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Posted By Nan

In researching this series of blogs, I have read the writings of many followers of Jesus, both in present times and in the past. People like Hildegard of Bingen, John O’Donohue and Brother David have been particularly inspiring. These are people who know/knew God intimately and follow/ed Him with passion, but hold views that are not mainstream. 

BEING LED OUT INTO THE WILDERNESS

When my Father God led me out of the established Church I wondered what He was doing. I didn’t feel strong enough to survive without a church congregation. This was despite the fact that I had been betrayed, lied about, and offered no compassion or help when I needed it. I still clung to the idea of church. Why? Because I didn’t know any better. I was raised to believe going to church was a prerequisite to salvation.

Salvation is completely dependent on accepting Jesus as my Saviour. That is the door we enter in. We then follow Him along the path. So we accept Jesus and continue to believe in Him and follow Him as best we can.

We are not required to go to church to do that. Churches are corrupt organisations that have been responsible for much harm to people and for turning many away from faith in God. 

THE SECULAR SINS OF CHURCHES

Only yesterday there were news reports of a prominent leader of a large church who had been dismissed because of sexually inappropriate behaviour to women. One was so severe the woman left the employment of this church and has never darkened the door of the church again.

Then there are the countless children sexually abused by church leaders. Rather than protect these children, the church blamed them for what happened. Those sexual abusers were moved on or just allowed to continue where they were without penalty. Covering up and protecting the reputation of the church was more important than God’s justice.

I have heard so many stories of people who went to the church for help over abuse both as children and as adults and who were misquoted scriptures that said they were to “honour” their abuser. These people were frequently vilified while their abuser was supported by the church and the congregations.

So many people have been subjected to abuse by church members intent on following their own ambitions. The ambitious church members are the ones supported by the church hierarchy, not the people subjected to abuse.

BELIEVERS ARE IN CHURCHES AND OUTSIDE CHURCHES

The church is a corrupt secular organisation that happens to contain people who profess to believe in Jesus. But society is full of people who profess to believe in Jesus but never attend a church service. Statistics show that increasingly more people who identify as Christian do not attend church.

So we have established that accepting Jesus as Saviour and following Him is a requirement for salvation. But what is this “church” mean?

THOSE SET ASIDE FOR JESUS

If you go back to the original texts the word that is commonly translated as “church” is actually more correctly translated as “congregation”. Congregation means taken out and set aside. It doesn’t mean church. Any group can be a congregation. If we are the group of ones who believe Jesus is our Saviour then we are a congregation that believes in Jesus as Saviour.

Looking at the history of Bible Translations, the word “church” was introduced in the King James Version. It was put there to convince the people that they should attend church. Pure and simple. There is no Biblical basis for a church attending requirement.

BUT YOU DON’T GO

The early believers in Jesus wanted to keep their Jewishness. They attended the sabbath in the temple and then worshipped Jesus on Sunday. It was only when the temple was destroyed in 70AD that they stopped that practice. Why was the temple destroyed? One reason is that God had called the followers of Jesus out of Judaism and they hadn’t obeyed. Destroying the temple was a great way of stopping that practice.

One question I am asked a lot is “how do you worship God if you don’t attend church?”.

My answer is “how do you worship God when you attend church?”

I have sat in church services where I didn’t feel anyone was actually worshipping God. They were worshipping the wonderful band they had playing. They were worshipping the spectacularly ordered service with the lovely sequenced music designed to bring the audience to a crescendo mimicking the anointing of the Spirit. But worshipping God? Hmmm.

I have sat in too many of those types of service and begged God for evidence of true worship and only found it in my heart.

I know there are true followers of Jesus who do attend church and manage to truly worship Him. But it is easy to fall out of worship in many services.

Many admit that and go to church to be part of a group of believers. They find their time worshipping God when they are on their own.

Many have participated in online services during COVID and realised they never want to go back to that church, or any church.

Then there are the ones who worship God continually, day in and day out. These are true believers. But how many go to church on Sunday and then leave and carry on as if God is not part of their lives.

OUR SPIRITUALITY

This series is a reflection on spirituality. Jesus gives us the Holy Spirit which enters our Spirit. Our Spirit is the I AM of us. It is who we are. Allowing the Holy Spirit to define our I AM is what it means when we read in the Bible about us diminishing and Jesus increasing. We give our Spirit over to the influence and connection with the Holy Spirit. We allow God to define our I AM.

The trouble arises when you don’t connect to your Spirit. When you can’t connect to the feelings within you. When you don’t connect to your body. If you can’t do that, how can you connect to the Holy Spirit in your own Spirit?

THE SENSE OF BELONGING

Have you had a personal encounter with Jesus?

Can you remember the feeling you had when that encounter occurred?

For me, it was one of being in the presence of one who totally and completely accepted me. One who accepted me as belonging, as being part of Him.

That is the essence of faith in God. That we belong. That we are considered children.

HOW TO RESPOND TO THE SENSE OF BELONGING

One of the negatives of applying “religion” to the sense of belonging is the traditions of religion, especially in the West. We turn belonging into a restrictive dogma that tells us we can only like certain people. 

In fact, the belonging of God is about belonging to the entire Creation. By entire I mean all life forms be they animal or plant. By entire I mean this planet in its entirety. By entire I mean the entire universe. All this is created by God.

HOW DO YOU INTERPRET BELONGING?

Belonging is interpreted by us as a whole person. That means we interpret it through our emotions. 

Belonging means we interpret it through our intellect, by making meaning of what we are experiencing.

Belonging, and making meaning of it, means we accept that meaning with our will.

The belonging we have to God is limitless. 

SO WHAT HAS GONE WRONG?

The problem with the established church, especially the western church, is that it has created a doctrine to give people guidelines to make sense of belonging. And a lot of this doctrine was devised by people who had never encountered God.

But belonging is an individual thing and each person must make their own sense of belonging to God.

Each person must have their own unique relationship to God.

Adopting the church doctrine locks you into the legalism that Jesus criticised in the Jewish faith of His time on earth.

So much of Western church doctrine is about what you can’t do and what you must do IN ORDER TO BE SAVED.

But you are already saved. You are on a path following Jesus, but it is not a path of you must do and you mustn’t do. It is a path of relationship with God.

HOW DO I FOLLOW JESUS?

Celebrate the love God has for you.

Be careful not to impose rituals on that celebration. Ritual has its place, but not if it becomes a straight-jacket for other believers or us.

Yes, you will express your belonging to God in some form of doctrine and moral code. And you will express your belonging in some form of ritual that you should be happy to use. But do not turn your belonging to God into some form of dogmatic straight-jacket.

Ultimately, it is how you relate to God in your heart that matters. Our hearts are the one part of us that can truly take in all of God’s love for us. Why? Because our hearts are our place of love.

Unless you can approach faith and belonging to God with love you will become caught up in dogmatic doctrines, morals and rituals.

Stand before God in the entirety of your being with love. See those around you are being as intricate a part of creation as you are. Always seek God in your heart with love and you will find following Jesus a lot easier and purer.

 
Posted By Nan

Some time ago I was blessed to read a book written by a beautiful woman who, among other things, is a pastor for the Uniting Church in Australia. Her name is Denise Champion and she is Adnyamathanha. 

The book Denise wrote, Yarta Wandatha, was very insightful and thought provoking.

In Yarta Wandatha, Denise speaks about how Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people need to find culturally appropriate ways of worshipping God. 

She writes of the need to research, retrieve and begin to use each indigenous group’s own stories, songs and knowledge of the Spiritual world contained in their worldview as contained in law, ceremony and stories. It is vital for non westerners, in this case indigenous Australians, to find the freedom to know who God is through their own culture and understand that God has always been there. 

Denise reminded us that the Western Church needs to be more respectful of the value of non western cultures.

This is what my exploration of the spiritual is about. Finding God in the old stories and cultural traditions of this world. Of the world before the Western Church and culture told us how to be in a secular, non spiritual western society.

When I look at indigenous cultures I see people living, working and respecting the land of God’s creation more than occurs with Western Culture. 

I see people more respectful of spiritual matters and more willing to hear God than occurs with Western Culture.

As I have journeyed through this life, I have never ceased to be amazed at how God has taught me and guided me.

He has taken me on a journey that led away from the established church. Then He led me away from Western Christianity to explore the spirituality of non western cultures. When this first happened, I felt I was stepping outside faith and mixing in things that I was always taught were evil and demonic. But in these places I have not found evil, I have found God.

Every step of my journey I have realised God is several steps ahead of me, guiding me into a deeper understanding of Him.

It has meant casting aside many “taboos” I was told to avoid. 

It has meant other Church going Christians telling me I was walking away from faith.

But my faith in God and my understanding of Him was just getting deeper and richer.

I have had supposed Christians, who don’t even know their Bible, judging me for the places God has led me. 

I read my Bible every day, always seeking to understand God.

I am constantly questioning things that cross my path. What does this mean? Is this a direction I am meant to follow? How do I reconcile faith in God with the new spiritual revelations I am being given?

In the book Yarta Wandatha I found the way to reconcile all that I was learning.

When western Christianity listened to the enlightenment philosophers (who wrote of a world without God in it) and rejected the Spiritual in favour of “Science” and only believed in what could be analysed and proven (so how do you believe in God then?) they lost connection with God in their own stories.

We all, you and me, need to revisit the old stories of our cultures and find God in those stories. 

You need to look beyond the narrow view of science you were taught to believe in and see the advances in what can be analysed and proven today that does not form part of the enlightenment narrative that rejected the Spiritual.

You need to explore the world’s spirituality with openness and with God’s guidance. 

You need to be open and not run away in fear, thinking you will go to Hell if you listen to what other culture’s spirituality teaches you.

If you walk in God’s footsteps then you will be walking where He wants you to go.

If you are open to learning from what you encounter, then you will learn what He wants you to learn.

You may not understand it. When you have been steeped in western Christianity and told that is how you find God it will be hard to understand. I am still getting my head around it. But I know I am learning what I need to know. The rest? If I need to know more I will be taught it. If it is only necessary for me to accept and not understand then that is what I will do.

God always leads the way.

 
Posted By Nan

When preparing for today’s blog I was stumped. I really had no direction to follow. I have plenty of ideas, but I only use them if I am directed to. And none of those ideas was coming up as one to write about.

As I prayed over today’s blog I was directed to read Genesis from chapter 5. This chapter describes the generations of first born sons (and other sons and daughters) of Adam’s descendants. The last generation is Noah. All these men lived for hundreds of years.

In Chapter 6 we read that human beings increased in number and there were daughters born, as well as sons. “Sons of God” are described as having been drawn to these women and marrying them. 

At the same time human brokenness was being expressed in the extreme sinfulness of human beings. 

As a result God decided two things. 

The first was to limit the life span of humans to 120 years. 

The other was to destroy all life on earth with the exception of Noah, his wife, three sons, and their wives.

There has been much debate over the years about the meaning of the “sons of God” and the Nephilim spoken about in this chapter.

In the Western World, as the “enlightenment” philosophers sought to separate knowledge from God, there was a discarding of the spiritual beliefs of people in favour of more analytical, human controlled explanations.

The result of this is that we have reduced God to something we can box and control, rather than the Mighty Creator and God who is in control of our lives.

The Sons of God were considered to be angels. The Nephilim were their offspring. It may seem strange to our modern, post enlightenment ears, but other faiths, particularly Ancient Greek and Roman, talked about the “gods” having children with humans.

So there is some evidence that this story has been around a long time and probably carries an element of truth in it.

It is important to remember that the Bible generally sounds strange to our modern ears. 

If we consider the saying that truth is stranger than fiction, then we can accept that the world God has created is different than the nice little, safe in the box world, we like to believe exists.

God is spirit. The Bible is written by men directed by the Holy Spirit. The reality of God and our faith is completely different from what we like to think. 

There is no boxing God into some safe, controllable world. He is Spirit. He has all power. And He is not controllable. 

Until we grasp these truths, we will never even get close to understanding God.

 

 

 
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Nan
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