THE CRUCIBLE WITH RICHARD ARMITAGE AND HOW IT TOUCHED ME

THE CRUCIBLE AND HOW IT TOUCHED ME

Disclaimer: If you are here in the hope of reading a succinct, professionally, well written, well documented and informed review of The Crucible as currently performed at the Old Vic Theatre in London, you have come to the wrong place. This is the humble account given by a mere mortal of an experience which will stay with me forever for reasons that may not touch another person to the same degree or in the same manner.

On Saturday 26th of July I had the privilege of being able to see The Crucible at the Old Vic Theatre in London. My husband does not share my love for the English word or any of its manifestations and so I don’t go to the theatre as much as I would like. I am a 44 year old Spanish woman but have been living in England for 23 years. I studied English Philology at a Spanish University, a five year degree which covers subjects such as English history, literature, philosophy, linguistics amongst others, my favourite being: Literary Criticism. When I was at University, in my mind and in my heart I was heading to one day become a Literary Critic. That was my passion and I was very good at it. I always got the highest scores when I wrote my own review on a particular piece or book. I loved the power of words and how they convey different feelings and emotions to different people; how they can touch you in corners of your soul where nothing else can; how they can make the world go round and at times stop on its tracks. Life, however, often surprises us and veers us in a direction which we never suspected we might take or planned to take. I say life veers us, but in my own experience I now know it was not life but God closing some doors and opening new ones, protecting me from choices which may have made me happy for a time but in the long run would have driven me further away from knowing Him and from having a purposeful and meaningful life.

Going to the theatre and enjoying the entertainment industry in general can be an expensive affair, specially if you wish to get a decent seat where you can feel comfortable and actually be part of what is going on on stage, and so in order for me to make a visit to the theatre a regular ocurrence, I would have needed to sacrifice other parts of the family budget which seems like an indulgence to me in these days we live in. I tell you this so that you understand that this was for me a very special evening by the very nature of its rarity, and needless to say, by the prospect of seeing Richard Armitage act on a stage and of potentially meeting him afterwards.

Being the rare event that this was going to be and knowing it may not happen again for many months, perhaps years, I decided to make the most of the experience by actually getting up to speed with other people’s reviews, their take on the play, feedback and general impressions, which I find is a good way of getting the general gist of what to expect. Clearly, the best way will always be going to the source itself and so I also purchased “The Crucible” by Arthur Miller on my Kindle and read it over the course of a week prior to my visit to the Old Vic. American Literature was another of my favourite subjects at University, although this had more to do with gazing across the room at a very attractive teacher and not so much with the subject itself, but anyway, although we covered quite a lot, The Crucible by Arthur Miller was not amongst it.

Let me tell you first and foremost that I am a Christian or at least I try to be, I would like to be. It is a very tall order following in the footsteps of Jesus Christ and unfortunately, I don’t even come remotely close to even his sandals, but He is my focus, my North, my rock and the compass I use in my daily life to guide me in everything I do, say and think. More often than I care to admit, I keep Him out of the equation, but when I look for Him afterwards, He is always there to pick up the pieces of my wrongdoing, my insecurities, my prideful and selfish actions; to pick me up so that I can try and make a better go of things the next time.

The reason I tell you all this is so that you understand that choosing to go and see a play that dwells in the “taboo” subjects of witchcraft, the power of the devil and the controlling power, firm grasp and devastating results that legalistic religion at the hands of proud, control-driven and weak individuals can have on a person or a collective, amongst many other subjects, was not an easy decision to make or one I was going to take light-heartedly. I knew I was going to experience very strong emotions in an enclosed, relatively small space, full of people, at a stone’s throwaway from the actors themselves and with nowhere to run mid-flow, should my heart begin to beat so fast that no one can hear or sense anything else but the fear and anxiety running through my veins. For an spectator who is an atheist, an agnostic or a Christian in word but not in deed, a lot of what goes on during this play would go straight over their heads, but for me personally, I knew beforehand certain things I might witness during the play would make me feel terrified, nervous and very, very uncomfortable. Indeed, seeing the plot unfold was no different at various points of the play than standing in front of a mirror at home and coming face to face once again with the unwelcome but familiar ghosts named disappointment, betrayal, fear, lust, temptation, pride, unforgiveness and a number of demons which I battle with in my own personal day to day existence.

For me and for all Christians, there are two very distinct dimensions which co-exist: the natural (what we see, hear, feel, touch, smell) and the spiritual (those things which we cannot see, but often sense may be taking place, the forces of good fighting the forces of evil in the world or simply put: God versus the devil). This is as real to me as life itself. I have met self-declared Christ followers and I have met self-declared ex devil worshippers and I tell you that at their worst either of them can become extreme and cause as much hurt, devastation and pain as each other. What I mean is that pride, fear and ignorance can be a terrible thing and whether you act driven by any of those three elements, be it in the name of God or of the Devil, the results can be equally devastating.

This is something which comes across very clearly in the play as enacted by the current cast at the Old Vic. A village torn apart by suspicion, lust, pride, deceit and the willingness to sell our soul to the highest bidder when we find ourselves between a rock and a hard place. This awful darkness and sense of despair in a cruel and harsh environment such as it was at that time in Salem, Massachusetts, is beautifully contrasted by the light and tenderness, the redemptive thread that runs through and is brought about in the play so poignantly by the characters of John Proctor (Richard Armitage) and his wife, Elizabeth Proctor (Anna Madeley).

Both of them, but specially Richard Armitage, convey so vividly and humanely that moment in a person’s life most of us hope never comes when our integrity, our whole being, those whom we love, and care for, the God we worship, if any, and our very soul are at stake, that moment where the choice we make will bring either life or death, both in the natural and spiritual realm. Thousands of people around the world are being persecuted, tortured and murdered for their faith right now, and for them a moment like this which is so sensitively, intuitively, innately acted by Armitage and Madeley, is all too real. Indeed, for so many there is no choice to be made, because that choice has been taken away by those who play God to sustain and feed their greed, pride, fanatism, power, you name it.

This is a very timely play and a timeless one at that for the threads that underpin it are forces which the world has had to contend with for thousands of years, indeed the whole of humanity rests and has been built and developed upon the pillars of faith, good, evil, greed, world domination, control, lust, pride, integrity, freedom, love and so many other forces which are at war with each other and in a permanent battle to establish which one shall ultimately prevail.

As a Christian woman witnessing this play unfold, the final moments during the trial when Proctor has to make that choice as to whether to sell his soul in order to keep his life or to remain true to who He is, to those whom He loves and love Him and to God himself, is for me an all too believable, foreboding, almost prophetic moment in a society which is rapidly becoming secular and where the Christian Faith who was the Lion in the Human Kingdom is fast becoming the elephant in the room. There is a sense of acceleration around us made all too aware by how fast technology is developing, scientific and medical advances are progressing, and the sense of urgency and immediate gratification we all let our lives be ruled by. It won’t be long before as Christians in the United Kingdom we may have to be in John Proctor’s shoes and be wrongly accused of something we have not done, admit to something we are not by a society which is blinded by the power of evil, self-worship and a clear lack of a moral compass and integrity; we may have to make the impossible choice of saving our life by betraying our soul or confessing the truth and saving our integrity but signing our own death sentence in the process. For me, Richard Armitage, transmitted all these emotions in a spectacular fashion. He captivated the audience and not just by his manly, handsome presence but so much more so by the palpable dynamism in his performance of the co-existing traits in Proctor’s personality where love and hate, self-assurance and fear, aggression and sheer tenderness can co-exist in equal measure. This illustrates beautifully the peril the world is in today and has always been: good and evil in us constantly surfacing within us and battling each other, integrity versus conformism and resignation, honesty versus deception and betrayal, freedom versus bondage to others, our own passions or the devil himself.

Anna Madeley particularly captivated my heart on the night too. Not familiar at all with her previous work, I was deeply touched by her rendition of Elizabeth Proctor, a woman tormented by the suspicion of her husband’s betrayal and adultery and bound by the inability to completely forgive and cut the chains that hold him forever captive to guilt and a sense of failure, the chains that keep him walking on egg shells around her, extinguishing the flame of love one subtle but lethal blow at a time; a woman whose sheer loyalty, love and dedication has slapped her right back on the face and turned her heart into a heart of stone towards her husband, desperate to show him the love she still truly feels for him despite his betrayal, but selfishly holding on to the chains of guilt and conviction that bind him, in an attempt to protect herself from further hurt, destroying in the process the chance to rebuild complete trust between them and for unconditional love to resurface once again. Having personally experienced in my own life the betrayal and the lust for another within a relationship, I am all too familiar with how unforgiveness but also guilt can have a relentless grip on us to the point where we cannot function, where our freedom to be who we want to become is completely taken away and our every move, thought and word is nothing but the echo of the fear and the turmoil we are experiencing within. Again, from a Christian point of view, these are all incredibly relevant subjects which are dwelled into sensitively but very accurately in this rendition of The Crucible. I was truly moved by Anna Madeley’s performance. It was gentle, understated but at the same time confident and firm. Both Richard and Anna were in a league of their own and a Class Act!

Worth mentioning also is the role played by Jack Ellis who plays Deputy Governor Danforth. Great, powerful, utterly convincing performance as was that by Samantha Colley who plays Abigail Williams. Looking into Armitage’s eyes during his performance was almost an unbearable feat for me. His gaze and facial expressions so intense, his demeanour so full of underlying connotations of the raging battle going on under the surface of John Proctor’s imposing countenance but frail heart. But looking into Abigail Williams’ eyes was altogether a much more challenging experience for all the wrong reasons. She really put the fear of God into me by exemplifying so well how one can behave, the lengths a person can go to, how they can lose themselves when the devil and its minions get hold of your soul. Utterly bewitching performance and terrifying at the same time. Solid performance, unforgettable!

I could go on forever as it seems unfair to not mention the other actors and characters too for they were all so good as individuals and as an ensemble. I will just have to say that if any of what is written here has intrigued you in the least to go and see this play, then please follow that nudge and be truly entertained. I can assure you your mind will be stirred up and your soul in turmoil when you come out of that theatre, not to mention your heart will flatter and skip one or two beats if you have the sheer privilege of meeting Richard afterwards. He has one of those “beautiful” faces in the purest sense of the word, and eyes that can speak a thousand words and melt rocks with just one look. My kind of Lead man!

Richard and I

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MANIPULATION, DECEPTION AND CONTROL ARE ALL SUSTAINED AND FED BY LIES, SUBTLE LIES, BUT LIES NONETHELESS- PART 2

Continued from Part 1

“Today’s culture of independent individualism has created many spiritual orphans – “bunny believers” who hop around from one church to another without any identity, accountability, or commitment. Many believe it is possible to be a “good Christian” without joining (or even attending) a local church, but God would strongly disagree.”

Let’s take a closer look at the magnitude of the deceit that lies within these lines above. “Today’s culture of independent individualism”, so far so good. Reader is engaged by a statement that no one can deny. But then the author goes on to associate this independent individualism to be the direct cause of being “spiritual orphans”. Can such a type of Christian really exist? Not according to the Scriptures that I read, not according to the Father that loves me and promises me that He will never leave me nor forsake me. No term used by Church Leadership and Church Growth Gurus gets me more enraged than this one: “Spiritual Orphans”.

No person who accepts Christ to be Lord and Saviour in their heart and soul can be a spiritual orphan. This is a contradiction in terms, an oxymoron and proof that for the author of this devotional and all those who follow him and so many like him, when they call Christ Lord, that is where in their minds His lordship ends, because God, our Heavenly Father, is clearly not sufficient as a Father to anyone who comes to Christ, He is not the Head, the pillar upon which everything stands and has its being.  Christ is clearly not enough in order for God to act as our Heavenly Father who tends to our every spiritual need; putting his son on a cross is not enough. Membership in a church or even attending one is what is truly needed for us to be true sons and daughters of the LIVING God. Indeed, if not being part of a church family makes me a spiritual orphan, you are saying that God is not my Father, for orphans do not have one. Such a statement denies the very core purpose for which Christ died on the cross: the veil was torn, God’s wrath satisfied and the door now open for anyone who is in Christ to have direct access to The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Where in that can one come to the conclusion that anyone called a Christian who is not part of a church is a spiritual orphan? The deception and false teaching in this is so huge, so on your face, so obvious, that sometimes it is the very fact that it is staring us in the face, that makes us mistake deceit for truth, because our eyes are only focusing and our discernment is being impaired by what is seen and not by what is unseen.

The patronising, arrogant and insulting litany goes on as Christians who are not members of a local church are described as “bunny believers” who have no identity, accountability or commitment. Identity? I thought it was Christ and our faith in Him alone that defined our identity. Sadly, today being part of a local church only defines your identity as that of someone who supports this or that vision of a particular pastor or church leader. Accountability? Easy to be accountable to people who buy into what you are selling, who believe in your authority, because it is they who put you on a pedestal and even if you err from what is Godly and truth, you will not be made truly accountable, because it is easier to go with the flow and the flock than to be singled out and ostracised for being true to the voice of the One and Only Shepherd who deserves our sole worship and blind obedience, for trying to put a stop to the lies, falsehood and deceit.

Commitment? Commitment to what? To a set of rules and obligations I must abide by in order to comply with what is expected of me as a Christian individual who defines himself as a member of this or that Church Family? Yes, I have experienced that kind of commitment. The kind that puts a yoke round your neck and fills you with guilt if you do not pick up a chain and pull as hard as you can  in order to sell and market whatever it is this or that pastor is trying to sell to the world so that they can earn their claim to fame in Christendom and beyond. The kind of chain that makes you feel held and secure, a part of something bigger than yourself, something worthy, something lofty, only to then one day look down at your hands and feet and realise that what you are actually enjoying is an illusion of freedom, freedom  to sacrifice, serve and financially support the leadership and captain at the helm of that vessel you have been chained to. Then one day you finally pluck up the courage to stand up, be counted, demand your true freedom in Christ, seek after the Holy Spirit’s guidance to fulfil what it is you were called to fulfil in the sphere God has placed you in. It is on that fine day that your chains will be cut and your body and soul thrown into the open seas. Whilst evil intended for any shark to feed on the carnage that such fleshly crusades leave behind, God will use this painful experience to peel off the layers of bondage and deceit thrown upon you by the very ones who pride themselves in helping you to discover freedom in Christ. You will be immersed in abundant waters that will never run out; you will never be thirsty again and you will know what true freedom in Christ really is meant to be.

But here is the mother of all lies, la crème de la crème of deception which seeks to manipulate and control under the guise of passion, love and devotion: “Many believe it is possible to be a “good Christian” without joining (or even attending) a local church, but God would strongly disagree.”

Again, we must be reading scripture inspired by two different Gods. The one I read conveys there is no such thing as a “good Christian” for we have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Can it be that the person who has written this has established this distinction in order to convince his readers that there are two camps within Christianity: the good and the bad ones, the godly and the ungodly, the saved and the unsaved perhaps? Not explicitly said but thrown in there as a little hint, a mere implied suggestion just to catch the attention of those who can be easily swayed by fear and the kind of truths that are made truth just because an ” important” and influential majority in a particular field has declared it so.

I think what the author is really trying to say here is “in order to be a genuine, true Christian” and not a “good Christian”, for again this term is another oxymoron. If there were good Christians as opposed to bad ones, wouldn’t that mean that the need for Christ in their life would become obsolete, that God gives them a special treatment just because they are good and where is that righteousness come from: them being in Christ or their own achievements and goodness? Again, statements like this one challenge the very pillars the Christian faith stands on, on a monumental scale, so I will not be the one to read something like that and swallow it whole in the hope that it will go down and produce the effect it was intended for. It is easily done, just put “God would strongly disagree” at the end of your statement and that will surely have the desired effect on the reader. Where is the grace, the non-judgementalism, the humility that surely should be so characteristic of those who ceremoniously like to label themselves as Christian Leaders or biblically put “servant to all”. Now there is an incredible contrast between what Jesus defined as “leading” and what church leaders have decided it should mean instead. Such utter violation of what is truth in Christ should send our alarm bells ringing, but do we listen? No, it is easier to go on as we are and pretend we have it all figured out.

I hope one day the person who wrote this article looks back and ponders on the question: Did my words bring freedom or bondage to millions of Christians out there who are not part of a church/church family? Did I transmit grace to those who do not share my views or did I cast them out as “not good enough” with my judgemental heart? Did I truly manage to convince non-church going Christians that they are in the wrong, that they are lost, without a compass or did my frivolous, obnoxious assumptions only serve to confirm the very reasons why they either broke loose from the Church system or stopped going to a particular church in the first place?

Narcissism in the Pulpit

I am deeply convinced that the article below gets right to the root of why so many churches today are closing down, attendance is at an all-time low and thousands are taking part in a historical exodus away from Babylon and towards a New Jerusalem. Narcissistic church leaders and pastors in particular are deceiving and manipulating those who are part of a church. Indeed, these individuals are able to cast a kind of spell on their “victims” to the point where one can tell that all is not right with that leader and those who have chosen to buy into his/her propaganda, but they feel their hands are tied and there is not a whole load they can do about it. As if in a spell, their heart is telling them to separate themselves from what is going on but their feet won’t move. Such is the pressure and the pull of the fleshly Narcissistic Spirit, one can do little to overcome it once ensnared in its web.

I strongly feel God is liberating many from this web of deception, control and utter worship of the instruments God uses to achieve his purposes instead of worshipping the God who chose them and led them to a place where they could serve others. Note I use the word serve and not “lead” others. The only one that should be leading us anywhere is the Spirit of Jesus Christ himself. Anything else is idolatry and a stench in God’s nostrils.

It is a very long article but accurate, in-depth, and utterly revealing. It took me years to see some of the things which are so clearly explained in this article, and I wish someone had put it right in front of me at the time when I was in the midst of what can only be described as the battle of all spiritual battles within me, where part of me was being seduced by the brilliance, charisma, appeal and promises of bigger and greater things which the Narcissistic Spirit has in abundance, and the other part of me, the spiritual part of me was dying as it felt trapped, controlled, deceived, annihilated, lied to, used and simply denied of all that God has in store for my spiritual development and that of His Church.

The time for God to judge and deal with all Narcissist leaders in His Church is now upon us. Dead works and hyped-up marketing and growth techniques will be shown as dead works and ultimately, the Lord will say: “Depart from me, for I never knew you”.

If you wish to read the article, click on this link:

http://www.epiclesis.org/2015/05/narcissism-in-the-pulpit-2/

 

 

 

THIS BLOG NO LONGER DOES WHAT IT SAYS ON THE TIN. OUCH!

Recently a dear friend sent me an email to let me know that a well-known Christian writer was offering a bumper gift of free books written by himself and others upon the condition that we bought his latest book.  Immediately enticed by the thought of a free gift, I took the bait and purchased his new book, and as promised, once I informed the author that I had made the purchase, a link was sent to me from his website with the promised bumper gift, which by the way was for the most part the ability to download for free various books and audio and not as I had hoped a physical, tangible gift to be received on the post, which was a bit disappointing, but that is more to do with my own personal preferences and not the nature of the giver.

Once I had downloaded most of the stuff, the excitement of the free gift ebbed away, specially when I received another email from this author’s website to say amongst other things that a free copy of another of his books would be automatically sent to all those who subscribed to his blog.  Another condition, I thought! This is beginning to smell of egocentrism and idolatry and it is certainly not pointing me or anyone else who comes to this author’s site primarily to Jesus or more importantly emulating God’s unconditional love, a God who gave his one and only son to set us free and to redeem us to Himself. For as one freely receives one should freely give.  Somehow, these words did not ring true in my heart when I thought of this author’s tactics to attract readers to his site and ultimately to increase the number of people following him. I personally know self-confessed men and women of God who will unashamedly use the arena and the platform God has blessed them with to market, promote and push their egos forward and simultaneously brag about going out on mission to the poorest countries for a couple of weeks a year as if one washed clean or cancelled the harm and the defiling done by the other.

Now, when I take a step back and ponder on what the picture of today’s church looks like, I see what I have described above as one of the primary reasons why the Western church is in decay at is very core and why hundreds of people are marching out from their local churches with absolutely no intention of ever going back, and worse still why many unbelievers will automatically keep their distance the moment they find out that you are a Christian. Why? Because they simply cannot and will not wish to dig in any further when they see the hypocrisy of a system, a set of beliefs and a large number of people within this group who perpetuate and condone the worship of other gods whilst claiming to love above all else the one and only God.  Who would be stupid enough to fall for that kind of on your face, down right deception, right?

This morning as I was having breakfast all alone in the kitchen (my favourite time of day) I felt utterly convicted for being one of those who is simply perpetuating this situation and fallacy by the mere fact that my own blog as of late no longer seems to point people to Christ, no longer does what it says on the tin, but often it points to other people’s wisdom, knowledge or discernment and even more disappointing is the fact that by doing this God never gets the glory, the praise or the love, but it is instead given to countless individuals who have been set apart by God for a specific purpose and as time has gone by that direction has been lost and everything they are about and everything they do reflects not the glory, power, grace and love of God, but their own ingenuity, enlightenment and self-worth.

There is a reason why my blog has erred from where it was supposed to go and that is simply the fact that these days I don’t abide in His word and His presence as much as I need to. This is another big factor in why those set apart Christian leaders who are out there pushing forward their own findings, revelation and vision forget in the process that they are simply mere clay in the Potter’s hand and not the finished article which is ready to be put on a shelf for everyone to admire and enjoy.  Only Christ, I say it again for my own benefit as much as anyone else’s reading this, only Christ is worthy of such adoration, glory and praise. And the very sad part of all of this is that the majority of such individuals were destined for great exploits for God, for unimaginable intimacy and a supernatural walk alongside Christ himself, but unable and unwilling to take the path of self-sacrifice, anonymity and suffering, they push for the mirage instead, pursuing a great following as the credentials one needs in the world today to have influence for Christ and to have a life-altering, transformational and redemptive effect upon the lives of others.

Many people like myself are these days shouting to the four corners of the earth the deception and hypocrisy that abounds in the church system today and why this is causing floods of Christians to leave such pools of stagnant water, but few are prepared to be radical in how they tackle this problem, in how they offer themselves as living sacrifices in order to enable Christ’s bride to receive a heart transplant which presents her to the Groom without spot or blemish.

I want to have that kind of radical approach to changing the face of The Church, the Body of Christ, and I have to start somewhere, so I will start by simply ceasing to publish on this blog anything written or said by anyone else other than Christ himself.  This blog was born out of  a desire to share with you all what Christ has done and continues to do in my life and that of my family, and I would be an utter fool if I truly thought that posting, promoting or glorifying what another brother or sister in Christ has said or written has the same power as the words of Christ himself or if I thought that by pushing forward as the panacea the knowledge and revelation attained by another Christian individual, I am pushing forward the redemptive power that only the blood of Christ is able to transmit.  Radical thinking I know, for some perhaps even too much of an extreme attitude to have, but everything else has been tried and tested and failed.  We are all full of good intentions and the determination to give everyone the benefit of the doubt but when it comes to the Kingdom of God, short-changing does not cut it. I don’t want to look back a few years down the line and see that the Church is still in the same sad, ill state because not only did I and everyone else not do anything in my own walk to change it, but because I was in actual fact an active agent in promoting, praising and glorifying men and women above Christ himself.

It is simple: anything that detracts the light from the Saviour himself, is as good as darkness and becomes a betrayal to the Father’s heart, for one cannot be content to belong to the darkness and the light at the same time and one most certainly cannot be a part of the Body if that part is holding a lampstand that points to itself and not the Head.

2 Corinthians 4:6 (38 kb)

I don’t discount that some of what these individuals are putting out there is indeed born of the Spirit of God and being used by God to bring renewal and growth in the lives of certain people including myself of course, but if at the same time they are intent on drawing attention to themselves and their work first and foremost to then point people to Christ, the later cannot justify the former and the former cannot be used as an excuse to whitewash and exonerate the latter. In Christ, we can only have one Master and not two can be served, revered and worshipped at the same time.  Let’s today choose whom we shall serve and commit with our every breath to such a choice. Double standards and hypocrisy never enlarged the kingdom of God and they never will, no matter what you are made to believe by those who have vested interests in persuading you otherwise.

Jude 24-25 (111 kb)

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

COME OUT OF HER MY PEOPLE – FINAL CHAPTER, 9

Chapter Nine

ENTERING THE NEW JERUSALEM

“But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, to the general assembly and church of the first-born who are enrolled in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, and to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel. See to it that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if those did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less shall we escape who turn away from Him who warns from heaven. And His voice shook the earth then, but now He has promised, saying, ‘YET ONCE MORE I WILL SHAKE NOT ONLY THE EARTH, BUT ALSO THE HEAVEN.’  And this expression ‘Yet once more,’ denotes the removing of those things which can be shaken, as of created things in order that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore since we receive a Kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire.” (Heb. 12:22-29)

When these words were written to the Hebrews they were being reminded of the awesome presence of God when He gave the commandments to Moses on Mount Sinai. Exodus chapters 19 and 20 record that great fear of the Lord came upon all and then Moses said:-

“Do not be afraid; for God has come in order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may remain with you, so that you may not sin.” (Exodus 20:20)

We modem day Christians have very little fear of the Lord, and often forget that our loving heavenly Father is also God the Judge of all, and that His righteous wrath can come upon all who persistently refuse to obey His commandments. In this present day His judgment is falling on churches, men and ministries, for the time has come in which He is once more shaking both heaven and earth. His rebellious and sinful church is being scourged and disciplined because of His Father love. When we see Christian ministers of international reputation exposed as charlatans, whoremongers and greedy for gain, we should examine ourselves and ask Him to reveal any sin in us.

Each one of us needs to bring our lives and lifestyle under His judgment. This great shaking is taking place for He is no longer willing to tolerate our Harlot Christian religion with all its traditions, and the way we separate our secular and religious lives.

We need to understand that it is the Holy Spirit Who is calling us out of Babylon, and that we are unhappy with the church system because the Spirit of God within us is unhappy with it. He also has a greater purpose in calling us out, for He still loves all men, and He desires us to become like Christ, so that His love will become tangible and real to a world that is sick of religion.

Jesus wants us to become the manifested Sons of God, and so close to Him that we will be able to do what He did, and eventually even the “greater things” that He promised His disciples would do. We are a long way from becoming like Him, but if we have ears to hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches today, and we respond by abandoning everything in order to live in submission to Jesus, then we will see the world stand in awe of the Body of Christ. We shall also see the greatest harvest of souls in history.

Jesus desires us to experience His Way of life so that the glory of God shines from us in such a way that the lost will be drawn to Him. As we walk in His Way and fellowship with Him, the Spirit of Christ manifested in us will change the world, not our dogmatic verbal arguments and defense of our religion. As we walk in His Way and fellowship with Him He will restore the Holy Spirit power we read about in the Acts of the Apostles. The insipid, almost powerless life that characterizes most Christians, must be replaced by even greater power than that displayed by the first disciples.

Entering the New Jerusalem is a process which first requires us to truly die to self, and allow Jesus to have the first place in our hearts. This means that we must learn to be truly humble and become servants, losing all thought of self-importance. We need at least one or two other believers with whom we share our lives intimately and entirely, for that is true fellowship.

Above all we must have intimate fellowship with our Father and our Lord Jesus through the Holy Spirit. This fellowship is the sharing of our whole life with God. It has nothing to do with the shallow relationships we have experienced in attending church meetings, which we commonly call fellowship. This fellowship, which the apostle John wrote about embraces every aspect of our lives. It requires us to become aware of His constant presence within us and to seek His glory in all that we do and think. It is when we experience this kind of fellowship with God that we receive revelation from His Spirit, and begin to have the mind of Christ.

“What we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, that you also may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.” (1 Jn. 1:3)

Jesus enjoyed fellowship with the Father and the Holy Spirit before His incarnation. The indescribable fellowship of the Holy Godhead is eternal, and this fellowship continued during the short 33 years of His life on earth. This fellowship seeks only to love and to serve and to glorify the others within the fellowship, and we need to grasp the miracle that we are called to join in and be part of this fellowship.

Consider the fellowship that those who followed Jesus enjoyed with Him, and how He taught them to be servants of one another. Intimate fellowship with God must lead us to desire only the good of others within our fellowship, as we understand what it means to be great in the Kingdom of God. John and the other Apostles knew what this meant, and this is why he wrote these words for our benefit and instruction, and that our joy might be complete.

The Holy Spirit is calling millions of God’s children to come apart from their religious activities and to spend time alone with God. Ministers who have been widely known bible teachers and conference speakers, evangelists and pastors are hearing the same word from the Lord. Some are responding by canceling their engagements, withdrawing from public life and waiting in prayer upon our God.

Yet once more God is shaking the heavens and the earth, and He is removing and destroying the trappings of religion and the things that we have created. This will continue until the only thing which cannot be shaken remains, the Kingdom of God.

Those who are hearing the call, “Come out of her My people”, are assailed with doubts, fears and confusion. The evil spirit of tradition and the power of social conventions bring questions to our minds. What will we do about marriages and funerals without their conduct by “the church”? What about Sunday schools? It will help you to get past these barriers when you grasp the fact that there is no basis in the teaching of Jesus or the New Testament for our present day Christian ideas of these things.

It is possible to be married by a civil authority according to the laws of the land. Any believers can gather thereafter to bless the couple and pray with them. No “ordained minister” is necessary for a couple to be joined in the sight of God. In some countries only ministers of registered churches with approved constitutions are granted a license to marry people. This is all part of Babylon’s control, but we do not need to be bound by it.

Funeral services are of no relevance in the Kingdom of God. God’s children can only rejoice when one of us goes to be with the Lord. A burial or cremation of the earthly body by any person is perfectly in order. There is nothing holy and sanctified about a “church funeral service”, although tradition will try to keep us ignorant of this and insist on its necessity in order to bind and hold us in Babylon. Acts chapter 5 records the death of Ananias, a sinful believer, and that he was buried without even his wife being invited to the funeral.

“And the young men arose and covered him up, and after carrying him out, they buried him. Now there elapsed an interval of about three hours, and his wife came in, not knowing what had happened.” (Acts 5:6, 7)

Sunday schools did not exist until 1780 when they were started to give the poorest children an opportunity to learn to read and write, combined with religious instruction. Sadly they have replaced God’s plan which is for parents to instruct their children in the ways of the Lord. Religious instruction from others is better avoided by children of Spirit-led parents.

Our children can be filled with the Holy Spirit at a very early age, and learn to hear His voice and walk in His ways by the example and teaching of their parents, whose responsibility it is to disciple them. They can be baptized in a swimming pool or river, and even a bath tub will do. No special cleric is needed to baptize a believer, for this is the work of every disciple.

The insistence of certain denominations on officially baptizing their people is motivated by the same worldly spirit that causes a rancher to brand his cattle. Now they are ours, and nobody may take them away from us.

Because the world system controls the churches of Babylon, tradition and social custom have become so important that they have more power over people’s minds than the Word of God. The carnal mind will even appeal to scripture to enforce traditional understandings, and unwittingly perhaps, support the hold of Babylon over believers, to stop them leaving the gilded city.

To justify church buildings and traditional meetings it will be pointed out that Jesus customarily went to the Synagogues, and that the first disciples met in the Temple. However, Jesus lived under the Law, and He could not have kept its requirements perfectly outside the religious system. The Law required Him to attend meetings, pay tithes, keep the Sabbath and attend Jewish feasts and festivals. Only by doing so, and then giving up His sinless life at Calvary did He set us free from Moses’ Law, and its religious system.

The first disciples were all Jews and met in the Temple because they did not yet understand fully what Jesus had accomplished. It took many years before some of the early Christians grasped the fact that there was no longer any need to live under the Law. In fact most of the Jewish believers remained zealous for the Law and thought that only Gentile disciples were free from its demands.

When Paul came to Jerusalem, just before his imprisonment, he told the elders what God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry, and scripture records subsequently:-

“And when they heard it they began glorifying God; and they said to him, ‘You see brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed, and they are all zealous for the Law; and they have been told about you, that you are teaching all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children nor to walk according to the customs. What then, is to be done? They will certainly hear that you have come. Therefore do this we tell you: We have four men who are under a vow; take them and purify yourself along with them, and pay their expenses in order that they may shave their heads; and all will know that there is nothing in the things which they have been told about you, but that you yourself also walk orderly, keeping the Law. But concerning the Gentiles who have believed, we wrote, having decided that they should abstain from meat sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from fornication.’ Then Paul took the men, and the next day purifying himself along with them went into the temple, giving notice of the completion of the days of purification, UNTIL THE SACRIFICE WAS OFFERED for each one of them.” (Acts 21:20-26)

Scripture is telling us that the Jewish believers in Jesus were unable to fully understand the New Covenant in His blood. So strong was their tradition and religious custom that they even continued to offer sacrifices after the resurrection. They simply could not escape from the tentacles of Babylon which had enfolded the whole Jewish religion. God allowed the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem by the Romans in A.D. 70 to separate the Temple and the church.

The world system has such a powerful hold over our minds that we too will not escape fully and enter the New Jerusalem unless we, like Paul, count all things as “dung” in order that we may know Jesus in all fullness.

It takes time to be set free from our traditions and social customs and the religious beliefs that do not have their origin in our Lord. Only the Holy Spirit can do this as we worship God and submit ourselves to Him. As we come to know Him more intimately so He will show us what we must do, but our God is seldom in a hurry, so we must learn humility and patience and await His direction.

The Holy Spirit also shows us the people to whom we are to be joined in fellowship. This is very different from “joining something”, be it a group or so called house church. We can simply go about our lives and wait until we become aware that God has joined us to other believers. He does this in many ways, sometimes at a place of work, sometimes a sports club, sometimes through a business or social contact.

Relationships fashioned by the Holy Spirit are permanent and without stress or strain. There is a spiritual joining that endears us to each other as His love flows between us, and this cannot be manufactured, only recognized when it is there.

Very often God will join us to people that we would not choose for He is the One building His Body, not us. When we choose our relationships, we allow our personal likes and dislikes, and social conventions to influence our choice. God puts us together with people who will be profitable for our development, and help to conform us to the image of His Son. We must be prepared to accept criticism, rebuke and exhortation, as well as encouragement and support from those with whom we are joined in fellowship. Father knows who we need around us to smooth out our rough edges and shape our lives. When we make the choices we are likely to avoid those who annoy us, dent our egos, and reveal the flaws in our characters or the limit of our abilities. Yet all these things are essential if we are to be changed into His likeness.

The New Jerusalem, the Bride of Christ must be manifest upon the earth before Jesus can return. He is not coming back for a bickering, immature, unclean girl wearing grubby denim jeans. His Bride will be a manifestation of Himself, composed of those who have made themselves ready. She will be beautiful beyond compare, pure and Holy, obsessed with her Husband, and counting all things loss that she may know Him.

“Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has MADE HERSELF READY. And it was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. And he said to me, ‘Write. Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’ And he said to me, ‘These are true words of God.'” (Rev.19:7-9)

The Lord is calling out His Bride, but we have to do our part and make ourselves ready. How small a thing it is to give up our religious traditions, our security in structures and organizations, and everything the world can offer in exchange for being part of His Bride.

If you purpose in your heart to continue on your journey to the Bride City, remember that you only get there by the inward way. It is not accomplished by religious observance, acts of charity, bible study, verbal prayer and fasting. These things are good, but are all external and we do them by the exertion of self.

It is by the cultivation of our relationship with God within us in the Spirit that is the Way to the City. Learn to rest in Him and to know that you are IN HIM and He is IN YOU, and that His divine will is that we only do and say those things that He activates. The true meaning of being led by the Spirit means to walk in submission and obedience to Jesus. This obedience is not a mechanical response to law, but the result of our precious love relationship, which urges us from within to please our Wonderful Counselor and Saviour Husband.

Come to the place of complete inward spiritual peace and tranquility, regardless of external circumstances, relying and trusting only in Him, and not yourself or others. This is real faith, and it develops from our personal inward walk of fellowship with our Lord. Always remember that fellowship is sharing every aspect of your life with God, and not having certain areas excluded from that relationship. There should be no division between your spiritual and secular life.

HE IS THE WAY. HE IS THE TRUTH. HE IS THE LIFE.

May the Holy Spirit lead and guide you on your journey to the City of God, which is always a place of corporate fellowship, and may you never doubt that we and He can become one flesh, now in this earthly realm.

“Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her; that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she should be holy and blameless… no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body. For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh. THIS MYSTERY IS GREAT BUT I AM SPEAKING WITH REFERENCE TO CHRIST AND THE CHURCH.” (Extracts from Eph. 5:25-32)