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Posts Tagged ‘Cindy Felkel’

by Cindy Felkel, Guest Blogger

I see your beautiful heart. Every time I talk to you, I am amazed at the resilience and bravery I see in you. I know that I have only seen a glimpse into the hurt that you have experienced. I know that life has been harder on you than on many people. I see the jaded parts of you and I see the defiant spirit too; that refuses to give in and rises stronger every day.

I know when you hear me say that I am a Christian, it causes you to cringe. You expect me to judge you. You think that if I saw half of what you have done, I’d run away in fear and disgust. But that’s not the kind of Christian I am. That’s not the way a lot of us who really know Jesus are.

I am a Christian who has dealt with abuse and I have seen its power to cause people to run from light and hide in corners of hurt and self-protection.  I have  been afraid of being seen because of all the secrets I  was hiding. I know what it is like to lay on the floor sobbing until I couldn’t move because the hurt was so deep that I couldn’t think of a reason to get up and go on.

My story may be mild compared to what you have seen. My story may not relate to you at all.  When you hear my story, you may see me as a spoiled clueless middle-class  white woman living in a bubble or a weak woman who let religious people shame me for the lamest things. I don’t know if anything I’ve ever experienced really relates to you. But what I do know is God’s healing heart that longs to embrace you and show you just how treasured and adored you are.

That  may not be what you’ve heard from religious people who have judged you, but it is completely what Jesus taught.

I imagine that you have experienced religion telling you that your mistakes keep you from God and that you have to get your act together before you can come to him. But that’s not what Jesus taught or modeled with his life. Jesus taught about God loving us and grieving over our sins because they hurt us and keep us from seeing him.

People misuse the Greek word “wrath”  when they talk about God.  The word actually means “the strong emotion we feel when someone is doing something that hurts themselves or our relationship with them.” It is more how a mom feels when her child is playing in the street and not at all about an angry vindictive God wanting to squish us when we disappoint him. He cares about the sin in our lives because it hurts you and it keeps us from accepting his love for us.

It’s a love that none of us can fully comprehend.

It’s a love that Jesus describes in the book of Luke, when he told us three stories about missing things. In each of these stories, the missing thing represents people who don’t know God and aren’t following him. Each of these stories builds on the other and gives us more insight into God’s incredible heart for you my friend and how he longs to bring healing and hope to your story.

In the first story, Jesus tells of a shepherd who has one hundred sheep but loses one of them. The shepherd leaves the ninety-nine sheep who are together and goes after the one sheep who has wandered away. When he finds the missing sheep, he doesn’t scold her and say, “Why did you wander away, I should have let you get eaten by wolves.” He joyfully picks her up and puts her on his shoulders and carries her back home. Then he calls all of his friends and celebrates with them, because he is so happy that he has found her. Jesus says this is the same way the father feels about you, my friend.

He continues to tell another story of a woman who has ten silver coins (which were much more valuable in Jesus’ culture than silver coins today). When the woman lost one of the coins, she lit a lamp and searched feverishly until she finds the missing coin. When she finds it, she calls all of her friends and neighbors to celebrate with her because she is so thrilled that she has found the coin that was missing. This is another amazing glimpse into how much God misses you when you aren’t walking through life with him.

Then, in the final and most beautiful story, Jesus develops a picture of a young man who does everything imaginable in ancient Jewish culture to insult his father. The young man defies convention and asks his father to give him his inheritance while the father is still alive. This was an unheard-of slap in the face to the father. It was if the son were saying, “I wish you were dead because I’d be better off and I can handle things better than you do.”

Then the young man takes his inheritance, which was supposed to be used to further his family’s estate and heritage in Israel, and he takes it to a foreign land where he wastes it all on “wild living”: sinning, breaking the religious rules of his people.

The young man finds himself so bad off that he takes a job feeding pigs (which is a disgusting job in any culture, but for an ancient Jew, it was as rock bottom as you could get. Pigs were unclean animals that Jews were forbidden to eat. Association with them made a Jewish person ceremonially unclean).

This young man was so desperate that he longed to eat the slop that he was feeding to the pigs.

When he finally came to his senses, he realized that even the lowest servants in his father’s house were better off than him. He decided to return home, apologize for all the mistakes he had made, admit that he was no longer worthy to be called a son, and beg his father to take him back as a servant.

For the people in Jesus’ day, the story would have been shocking and the expectation would have been for the son to be punished extremely. Before Roman occupation, a son could be killed for such defiance.

But Jesus tells a different story. I think perhaps the most beautiful words in all of the Bible are “while the son was still a long way off, the father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son…”

Jesus painted a completely different picture of God’s heart for people who aren’t following him. He gave us a beautiful picture of God longing to have a relationship with us.  The son was still a long way off! He hadn’t made amends. He was simply on his way home and the father ran to him!!!!

This is the true picture of how God feels about you, my friend! It’s so hard to fathom that those of us who believe it constantly struggle to live it out for ourselves and towards others, but it is what Jesus taught!

The story continues and to say that the father embraced the young man and kissed him.

The young man was fully aware of all the wrong things he had done and he said to the father, “I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.”

But, the father completely restored the son to the position he was meant to be in. The father had his servants honor the son by putting the best robe on him. He gave his son a ring that showed his position of authority in the family and he put sandals on him which showed that he was not a servant.

Then the father had a huge celebration with his friends and neighbors to rejoice over his son coming home.

And that is how God sees you! Yes, he is hurt over the sin in your life because he loves you and wants the best for you. When he looks at you, he sees his beloved daughter. He wants you to know who you are. He wants to restore you to your position as his child with the full authority and honor that comes along with that.

That is the God I follow and he misses you.

Blessings my friend!

https://www.rumandcolaforthesoul.com/blog/2019/3/26/to-my-survivor-friends-who-hate-religion

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by Cindy Felkel, Guest Blogger

Religion Seeks to Manipulate People

I sat through the Sunday morning service in disbelief. The preacher presented his plan for a huge building project to the congregation. Everyone was all caught up in his dream. His incredibly expensive, massive building project, dream, that was supposed to be supported by our tiny working-class congregation.

The sermon he preached was about when Jesus called Simon Peter to be his disciple. The preacher talked about how Peter caught the biggest catch of fish in his life and just left it to rot on the beach so he could follow Jesus. I wanted to stand up and shout about how illogical and emotionally manipulative the pastor was being, but I settled for exchanging eye rolls with my husband, followed by the heavy despairing sigh of “this is what church does”.

It makes no sense to think the other fishermen just cut Peter out of the profit, after all, it was Peter’s boat. But the pastor’s twist on the story fit his agenda. Thinking Peter left wealth on the beach to rot seems extreme and calls religious followers to pious extremes like digging deep to support this pastor’s vision. It makes us feel good about ourselves to think we are doing something similarly extreme to please God. It just isn’t what the story is actually about.

The real story is much harder to wrap our brains around and it’s much more freeing!

Peter Was A Religious Follower of Jesus Before he Became a Disciple

Before the catch of fish, the first encounter that is recorded between Jesus and Peter is when Jesus went to Simon Peter’s house. In the ancient world, going to someone’s house was a huge deal, it was a sign of acceptance. The people you ate with were the people you were associated with.

While Jesus and Peter were hanging out at his house. Jesus started healing people. He healed Simon’s mother in law who immediately got up and started waiting on everyone, because there was a crowd of people in the house to see Jesus. Peter was using providing for all of them.

The story goes on to say that Jesus stayed up all night healing people of various sickness and casting out demons. Peter had a front row seat to all of this.  He was obviously impressed with Jesus. At this point in the story, he was already serving Jesus by having him in his home and letting people visit Jesus there.

In the second part of the story, Jesus walks up to Peter after Peter had been up all night, fishing. He was washing his nets. He had worked all night and caught nothing. He was tired, discouraged and still had a lot of work to do before he could go home and rest. Jesus asked Peter to take him out in his boat so he could preach to the crowd of people on the shore.  Peter shows a tremendous amount of devotion to Jesus by taking him out in the boat and staying with him while he preached.

HOW IMPRESSED WAS SIMON PETER?

Chew on this for a minute: I’ve never heard any preacher that I’d stay up for after working through the night. Why? Because I can hear preachers whenever I want. America is inundated with preachers. I have gone to church most of my life. However, my exposure to religious teachers is probably nothing compared to how much Peter heard. His whole culture was built on the Rabbi system. So, he was surrounded by religious teachers and wannabe teachers. And generally, hard-working men who are tired, don’t want to hear someone preach…I can’t say how much Peter’s heart was in this particular act of service, I can just tell you, it was indeed an act of service.

THE OVERWHELMING TRUTH OF JESUS’ LOVE

After Jesus finished preaching, he told Peter to take the boat out into deep water and fish some more.

I love Peter’s reaction of explaining the obvious to Jesus: He basically said, “So, yeah, about that. See all my fishing partners over there, washing their nets? That’s what we do after we’ve been fishing all night, you know, when fish are feeding! (I imagine him speaking loudly, so everyone would know that it was Jesus’ idea.) I will do this because you told me to.”

Then Peter went out, threw his nets out and caught so many fish that he had to call to his partners (the ones who took care of the fish later in the story!)  for help. His fishing business partners brought another boat out and they filled both boats so full of fish that they were about to sink.

When they got to shore, Peter looked at the huge, miraculous catch of fish and then fell to his knees in front of Jesus.  Peter, freaked out. He said, “Get away from me. I’m unclean.

unbelievable-runandcoleforthesoul

Before this, Peter had witnessed miracles. He hung out with Jesus. He served Jesus, He obeyed Jesus. He seemed to be ready to follow Jesus.  Peter witnessed multiple demons come out of people and declare that Jesus was the Messiah only to be silenced by Jesus. That had to be more impressive than a big catch of fish.

So, what happened? Why did Peter react in such an extreme way? Why did he fall at Jesus’ feet and beg him to get away from him?

 

THE OPPOSITE OF WHAT RELIGIOUS LEADERS TEACH:

In order to understand why Peter was so completely freaked out by the catch of fish, you have to consider what Jesus actually did for Peter.

Before he called these fishermen to follow him, Jesus provided for their needs. The story clearly indicates that they had partners working with them. James’ and John’s father was one of the people working with them. Obviously, the partners took the fish and sold them. The huge catch of fish was a blessing for Peter, James, and John. It freed them to follow Jesus.

BUT WHY DID PETER TELL JESUS TO GET AWAY FROM HIM?

Because when Jesus provided for Peter personally, it changed everything.  Jesus entered into Peter’s life and cared about his needs. Religion finds it easy to follow Jesus when he is fixing everyone else. It’s easy to want to serve him when he’s making the world better. It’s comfortable to follow rules. Religion gives us security.

But for some reason, truly letting God love us is scary! As soon as we realize we have right standing with GOD, we know we don’t deserve it. The second we realize that he actually cares about us. He cares about you, as an individual, reading my blog, looking for freedom from religion. He isn’t a celebrity to entertain, or a deity to control, he is GOD and he wants to walk through your life with you.  That is a truth that we can’t handle. If you begin to glimpse it, there can be no response except an overwhelming sense of how much you don’t deserve it.

But that is the beauty we find when we free ourselves from religion and start to see who Jesus really is. He loves us so much that in Ephesians 3:17-19, Paul prays for believers to have POWER to comprehend this truth.

I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

When we truly see who Jesus is and how much he cares for us, as individuals, it’s overwhelming. If we actually understand it, there is no response possible except: I don’t deserve this!

MAKING IT PERSONAL…

I still get uncomfortable with the reality that Jesus is with me and wanting the best for me in everything I do. I constantly battle my own religious tendencies to try to gain control in this world. I want safety, comfort, and fame. But when in those moments when I  grasp just a little, that Jesus is with me, I am overwhelmed with how much I don’t deserve his presence and I’m extremely grateful that he gives it anyway. The more I see this, the more it frees me from my religion and the more it makes me want to know God’s love and share it with others.

MY PRAYER FOR YOU…

I’m praying for everyone who reads this that you understand a bit of how overwhelming Jesus’ love for us is; that you understand why Peter said, “Lord, get away! I don’t deserve your care.” I pray that you allow this love to heal your heartaches and give you purpose, joy, and peace. I hope it frees you from the control of religion. I pray that you grow in this love every day. I pray that we all represent this love well.

Blessings,

Cindy (rumandcolaforthesoul.com)

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