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By Jim Gordon

When you first hear this, you think of someone who has lost their faith and turned their back on God. That is certainly not the case with me. Let me explain.

When I say christianity I am talking about the religious organization. The true sense of the word Christian means little Christ, or someone who follows the example of Jesus by loving God and loving others. This is not what I am talking about.

The religion of Christianity is the many denominations, the various doctrines and the requirement to follow the rules that men and women tell us we need to follow to be “good christians”.

Church attendance, tithing, adhering to the belief that the bible is inerrant, basically following the rules of the traditional institutional church organization. Being told that grace is not enough because we have to add following the rules and do things that people think are right to be considered a christian.

So often you see two or three church buildings within a mile of each other. There are so many usually because those that attend cannot agree on doctrine and bible interpretation and they have to separate from one another. They still try to follow the ten commandments and try to be good people by what they do when God said it is finished. Because of the grace of Christ we can rest in the love of God.

Jesus said to love God and love one another, but we tend to fight and argue amongst ourselves while those outside of christianity watch and wonder why they would need to be a part of it.

It seems more often than not, when christianity is mentioned the thought is of people who go to church on Sunday then act like everyone else the rest of the week. The thought of people who try their best to follow the rules but spend most of their time feeling guilty because they cannot do so. So much of christianity seems to be so exclusive to people who they feel are different. It says love your neighbor and love your enemy but christianity so often loves only those who have the same views and opinions about the bible.

That is why my wife and I have left the religion of christianity. We have been walking outside the walls of institutional church and religion yet have not left our faith in God. We want to follow the example of Jesus who showed us what God is really like. A God of love and acceptance. A God who loves people and treats everyone with kindness, respect and as equals. We want to follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit who lives within us. We have given up on following the pastor or evangelist or any human who thinks they are the mouthpiece of God. We no longer need a human teacher or guide since Jesus sent the Spirit to be with us constantly.

All that is asked of us is to share the good news of the gospel which is that God loves us. We share that by loving God and loving all people, not by shoving our opinion down the throats of others. Making disciples is sharing the love of God, encouraging one another and helping each other to daily live a life that is loving and helpful.

So yes, I am done with christianity. I am not done with faith in God. I am not done with following the example of Jesus. I am not done with loving people and sharing the love of God with everyone. Forget the religion and follow the way of God by loving one another.

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by Jim Gordon

We human beings all have opinions and personal views on how we think we and others should live. Christian people also have opinions and views plus the added interpretations of the bible.

Sad thing is that often times we want to force our views on others and expect them to see things the same way. When they do not do that, things can get quite ugly sometimes.

After a few days of watching my father-in-law deteriorate in his health, seeing him in the hospital and then going to rehab for a couple weeks, it really makes you think about life.

When your health is not good you seem to lose your thoughts about differences of opinions. You forget about who is right or wrong. You do not seem to think as much about standing your ground and trying to force your views on others.

He has nurses and aides who are male and female, black and white, LGBTQ and straight, along with other nationality backgrounds and you know what, it does not make any difference to him. These are normal people doing their job. He depends on them and they take care of him.

Why is it we human beings cannot act more like this every day, not just when something is going wrong with our health. People are people and there is no reason to be treating anyone with judgment, condemnation and hatred.

It seems many christian people feel it is our duty to point out the mistakes of others. We are to act on behalf of the Holy Spirit by convicting people who we think are sinning. Often what christian people view as sins are not sins at all, but an incorrect interpretation of bible verses that had different meanings and written to different people. Even when people are doing something that is sinful, it is not our job to take a self-righteous stand and convict them. We all have been there and done something that is sinful.

That fact is that no matter what, we are all loved by God. As christians we are only told to love God and love one another. People are free to live as they see is right. Any conviction comes from the Holy Spirit, not the people of God. We are only called to love.

Many will say that loving people will mean we sometimes have to show tough love. We have to point out their mistakes or they will go on sinning and their blood will be upon our hands. Again, the bible says the Spirit will draw people to God. We are not responsible for drawing people to God or changing their views of what is right or wrong. We are to love people, unconditionally just as God loves us.

How many people are drawn to God out of the hateful and condemning ways many people use to try and guilt them into coming to God? How many people are drawn because of fear? A few maybe, but is coming to God out of fear really love? Love draws and God says to love even your enemies.

Do not wait until some terrible event gets your mind off of your opinions and your interpretations. Follow the example of Jesus every day of your life by loving God and loving people.

You do not have to agree with everyone, none of us ever will anyway. Yet live your life doing what you feel God is leading you to do. Allow others the same freedom. Love them with godly love. God is able to draw people and change them in the areas that need changing. Even when the change does not happen, they are still loved by God and they should still be loved by us.

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by Jordan Hathcock

How do you make any sense of history, art or literature without knowing the stories and iconography of your own culture and all the world’s main religions? – Polly Toynbee

When we Westerners create our icons, we do delve into the human figures throughout our history. There is something to say about the way an icon moves us to heal and liberate ourselves and the people around us. An icon can also have the opposite affect: Imprison and damage our way of being and others. We can see from human history, not all icons were worthwhile. In the end, it’s all about how we interpret the figure that we wish to iconize and how we put that vision into practice.

The origins of iconography take place within Christianity; with the images of Jesus and the saints after him. Western culture has taken this them and has made it into a more “secular” phenomenon. We see this with past presidents, sports figures, social activists, etc. Some religious practitioners (fundamentalists mostly) find this to be disturbing due to the reasoning of making humans out to be “gods”.

How can we bring out these secular beings into the space of Jesus (they would say)? Aren’t we making icons into idols, then? I would say: Hell no! Here is why: By making humans into icons we begin to step into the reality of the incarnation of Christ. We experience that we all can make some type of change through healing and liberation. Its what Jesus did by being his true human self.

Let’s take the tragic death of Kobe Bryant for example. We have seen Kobe do some amazing things on and off the court. He became a great father, husband, activist, and friend. By his example and iconic status, others followed in his footsteps and made a difference. Is this not Christ-like? Others do not see it that way. This is from a tweet from an individual who did not see it this way:

“Kobe dies & the world goes crazy; the son of God dies for wicked humanity & very very few care”

Without going into too much of a critique with this quote, I would just like to point out how this individual missed the point of the significance of Kobe Bryant’s death and the death of Jesus’. When we come to the realization that all deaths from the beginning to the end of time, from the ages of ages, have always been connected to the death of Jesus, we see that all deaths carry the importance of resurrection. This doesn’t always need to be the physical resurrection (although important) but also the symbolic resurrection, that helps all to wipe of the ashes of our current sadness and rise to a new transformed existence.

This is what the ancient church attested to the iconography of saints. It was the correlations that death has been trampled by death, and that Jesus resurrection involved the whole creation. The point of icons is not to idolize them, but to participate in their healing and liberating life. We are not these perfect beings that have no flaws and scars! To think an icon is any different from us is to fail to see the point of being an icon in the first place. To think that to see one as some sort of icon is a way to be irresponsible for ourselves and how we act in the world, is being bamboozled. When we depend solely on an icon, without seeing that icon in our enemies, we will never bring about a world of peace and love. It is why icons exist, to enable us to see the least of these as God. The Universal Spirit is calling us to the oneness of it all. Maybe we can beckon to Her call and embrace the unity of a curative icon…

Modern man has been in search of a new language of form to satisfy new longings and aspirations – longings for mental appeasement, aspirations to unity, harmony, serenity – an end to his alienation from nature. All these arts of remote times or strange cultures either give or suggest to the modern artist forms which he can adapt to his needs, the elements of a new iconography- Herbert Read

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by Jordan Hathcock

We don’t want the Christian tradition to become an antique shop just preserving old things. We want to build on old things and allow them to be useful in different ages, vocabularies, and cultures. We want our faith to be ever new, so that it can speak to souls alive and in need right now! – Richard Rohr

During the holiday season, we can see the old ways of tradition booming forth within each culture context. In most Western societies, the Christmas tradition rings loudest with its songs, lights, decorations and food. Not to take way the amazing traditions of Hanukkah, Kwanza, Winter Solstice, Yule, etc. What I am doing here is simply pointing out a renewed since of presence within the Christmas tradition. It’s easy to see the beauty within the holiday of Christmas and forget how much it has evolved since it’s beginnings.

In many instances, the Christmas holiday borrows from other ancient traditions to capture the currents cultures needs and desires. For example, the lights on the Christmas tree. Early Christians adopted this custom from early Celtics due to its symbolism of keeping “the evil spirits at bay”. Christians repurposed this custom into a symbol of resurrection to the “tree of paradise”. Both customs bring with it a truth of protection and new beginnings. Thus, the reason early Christians adopted the custom.

Also, even with the issues the Santa Clause brings (consumerism, greed, etc.), he did stem from a real Christian figure in Saint Nicholas as well as the folklore character known as Woden. Both figures brought gifts to the ones in need (which is a great symbol of what God does for her creation). I think the actual historic figure in this (Saint Nicholas) should be the one we tell our kids about. Here is what the real deal good old Saint Nicholas was about:

He used his entire inheritance to help the poor, sick, and children in need. He gave in secret, expecting nothing in return. Nicholas saved young women from slavery, protected sailors, spared innocents from execution, provided grain in a famine, and rescued a kidnaped boy.

All of this really points to numerous amounts of diverse traditions from ancient times that are still bringing about new ways of life in this holiday season. See, when we discover that the old ways were new once in time, we discover that the old ways always can become the new ways if we allow them to be renewed. I think we get to caught up in the tug between old vs. new that it ends up always being this dualistic battle instead of being a beautiful complementation.

We must let go of the idea that we must have this ageism divide between the old and new. To become unified (John 17:23) we will have to be more open to both sides of the old and new paradigm. Of course, when we see a tradition that brings harm to and individual or group, we have to cease the practice of that particular tradition and let it go. This can be hard for both sides. There will always be a time where regardless of how new or old a practice is, death and resurrection is going to be needed for a new type of design.

Jesus brings this same type of idea up when he said: “Every disciple of the kingdom is like a householder who draws out from his storage room, things both old and new”. —Matthew 13:52. It’s when come to the reality of the responsibilities of someone who is for the abundant life of all (not just some who have the same type of beliefs), regardless if it holds to the old or new ways. This is no easy feat. Fear has to die and love has to reign. It’ll be difficult but I believe it’s something that needs to be done if we ever want a world that brings life instead of death…

Oh, my ways are strange ways and new ways and old ways, And deep ways and steep ways and high ways and low, I’m at home and at ease on a track that I know not, And restless and lost on a road that I know.- Henry Lawson

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by Jim Gordon

After having a discussion with some friends on the topic of the Spirit within and hearing his voice, I thought it appropriate to repost an article from a couple years ago on the subject.

Growing up in the organized church, we were told that the Holy Spirit came to reside within us once we accepted Christ. We were also told that we are the temple of the Holy Spirit and we have no need that any man should teach us. Yet when it came to really emphasizing what that meant and how to hear the Spirit, the church seemed to have dropped the ball in that area.

We do not seem to hear a lot of teaching on what it means for the Spirit to live within us. We are not told how to listen for the Spirit and what are we actually supposed to be listening for. Jesus said that his sheep hear his voice, yet most of us were taught that his voice is really the words written in the bible or spoken by the pastor.

We have heard it said that if it is not in the bible it is not of God. We are told God only speaks through the written word, yet there are so many interpretations, various doctrines and so many verses that were written to a specific person or group of persons. These writings were often for a specific time period that no longer relates directly to us except as an example to learn about the nature of God.

I feel so much has been lost over the years from when the original writings were done. So many of the translations have changed the original meanings because of changes in times, word meanings, traditions and such. Without the Spirit bringing to life the words we read, and through confirmation through his voice within we are really left to our personal views and opinions and what others have told us the written word means.

The bible is not God and it is not a god. The bible was inspired by an infallible God yet written by very fallible men, men who were inspired yet wrote with their personal views and ways of writing. The bible is about people trying to find, follow and fellowship with God and teaches us ways to do that. The written word leads us to the Living Word, who is Jesus.

The bible tells us that the Spirit now lives within us. Yet so often, even though we say it we do not act like we really believe it. Time and time again the bible mentions we are the temple of the Holy Spirit, we have the mind of Christ, the Spirit and the Kingdom are within you. And time and time again we seem to go right on thinking God is far away from us and all we can do is read from his word or have some pastor tell us what God is saying.

There are many people who say they speak for God but are nowhere close to being a godly example. It is easy to say God told me this or that, or say God told me to tell you something yet the person saying such things is only going on their personal feelings and interpretations. Anyone can say God told them this or that and expect us to do what they say, but we need to listen to the Spirit for ourselves and listen for the confirmation from within as to what is of God and what is not.

I believe if God says the Spirit lives within us and we can hear his voice, then it is something not to be taken lightly. As followers of Christ we can rely on the Spirit within us to teach us and guide us into his truth. We have to be listening and open to God to know his voice, but we can hear it and know it is from God. To say that we can only hear from God through the written word is to miss a more intimate fellowship with God.

Is the bible to be ignored? Are we to stop reading the written word and only follow what we feel is the voice of the Spirit? No, both the written word and the Living Word that lives within us are important. The written word is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness. Yet without the Living Word bringing those words to life, it is just a book about humans trying to find God. We need to be listening for the quiet voice of the Spirit of Christ who actually lives within us for truth and guidance. Sometimes he will speak directly in our spirits, sometimes he will speak through his written word and sometimes through others.

Also remember that God is alive and his Spirit is within us. Do not think that He can only speak through one particular means. Yet do not jump at every voice you hear, make sure it is the voice of His Spirit. Although the bible says we have the mind of Christ we also have the mind of Jim, or Mike or Betty. We are still human and need to be sure we are hearing from the Spirit of Christ and not our natural spirit. Still, Jesus said His sheep hear his voice, which to me says we can hear and know it is from God.

We also know that the Spirit can speak to one person one way and another person in a different way. Just because the Spirit is speaking to me does not mean he is telling you the same thing. Just because I hear the Spirit say something to me does not mean it is something that has to be announced to everyone. It may be that he is speaking to me for something I need to do or learn and it is not meant for others to hear.

My friend Michael Clark wrote about this topic and said in his article: “Jesus is the Word of God! He speaks to those who are His sheep. They know His voice and will not follow the voices of strangers (read John Ch. 10). Yet, so many Christians have said to me, “How can I know when Jesus is speaking to me?” To many of them the answer is, “Unplug! You are listening to and reading too many teachers. Break this habit of heaping to yourself teachers who tickle your ears. Get alone with God for a few months until you start hearing His whispered voice. Talk with Him and let Him be your friend above all friends.”

Just as we think of the church as a building with an organized program, it is so much more than that. The Church is a community of people daily following the Spirit and living in the kingdom of God during our life now. We also think of the word of God as a book, yet the true and living Word of God is so much more than that. Jesus is the Living Word of God and we can hear the voice of the Spirit which is within us. We can hear his voice through the written word, but keep in mind that God speaks in more ways than one.

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by Jim Gordon

Have you noticed how often people get offended and feel they need to prove their point on so many topics and posts online? It usually does not go well once that starts. Especially when it comes to spiritual and biblical topics.

We fail to realize that not everyone has the same interpretation as another. We also fail to realize the fact that we cannot prove most of what we believe.

We can fight and argue between christian and atheist, one christian denomination and another, among Jewish, Christian, Islam and a host of other religions. We can argue about whether there is or there is not a God, is there a hell or not, what this verse means or what that verse means. We get mad and defensive when someone goes against what we believe and do our best to prove our view is right.

Thing is, we cannot prove our point. We cannot prove God exists, we cannot prove there is a heaven or a hell, we cannot prove any other aspect of the spiritual existence. This life is a life of faith and belief. As christians, we have faith that God is there and he loves us. We have faith in the guidance of the Spirit within us.

On the other hand, no one can prove there is not a God, there is not a heaven, or there is not a hell. Yet we will fight and argue until we almost hate each other trying to prove our way of thinking.

I think God can take care of himself. We do not have to fight and argue to defend Him. Rather than making ourselves look like mean, hateful people who have to be right we should be showing the love of God to everyone. Show his love to those who agree with us and also to those who are a hundred percent sure in their minds that we are wrong.

To be sure, we cannot have this kind of love and acceptance in our own strength. God says we are the temple of the Holy Spirit, and it his love that flows out of us. Through His power, we can love those who live differently, who think differently, we can love our enemies and those who want nothing to do with God.

We can have our own way of thinking, our own beliefs and interpretations, knowing that God created each of us differently. Yet we need to remember we are not totally right on everything, and for sure we are not always going to agree with one another. We can all learn something by listening and communicating with others.

We all have a right to believe what and how we want to believe. People can put their faith in God or not. We can have completely different lifestyles. We can have a completely different interpretation on bible verses or we can completely reject the bible and not believe anything about it, and it is OK. Jesus did not tell us to judge and condemn others for what they believe. He did not say to force our views and beliefs on others. He did say to love one another.

We are not called to make people believe like us, or believe in God at all. We are called to go into the world and live the gospel message that God loves and accepts us. Jesus came to restore fellowship between humanity and the Father. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we are to love and accept others just as they are.

We can have our individual beliefs and interpretations, and we do not have to agree with everyone. Love and acceptance do not mean agreement. We can love and accept others just because they are loved by God. We were all created in His image. We can have our differences and still accept and care for those God brings into our lives each day.

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by Jordan Hathcock

“A priest once quoted to me the Roman saying that a religion is dead when the priests laugh at each other across the altar. I always laugh at the altar, be it Christian, Hindu, or Buddhist, because real religion is the transformation of anxiety into laughter.”– Alan Watts

When exploring the comedic landscape, be it stand-up or just laughing with buddies, what we discover is total-unsaturated freedom. I mean, come on! You know you cannot deny when a good joke hits your soul, you become overpowered with joy and bliss. The endorphins hit an all-time high, and you bask in the comfort of hilariousness. When swimming in the Christian tradition, I think “busting-up” is a vital prophetic practice to have if we ever want to see restorative justice and mercy flow through our current social landscape.

How do we experience this through the Christian tradition? Well, unfortunately we don’t see to many preachers at the pulpit preaching “go out and watch some comedy”, but this does not mean that from the broad scope of things, the Christ-trajectory hasn’t journeyed out to this particular new endeavor. Yes, I get it. When we see how uncomfortable someone’s sense of humors can make us feel, its hard not to react in disdained. I find it interesting that a sermon kind of has the same kind of effect on us. Comedian Pete Homes says it best:

“The skill set of pastor and comedian are incredibly similar. You want to affect people. You’re good at reading rooms. You’re persuasive, and you’re likable.”

Now, I am not saying that we are just to be entertained in our seats while watching the “pastor” make us laugh. That is not the point. The point, I think, is we might have to find ourselves in uncomfortable spaces to be able to stretch us to encounter different perspectives. We are seeing some truth spoken to power being projected out of the stand-up scene, which if we listen closely and take some pointers, it might just help us over here in the Christian world.

The prophetic is used not to just expose the injustices, but also to bring about liberation. We must see that when we laugh, it is a way for us to heal towards a better way of living for ourselves and the community we relate to. Likewise, as the medical research shows:

“There is growing evidence that laughter as a physical activity can additionally produce small but quantifiable positive physiological benefits.”

The physiological also plays a huge part in the spiritual. When we step into the realm of expressed humor, we find ourselves in a place of peace. It is peacemaking that brings us into the “reign of God”. There is hope for this Jesus tradition and it is finding our sense of humor! Yes, the current divide and injustices that is currently happening within our current American culture is ramped.

It’s easy to get to serious with ourselves with all the bullshit running amok! Believe me, I am guilty of it! Please understand, we are not to ignore the racism that is happening within the police force across the county, school shootings, the Trump impeachment scandal, etc. The list can go on and on.

But we must admit, when things to get a little out of hand, the only medicine is to laugh that shit off! Like good old Sarah reminds us in her time of utter disbelief in the insanity: “So, Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I have grown old, and my husband is old, shall I have pleasure?” (Gen 18:12) Pleasure? In all this mess? Is it possible? Don’t know (like always) but I do trust in the gift of laughter. From this ancient tradition, its time to let go of the long faces and step into the vibrant space of comedy…

“When I opened my eyes and saw the real world, I began to laugh and I haven’t stopped since.” – Soren Kierkegaard

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