would rather reach out for a bottle of water than hike up the mountain to find that wonderful spring whose liquid gold will ensure you are never thirsty again and you never mistake the deception for the real thing.

Please read Dave’s own testimony.  He expresses what is out there far better than I ever will.

I would give up and trade all my years as part of the institutional church in an instant  to share in Dave’s passion, zeal for a true relationship with the Lord, integrity, determination, transparency and strength. A heart that pursues and abounds in these qualities cannot but spread the aroma of Christ wherever it goes, whoever it may come in contact with.

Here is Dave’s post:

The Church for those who don’t like church… really?

I wonder how many of you have run across religious organizations that like to use this phrase (or some variation of it) as their “outreach slogan”. A few weeks ago I received a flyer in the mail from a “new” church in the area that proposes to be a “church for people who don’t like going to church.” This reminds me of a pastor friend who said to me a few years back, “Dave, I hope to one day build the kind of church that even you would want to attend.”

Most of you will recall how I have mentioned this subject before and most of you know how much of an utterly ignorant and ridiculous a statement I think this is… My sincere apologies if I have offended anyone who is really jazzed about attending one of these post-modernistic church organizations that thrives on this logic. But if I have just pushed a button, I hope you’ll hang on and hear me out. If you’re really interested in reaching people who aren’t into church, then it might help you to understand our mindset a bit more before you set off with big intentions to try and pull us all back into “the fold”.

I guess then, as it turns out, this blog post today is for those of you I have just described; Those of you who really think a hip new church program is the answer and the way to reach people who could care less about hip new church programs.

Please know that I previously spent 30 years of my life in church world and I am very familiar with the thought-process of the typical church-goer, not to mention that of many pastors who often lead these kind of endeavors.

I remember discussions with friends back in my church-going days about how it would be cool to try something like this (a post-modern, non-churchy church endeavor)… You see, even then, there were things about typical church that annoyed me (and a number of the rest of us) and I was also able to see back then how so many of our religious practices stemmed from stale traditions, were badly outdated, unbiblical, and tended toward legalism. We knew then that so many of these things were part of what turned off a lot of folks outside our walls and they even embarrassed many of us in the church system. I’m quite sure that plenty of folks who attend church today could probably find some agreement with this.

Our instinct seemed to be a cry for reform! We wanted to see things change! We too were tired of the boring weekly routine. We were secretly asking the question we’d never dare admit out loud… Is this really all there is? It can’t be… and we certainly can’t let it be, so we have to do something to make it not be. We thought we wanted to be part of a church that was relevant, unique, fun, on the cutting edge, and totally in harmony with Jesus. Is there an honest person out there who can relate to some of these feelings?

    As a side note, I really believe that this is a large part of the reason I welcomed the Toronto movement when it hit. Though I was hesitant at first, because it appeared so unusual, I eventually gave myself to it. It was refreshing to see the old stale routine busted up and nothing appeared to be business as usual anymore. People were finally starting to recognize the deadness of religion and legalism… and more people were talking about Jesus than they were about church programs or pastor’s sermons. But, as I’ve written before, the devil was in the details and a lot of corrupt doctrines and concept eventually crept in. Thought I’m embarrassed to admit some of the things I once embraced, I thank God that He delivered me from those errors and the experience has caused me to be more discerning as I look forward. One very interesting thing I noticed about the Toronto thing when it happened… Despite the good that transpired a midst the crazy, there was a season of that whole experience that produced a real hunger in my heart for truth. The more I yielded to the Lord, the more freedom I experienced from the bondage of religion and the more I began to recognize the amount of religion I was still captivated by and infected with. The more I began to read God’s Word, the more I realized the gross deviations from it that were being taught by many in the movement. Eventually, I withdrew myself from the environment entirely… Not just the “revival” but “church world” itself. I also watched as those whom I once thought had left behind religion to embrace the “new thing” God was doing, actually just digressed into further religion and more and more false doctrine. Churchianity took an even stronger hold on many (even though those captivated by it thought they were breaking free from religion). Even some of my very close friends thought I had become totally deceived because I was pulling away from this environment. I mention all of this to illustrate how though there was a time many of us thought we had broken free from religion (because of this new distraction of so-called “revival” or “renewal”), it was a setup of the enemy in many ways.

I remember the conversations we used to have about how free church was going to be now that we were no longer blinded by religion; no longer trying to put new wine into an old wineskin. Sigh… We really thought we had it all figured out.

The funny thing is, the way we always set out to accomplish this well-meaning ideal was by applying the same stale solutions to the problem, which (obviously) was no real solution at all… just a lot more of the same old thing in different clothes. It is hardly any wonder that we’d see a lot of excitement about “new directions” or (in other words) “slight alterations to the program” at the beginning, and then experience a degeneration over time to another lifeless routine, which again became hum-drum church as usual. We had to always figure out some new way to keep things interesting because… well… apparently God just wasn’t quite interesting enough. It must be our church program that keeps people interested in following God and without a good program, people just won’t be interested in God… so we have to get this right! The program became a major part of what defined us as Believers… and we allowed it to gauge our spirituality, to qualify it, to control it, and to influence everybody else with it.

Sad that the whole thing really avoided the most important thing of all; a resolution to give it all up to Jesus and let His Holy Spirit be the Leader of our lives… even if that meant it might lead us completely away from “business-as-usual” churchianity. The very idea was out of the question! We simply could not envision a Church (i.e. the body of Christ) without “church” (i.e. a religious organization)!

Today, the same mindset plagues so many Christian people. And when they hear someone like me talk this way about church world, all they think is that I’m against Christians meeting together or even organizing for various purposes, but that’s actually not true at all. The big problem I see is that most (church-attending) Christians don’t really know how to differentiate between a man-made organization as opposed to that which the Bible calls the “ecclesia” (the Church of the Firstborn – those who have been called out of darkness into His marvelous Light)… Note I said most, not all. If they were able to see their little organization as nothing more than that, a lifeless building and a man-made set of organizational processes that has NOTHING to do with actually being a follower of Jesus or being saved into the Family of God, then maybe they would just take it for what it is and stop throwing it in everyone’s face as though it were the be-all and end-all of the Christian life. If they really thought that their meeting hall was ONLY a meeting hall, then maybe they really could BE the Church. But they DON’T usually see it that way. They see the meeting hall as an essential part of Christianity itself. Simply put, you cannot really be thought of as being a Christian if you don’t go to a church! And, therefore, if you don’t go to church and yet dare to call yourself a follower of Jesus, then you really need to be convinced of the importance of the church building and program. But (their thinking goes), we don’t want to scare you off, so we’re gonna pose a clever approach that is sure to win you over… The logic basically goes like this:

“Hey, we want to reach people that are burned out on church……. Hmmm…. I wonder how we can accomplish that….. Hey, I know! Let’s start another church!”

Forgive me for laughing out loud there, but that’s the basic idea… Yet it seems that none of these groups have any clue about how (pardon me) stupid that kind of logic sounds, especially to those that are burned out on church. In case you’re reading this and still aren’t catching the hint…

Definition of Stupid: “Lacking in common sense or perception. Characterized by or proceeding from mental dullness, foolish; senseless. Tediously dull, especially due to lack of meaning or sense; inane, pointless.”

If you’re trying to reach someone who isn’t interested in church… STARTING ANOTHER CHURCH ISN’T GOING TO WORK!

In my town there are a number of churches who have started re-vamping their routine; trying desperately to make themselves more relevant. Time and again I hear the same old rhetoric used: “Are you one of those people who doesn’t like going to church? Are you looking for a place where you can belong, find fellowship, encouragement, that doesn’t feel churchy? Try our church… We’re different. We get it… We have an espresso machine and our pastor skydives.” Ok, maybe not those exact words, but you get the idea… Then, 5 minutes after you’re there you realize as you look around that they still have 4 fast songs and 3 slow ones, a benediction, announcements (usually by video with plucky comic relief by witty church volunteers), collection of tithes and offerings (bla bla bla), a sermon, prayer, and coffee and donuts in the foyer (or a lounge room with couches). Virtually every single church group I’ve seen that claims to be a “church for those who don’t like church” are nothing more than just another church… and, guess what? Those of us who don’t like church…. STILL don’t like it.

Please, someone in church world explain to me, HOW IN THE WORLD DO YOU THINK THIS WILL EVER APPEAL TO PEOPLE WHO DON’T LIKE CHURCH?

My point is, if you’re really interested in “gathering the body of Christ”, then do it and stop getting clever about it and, even worse, manipulative. If you want to get together, then get together… Whether you do it at home, at the park, at a theater, or (surprise surprise) a church building, just meet. Who cares if there’s 100 of you or 3. Stop trying to fool the rest of us. We know what you’re up with the whole “church growth” thing and it’s nothing new. Remember, unless THE LORD builds the House, they which labor, do so in vain.

NOW THIS IS IMPORTANT… What is that “house” that the Scripture is talking about… The house of God is the HOUSEHOLD. It’s a spiritual thing. The apostle Paul described it as a SPIRITUAL house of LIVING STONES (i.e. PEOPLE); 1 Peter 2:5. It has nothing to do with a building. The apostle Paul declared that WE are that house (that “temple”), NOT A BUILDING! So flush the whole “house of God” idea as being a church building you attend, because Jesus never taught such nonsense! …and I dare say to you this… HE’S STILL NOT TEACHING SUCH NONSENSE!

If you really want to reach out to people who don’t like church, may I please first ask you WHY? What is your motive for “reaching” us? Is it because you think we cannot have a relationship with Christ without attending an organization? Stop trying to deceive us with your false evangelism ploy. When you come at us going, “Hey, we don’t like church as usual either and we understand you…” but then you go right ahead and say, “But come try our church,” PLEASE! Please get a clue! You are talking nonsense!

Secondly, if your motive to “reach us” is not about concern over our relationship with Christ or thinking that we must be backsliding and need church to be saved, then why can’t you just come to us as a brother or sister in Jesus and let that be enough? Why does a church organization ever have to be part of the conversation? WE DON’T CARE ABOUT YOUR COOL CHURCH PROGRAM! But we might just appreciate your friendship, if it’s sincere and genuine. We might just appreciate you hanging at our place for dinner or doing some mutually-enjoyable activity together as friends, where conversation is free and unfettered by some ulterior agenda to try and work some religious order into everything. It utterly frustrates me that even some of the coolest people who happen to gather in a church environment (even a really cool church environment with all the exciting bells and whistles that make that kind of thing attractive to some people), FAIL so often on the point of relationships, when it comes to maintaining those relationships outside the church environment. They use all the right lingo… they talk about loving people… but just try to have a regular friendship with any number of them. Unless your butt sits in the pews, you won’t usually see much of them. Unless you’re involved in the same church programs they are, they won’t often have time for hanging with you. Everything revolves around church first. Of course, not everyone fits the stereotype, but I’m sad to say that the stereotype fits most! So again, we don’t care about your church program… but we’d like to care about you and feel like maybe you really cared about us too.

The thing is, many of us sincerely crave fellowship (yes, we actually want to hang out with you). We love God’s people. We already know that in Christ we ARE part of THE Fellowship! Anyone who belongs to Him, belongs to His Family and are IN the Fellowship! But we also crave the tangible expression of this. We desire to have friends too and to socially interact as well as enjoy the benefit of sharing Christ together. The difficult thing is, many of us don’t want friends that are only friends if “church” must be at the center of the relationship (rather than Christ). We also aren’t usually fans of all the other junk that comes associated with religion (that has nothing to do with biblical Christianity). To put it another way, we want YOU we just don’t want your club. The problem is that many who have decided to disconnect from church world worry that church is the only place to find you. Some of us make compromises and go “back to church” because we so desperately want to fellowship with you, but you have no idea what kind of internal conflict this presents for us.

I think of all those Christmas Hallmark movies where the dad works too hard and neglects his family and friends because he’s married to his job… They should make a movie about church people who are blind to the relationships around them because they are married to their church! It happens all the time and I almost dare say a lot more often than a dad who is married to his job. I think this is a much bigger problem that is created and maintained BY THE CHURCH! So, of course, I’m not interested!

Thirdly, if your motive to “reach us” is very simplistic, because you just think the organization you are part of is cool, then just try to understand, we aren’t impressed by it so stop dangling it like a rotten carrot in front of our face. We don’t feel any need or desire to be entertained by it. We don’t feel any obligation to attend such a thing. We actually see it as a distraction of more important things. We’re not going to be enamored by the awesomeness of your cool, motorbike riding preacher. We’re not likely to be interested in your song service that plays the same old mediocre emotion-based sing-song tunes over and over again, week after week, in the name of “worship”, where one person tells us how to “enter God’s throne room”… We know how to enter God’s throne room, and we know it doesn’t require a groovy religious rock band singing “Open Up The Heavens” on Sunday morning to accomplish it (and constantly being told when to stand up, raise our hands, dance, shout, sit down, clap, etc.). We don’t need your organization “encouraging” us about how “giving money to the church is worship”. We know this is just more religious mumbo jumbo to get money to pay for your cool program and really has virtually no actual spiritual element to it. We already know that giving is a matter of relationship with the Father and we believe it is His Spirit that leads us how and where and when to give… and that giving isn’t necessarily always money and it’s NEVER anyone else’s business unless we chose to make it so or the Father leads us to let someone else know.

I’m speaking bluntly for your benefit because you need to hear it. You need to hear how we feel and see how we think. This is not evidence of a bad attitude or because we are hurt or bitter. Many of us have a variety of different stories related to how we came out of the routine of religion, but those details are no longer about how we choose to live each day and to engage a genuine, awesome relationship with Jesus. We very much desire HIM to be at the center of our conversation and practice, but you keep throwing this other “thing” you call church in the middle. I’m speaking bluntly so your eyes will open and you will understand.

This reaction is not because we don’t love you or because we don’t want friends or don’t believe in fellowship with other believers. WE DO!!! We just don’t define “fellowship” any longer in terms of sitting in a chair, looking at the back of some guys head, while some guy tells us how to live (because he studied about it all week in preparation for his sermon).

The truth is that many of us have continued to darken the doors of your church buildings on occasion, because we keep hoping that someone in there really believes that Jesus is to be the center of our conversation and our relationships. Many of us have given second, third, and fourth chances in hopes that we would find evidence of a genuine expression of love by people who care more about God and each other than religion. But we keep bumping into your programs and all the rhetoric that goes along with it and you won’t allow it any other way. Even when you try to re-package it so that it’s less legalistic and more “inclusive” it still gets in the way of Jesus! We hate it because we desperately want to know who you are and how we might walk together in Christ with you. We’re not often sure how to tell you politely, with all love and grace, that we don’t give a sh** about churchianity. That has NOTHING to do with how much we desire to be among our family in Christ. We’re just tired of having to put up with the rules of the devil’s playground that we just happen to think “church” has become.

God already has a Church; His body! He doesn’t need another (i.e. your organization). In fact, I’ll say it plainly, with no apologies… HE DOESN’T HAVE ANOTHER!!!

You simply will NEVER be able to think up a style of church that is given any significant regard by people who are only interested in the One Church that Christ Himself has ALREADY established! WE DO NOT CARE ABOUT ANY OTHER!!!

Do you remember the church organization I first spoke about in this post (the one that sent me the advertisement about being the church for those that don’t like church)? Well… I wrote to them. I tried to share with them what I have shared here today… It does not appear to have been received too well. They responded only with the comment, “Sounds like you have it all figured out.” Sadly, this only confirmed to me that they really aren’t interested in those who don’t like church (despite the claims of their clever ad)… I don’t wish to be their judge, but it does make me wonder if they even belong to Christ at all, when they can so quickly reject a member of His body who attempts to reach out to them in love and speak to them as the very person they claim to have a heart to reach. If it weren’t that I have walked in similar shoes myself (before I came out of the deception of religion), I would probably conclude as much… I think of the apostle Paul, who also thought he was doing God’s service while persecuting the Lord’s people. He knew the Scriptures, was a very religious man, educated in the best religious schools, and believed that He was serving the Lord (and did so zealously)… though it was eventually revealed that He didn’t know what he was doing or who he was doing it to. Jesus showed up in his path and convicted him of truth.

Paul told the Philippian believers that, before his conversion to Christ, he was a fiery defender of the purity of his religion, even to the point of persecuting Christians; a meticulous observer of everything set down in God’s law Book. But once the Lord enabled him to see his error, he completely changed his heart toward the whole thing. I do like how the Message version paraphrases this passage:

Philippians 3:7-10

    – The very credentials these people are waving around as something special, I’m tearing up and throwing out with the trash–along with everything else I used to take credit for. And why? Because of Christ. Yes, all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant–dog dung. I’ve dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by him. I didn’t want some petty, inferior brand of righteousness that comes from keeping a list of rules when I could get the robust kind that comes from trusting Christ–God’s righteousness. I gave up all that inferior stuff so I could know Christ personally, experience his resurrection power, be a partner in his suffering, and go all the way with him to death itself.

That’s quite a conversion, wouldn’t you agree?! I have to say, I feel much the same way with respect toward the religion I also once embraced. I count it now as though it were manure and worthy of the trash bin. That strikes some folks as very offensive… but only because they don’t understand yet. What’s amazing is that Paul used these very strong words to describe the end of his religion… but does anyone question Paul’s devotion to Christ? They forget that the guy who wrote most of their New Testament Bible regarded his former religious life as completely without any value at all compared to the excellency of knowing Christ.

To all my church friends, past and present, I LOVE YOU! I am not against you. I am not desiring to be separated from you. I want to know you, to walk with you, to be your friend, to share Christ together with you… but I will not compete with your program and I will not be sucked into its religious grip (again). I already danced to that piper’s tune and I know where it leads. I know that “thing” was not created by Christ (for He has no substitute) and I know it is NOT His Church. Only those who have been bought by His precious blood are worthy of being called His Royal Assembly (His Church). THERE IS NO OTHER TO HAVE REGARD FOR! Your organization is only that – an organization! It is NOT the Church that Jesus established. Whether or not you continue to attend it is not my concern and that is between you and Jesus… seriously. I do not judge you because you choose to attend meetings somewhere… But if you will hold that institution in any way between us, then it is clear that you have made it your idol and we cannot enjoy any real, godly fellowship until you forsake your allegiance to the false god of churchianity and return to Christ Jesus, the Lord. Until then, I will be waiting. So many of us already are! I pray the day will soon come when many more return to Him.

With much love in Christ, Dave Yeubanks