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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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by Jim Gordon

So often when we talk about leaving church, people usually misunderstand why we made such a decision.

Many times, christian people who remain in the traditional church system automatically think we have left our faith, gave up on God or are in a backslidden spiritual condition. Rather than listen to our reasons and trying to understand, many are more interested in proving why our decision to leave was wrong. They try their best to encourage us to come back to God by going to church. Unfortunately, many just write us off as someone to avoid and forget.

If they would only watch and listen a while they would see that we have not left God. We have only left a system that we feel is flawed and not what God intended. We have left the man-made system to follow God in what we feel is a more natural way by putting our dependence on the guidance of the Spirit alone without the middle-man known as a pastor.

We feel we no longer get much out of the weekly organized service. We feel one person doing all the talking in a building where only a select few have anything to do with the pre-planned service is not what God had in mind. We feel that when we gather with others each of us should have a voice, some word of teaching or encouragement.

For those who are followers of Jesus, most of us grew up in the church system. That is all most of us have known. Yet it seems the Spirit is drawing many out of the system and into a more organic way of gathering. Church is no longer seen as a building or an organization based on traditions and doctrines of men.

churchnotabuilding

Church is community. It is people living daily under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the love of God. It is coming alongside other believers for fellowship, encouragement and building one another up in Christ. This can happen anywhere on any day in any place. We can come together with other believers in restaurants, parks, pubs or houses. Anywhere two or three gather in Christ is a place we can participate and be used by the Spirit to encourage others.

For those still in the traditional system, please do not worry about those of us who have left. We have not left God. There is no reason why we cannot all accept one another and the choices we make in regard to attending a religious organization or following Jesus outside the walls of religion and traditional ways of gathering. Whether in or out of the institutional church, each of us in our own way are trying to follow Jesus in the way we feel he is leading us. Our goal is to love God and love one another.

Share your thoughts in the comments below

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by Jim Gordon

I recently listened to a YouTube video by Richard Jacobson and in it he mentioned veal crates. I had never heard of that before so I checked it out a little. It was interesting reading about veal crates and it got me to thinking about another type of box.

What I found was that veal crates are a close-confinement system of raising veal calves. Veal crates are designed to limit movement of the animal because meat turns redder and tougher if the animals are allowed to exercise. In some veal crate systems, the calves are kept in the dark without bedding and fed nothing but milk.

Veal crates seem to limit the calf from being able to move about and roam in much larger areas thus getting exercise which would cause the animal to strengthen. It also keeps them from contact with other calves and under the control of the person raising the calf.

VealCrate

Personally, this makes me think of the institutional church. Before we go any further, I want to point out that I am not an enemy of the church. I was part of the institution for over fifty years and very involved, so I can speak as an insider rather than someone who knows nothing of what I am saying. I do believe the institution confines us and limits the freedom God intended us to have.

I also realize that people cannot just up and leave because someone else says they should. It is a choice between the person and the Spirit. I believe there is specific timing as to when and if someone leaves the religious institution. I know for me it took fifteen years or so of being dissatisfied and thinking there had to be more. As Barbara Symons mentioned in her book ‘Escaping Christianity: Finding Christ’, “There is a need for all of us to experience restriction until Christ is formed within—like a pearl within an oyster, closed tightly until the time of harvesting. Before I understood this principle, I tried to convince others to leave the system as I did and in retrospect, it was before their time. I felt like a cage fighter; only my opponent was the cage itself. I was battered and beaten by trying to dismantle the religious system from the inside out as I tried to liberate those still within its grasp. I now understand that people will remain within restraint as long as they need to”.

People are brought into the box of religion and kept there to support and grow the institution. Once inside the box they are taught what that particular denomination believes or how that specific pastor thinks. Sometimes they are kept in the dark and only fed the milk of the word rather than the meat that gives them strength, knowledge and the ability to hear the Spirit for themselves.

Many times, people are restrained from being free to serve and use the gifts they have been given. Therefore, due to lack of exercise of using their talents they become weak and have no confidence to do anything other than what the institution says.

Most of the time they are only having fellowship with those within the box and usually encouraged to avoid fellowship with people who see things differently or do not go along with their way of thinking.

Outofthebox

Rather than enjoying the freedom God has provided outside the box and a life of accepting others and loving others, they are kept inside. By doing so they learn to exclude people, avoid certain people and are only fed the knowledge the institution and pastor wants them to know, all with the purpose to keep them from leaving.

It seems to me that breaking out of the box and being free to follow God without the rules, regulations and expectations of religion would be a much better way of showing the love of God to others. Being free to fellowship with all people, accept and love others with the love of God no matter who they are or what they believe.

We are not meant to be confined within the walls of institutional religion. God has set us free to follow Jesus wherever he leads. We are free from the rules that religion puts upon us for the purpose of making us better Christians. We are the Church that Jesus is building, a people who love and follow him not a building or organization.

Rather than live within the confines of the box religion puts us in, break free and live in the world God has created. Love people, accept others and show the unconditional love of God to everyone.

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by Jim Gordon

Have you noticed how people like to look up toward the sky when they think of God? I recently watched several football players giving God praise by looking up and pointing toward the sky. Many of us who are Christians seem to think of God as being up in the sky somewhere looking down on us. We are taught in our churches that God is up there and someday we will go to meet him and be with him.

 

We tend to forget that the Kingdom of God is within us. We are told that we are the temple of the Holy Spirit and God makes his home within us. The fact is that we really do not act like we believe this truth.

 

If we could only get it in our head and down in our spirit that God is not somewhere up there, far away in heaven. He lives within us by his Spirit. We have the Spirit within us to teach and guide us. The bible says we have the mind of Christ. That is because his Spirit lives within us.

TempleofGodfor WordPress

 

We are living in the Kingdom right now. Yes, we are constrained by our human body but our spirit is one with his Spirit and we are spiritually living with him in his Kingdom.

 

It would be nice to begin hearing more about the presence of God within us right now rather than a God who is far away and who may show up from time to time to bless us in some special way if we attend the right meeting at the right place.

 

God is here now, living within us. He goes with us each and every day through whatever we go through in our daily life. He loves us and is concerned about us and is there for our good. It can be a hard thing to get the old teachings of the church out of our heads and accept the fact that God lives within us now. It reminds me of the old saying ‘you can take the boy out of the country but you can’t take the country out of the boy’. You can take the boy out of religion but you can’t take religion out of the boy, or it is really hard to do so.

 

Religion is man’s way of making his way to God. Yet we find out that man cannot come to God by his efforts and good works. Grace is the only way man comes to God, and it is all by the good works of the Father through Jesus.

 

Once Jesus left this earth he sent us a comforter, his Spirit who now dwells within his Church. His Church is not a religious organization and is not a building. It is his followers no matter what church they attend or if they do not attend a religious organization at all.

 

God lives within us. He makes his home within us and is with us spiritually just as much now as he will be when this earthly body passes away and we live in our glorified, spiritual bodies.

 

Start making the effort to see things as God says they are, not as we have been taught within religion. God is not up in the sky, he lives within us. We are his temple and each of us collectively form his kingdom body now.

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by Jim Gordon

I have read many articles about church abuse. It seems many Christians have been through bad times in the organized church and they have become angry and frustrated with the system. Certainly understandable.

For me, I cannot say I went through anything I would call abuse in the system. I grew up in church and was very active over the years. I truly felt I was doing what was pleasing to God and I earnestly was trying to learn and do what He would want me to do.

When I hear all the abuse stories and all the troubling times in organized religion, I do not always understand. I know there are many people in the modern, organized church that truly love God and are trying to please him. I also realize there are many people who were unduly abused in various ways during their church life, and that is very sad.

For me, after several years of being unsatisfied with the system and feeling there certainly had to be more to it than what I had been part of, I stopped attending a traditional church. Obviously, this has to be something you feel is right for you. I do not think it is a good thing to tell people they should do the same. This is a choice that each believer has to make for themselves. I came to this conclusion after many years of seeing things, questioning things, reading things and just being completely frustrated with the system of organized religion.

I have no regrets in leaving, although I have no regrets for being a part of it for so many years either. I did learn a lot and made a lot of good friends. Of course, because of the years involved there are many beliefs and ideas I need to detox from now.

For now, feeling the system is wrong, my wife and I have decided to walk with God outside the walls of the organized church. Not that anyone is intentionally trying to do what is wrong but the whole modern-day organized church is off base. Granted, the system is the only thing we know. It has been this way for years and we grew up with it and thought it was the way it should be.

We have it engrained in us that to assemble ourselves together is to go to church on Sunday morning and sit through a scheduled program. Nowhere does scripture tell us that assembling together has to be done in a particular way, at a special time or in a set place.

churchnotabuilding

We are told that the pastor is the spiritual head and the one we learn from and come under authority and guidance. Of course, God tells us that Jesus is the head of the church, which is his body and the Holy Spirit is our teacher and we need no one to teach us other than him.

We are taught that we are saved by grace, but we need to live by the law to be pleasing to God. Reading through Paul’s teachings it is easy to see that we live by grace. Now trying to live under the law is a curse (Galatians 3:10-13). Jesus fulfilled the Old Covenant Law for us because we could not do it. Jesus did the work, Jesus died and ended the Old Covenant. Upon his resurrection the New Covenant began and we now live by grace. The New Covenant tells us to love God with all our heart and love others.

The Law was a tutor to show us that we were completely incapable of keeping the law and living a perfect life. Only Jesus was able to live a perfect life. For us Christians, a tutor is no longer needed because we have come to Christ and depend on his work and grace.

We are taught that the Bible is the true, living, inerrant word of God. John 1:1 tells us that in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. To me that says that Jesus is the living Word. The Bible is the inspired words of God, but we are not to look to the Bible as the all-powerful, inerrant source of what God has to say. We should look to Jesus who is our all in all, our very life.

We are taught to tithe although that is not taught under the New Covenant. Giving as we see a need and as we feel lead is now done out of love, not tithing to the church as a requirement. I personally feel the church today is more of a big business than it is a religious organization. Tithing is pushed because the organization needs to have the bills and the salaries paid.

We are told we are poor sinners saved by grace and that we are weak, unrighteous worms who are unworthy of God’s love. Yet the bible says we were originally created in the likeness of God. We cannot live a perfect life in our humanness but because of Christ and the work he has done, we have been restored to fellowship with our Father. We are now the house of God and we are holy and righteous in his sight because of Christ.

People want to put themselves under the authority of a pastor or the elders of the church, but God says we are all kings and priests and Jesus is the head. We all have something to say when we come together to build one another up. There are no levels of authority among believers. We are all equal parts of his body and have equally important functions to fulfill in encouraging and building one another up.

I think an important fact for us to remember today is that no matter if you are ‘in church’ or outside the walls, we should be looking to each other in love and not fight and argue amongst ourselves. Whether you are going to church, you are going for the Lord, or if you do not go to church, you are doing so for the Lord. Accept each other as brothers and sisters in Christ, pray for one another, encourage one another and stop looking down on people who see things differently than you.

Even those outside of Christianity need our love not our condemnation. Jesus loved those who the religious leaders of his day did not want to have any association. We want our Christian church, Christian schools, Christian dating sites, Christian this, Christian that, whatever we can do to be separate and apart from the non-Christians. Yet we were told to go into all the world and show the love of God to all those that are around us.

YouaretheChurch490

I truly feel that being a person in Christ is a daily lifestyle. Being the church is a 24/7 way of life not a Sunday only thing. God said that He is building His church and that He no longer lives in buildings made with hands. We are the church, we are God’s house, we are the temple of the Holy Spirit, we are the body of Christ. We function together as equally needed parts of the body under the headship of Jesus.

We need to adjust our way of thinking and realize that church and Christianity are not a religion. It is a lifestyle we live day by day. Jesus is our life, it should be no longer us trying and doing, but resting in what Christ has done for us. We are in Christ and it is him living in us day by day that makes the difference. We may be the only Jesus a lot of people will ever know.

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by Jim Gordon

Sunday after Sunday for many years my wife and I have ‘gone to church’. We sat in a pre-planned service, being entertained, listening to one person tell us what God was saying and looking at the back of the head of the person sitting quietly in front of us.

Each week we sat there, not having the opportunity to say what was on our minds, no chance to talk and get to know our brothers and sisters sitting all around us. We were told this was good fellowship, meaningful worship, and that we would be learning more about God each week. More like learning more about that particular doctrine and belief about God from the perspective of the pastor.

Truthfully, we were getting so tired of this religious social club environment. We were not getting anything out of this experience and we certainly were not putting anything into it…..other than our money when the offering basket went past. We have become tired of the religious enterprise with its pre-planned services, the CEO and board of directors, along with the gimmicks and programs designed to ‘bring the people in’ especially when we were told to go out into the world.

church-people-or-building

We are finding that true community is believers living their daily lives with one another by caring, loving, assisting, encouraging and building one another up. This is what is known as the Church. It is fellow believers living daily for Christ, not a once a week trip to a building and sitting there for an hour.

We are followers of Christ going about our normal daily business living with Christ as our head rather than a pastor. We live as one with Christ, letting his life and love touch others each and every day. We assemble with our brothers and sisters in Christ any day, anywhere. Sunday is not the Lord’s day but every day is the day the Lord has made. God’s house is not a building where we gather with people of similar beliefs. God’s house is us, His people, those of us who have accepted His grace. We are called to love God and love our neighbor as ourselves, not just those who believe like we do.

It has been good for us to stop being part of the Sunday morning crowd at the building of our choosing. It has us looking to God more, listening for His voice and allowing the Spirit to teach us rather than one man. It has us loving and accepting people as they are, not just those who believe like us. The Church is meant to be a community, living, loving and caring for one another each and every day.

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(This article originally appeared on christianpost.com on February 16, 2018
( https://www.christianpost.com/voice/progressives-and-evangelicals-is-it-really-us-versus-them.html )

by Jim Gordon

There are hundreds of various denominations within the christian faith and thousands of various interpretations and doctrines based on the bible. To me it seems we hear much about two of these groups, evangelicals and progressives that appear to be on the opposite ends of the christian belief spectrum. Should we really make the differences out to be an us versus them way of life? My reply to this comes in James 3:10 of the NIV, my brothers and sisters, this should not be.

I grew up as an evangelical and spent nearly fifty years living with that belief. After many years of questioning my beliefs and what I was taught over the years, I have become less evangelical and more of a progressive in my thinking. That certainly does not mean I have all of a sudden become anti evangelical nor am I an enemy to my brothers and sisters who follow the traditional evangelical way.

AmericanChristianity

Unfortunately, many times we get an us versus them attitude and fight and argue amongst ourselves over doctrine and interpretation of scriptures. Again I say, brothers and sisters, these things ought not to be. We are not enemies. We are not against each other. We are brothers and sisters in Christ with two different views of belief. As Romans 12:4-5 of the NLT puts is, ‘just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body and we all belong to each other’.

We are to be a people that make up the one true Church which has many members, each with an equally important part to play with Jesus as the head over us all. Just because we interpret scripture differently, just because we have a little different view on what the bible says does not mean we are enemies.

Rather than fight and argue over who is right or who is wrong, remember we are in this together as a family with God as our Father. We are one community of believers who want to serve our Father by showing his love to a hurting world. There are many ways of following the example of Jesus and living for him.

There are many people out there who are hurting, questioning and lost who do not know that God loves them. All they see is people who claim to know God that are fighting amongst themselves. Because of this they figure what is the use, there is no reason to become a part of this group of people. They are no different than anyone else.

Yet we who are followers of Christ are to show the world that God loves them. We are to do this by loving one another, encouraging one another and lifting one another up. We are to show the love of God to those who are hurting and who do not know that God loves them. We are to let the love of the Spirit of Christ flow from within us to touch those who need to know they are loved and accepted.

Rather than fight and argue amongst ourselves over doctrine, denominations and interpretations, we are to allow the Holy Spirit to guide us, teach us and love all people with the love of God. We can agree to disagree on things and live a life loving others even in our differences.

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My Journey

Welcome. My blog is a place where readers will find writings of personal experiences, thoughts, and the peace that the Lord provides throughout my walk. I intend to bring inspiration and insight, as well as providing a very personal and transparent view into my life, in order to help others see their own lives in a different perspective. I strongly believe that we all need a different view at times, in order for our own personal growth to take place.

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