And the beginning of these three

After a year, it is probably a good time to tell you about the hope in Windblown Hope.  I started to write about it eight months ago and gave up.  So much for perseverance.  My problem is that I suddenly felt way to small to write about hope.  In the meanwhile books like “Surprised by Hope” by N. T. Wright and “The Audacity of Hope” by Barack Obama came out.(I’ve not read any of them.)  Obviously hope is important.  To me, hope is this huge gigantic thing, but I find it difficult to explain why.  It’s one of those things I know without knowing how I got there.(Mmmm, perhaps I should do some serious digging.)  I just “know’ the effect of hope.   In human beings it can be profound.

1 Cor 13:13 says the following:  Meanwhile these three remain: faith, hope, and love; and the greatest of these is love.  I usually tell my friends.  Nope, the biggest of these is hope.  If you look at people, the one thing I usually see more of, is hope.  Much more than faith or love.  Look at a football game.  Your team is down by 10 points with 10 minutes to play.  Is there hope that your team can still make it.  Hell, yes.  Ever spoke to a farmer?  Will the rain come?  Yes, it will.  Will the car salesman after a day of “no sales” be back tomorrow to close another deal?  You bet.  Why do people buy Lottery Tickets?  To give money to charity?  No, they hope they will win lots of money.  Why do people go for the bigger salary?  I argue that they hope that life will be better with more money in the bank.  I can go on and on and on.  Look at your own life.  Had a bad day?  You took a deep breath.  Perhaps you will make yourself a cup of coffee or pour the drink you like and then suddenly there is a thought.  Maybe tomorrow will be better.  There is a hope that not everyday can be this crappy.  Perhaps you had a great day.  Then maybe tomorrow will even be better.  Hope is for everybody.

However, some of you reading this will think, “This guy is nuts.  Tomorrow will be worse.  Or tomorrow will be the same as any other day.  Come back to earth.”  Hope is definitely not your friend.  Perhaps you will agree with Friedrich Nietzsche who said: “Hope is the worst of evils, for it prolongs the torments of man.”  Ask anybody in a wheelchair if they do not hope to walk again.  People with a terminal illness know they are going to die.  What hope is there for a long and happy life?  Or maybe, your life is a constant struggle.  Everyday you seem to fight a losing battle.  You’ve experienced the erosion of hope.  What’s the use of this life?  Is this all there is?  It was Oscar Wilde’s mother that wrote: ”Life is agony and hope, illusion and despair, all commingled, but despair outlasts all.”

What do we do when all hope is lost?  We give up.  We die a little death each day.  I think hope is most vulnerable substance on earth.  It is so easy to snuff hope out in a person.  Ask any person who has been bullied at school.  Dante Alighieri’s inscription on the entrance to hell says the following:  “Abandon all hope ye who enter here.”  I think the people entering the concentration camps during World War 2 knew what those words meant.  Yet, inside those places of despair, hope was not eradicated.  Victor Frankl lost most of his family, but the one thing that was not taken from him was the thought of his wife and the hope that they will see each other again.  Victor saw that the prisoners, who lost hope, were the ones who died quickest in the concentration camp.  That should teach us something on how powerful hope is.

Of course there is false hope.  All of us have desires for ourselves, for our loved ones and for the future.  These wishes are the result of our desires and the insights of what we think would be great or rewarding for us.  When all is said and done, hope can be a product of wishful thoughts and is then nothing more than a biased response to something we desire.  We will be disappointed.  Our team will lose.  But if our team lose, do we lose hope as well?  Martin Luther King said: “If you lose hope, somehow you lose the vitality that keeps life moving, you lose that courage to be, that quality that helps you go on in spite of it all.”  Probably one of my most favourite quotes is one by Anne Lamott.  “Hope begins in the dark; the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: You don’t give up.”

The Bible is of course, full of hope.  The prophet Joel prophesied of a day when God’s Spirit would be poured out on all people, that day when God’s daughters and sons would prophecy, and old men would dream dreams and young men would see visions for the Spirit would be alive in all.”

Mat 12:17  He did this so as to make come true what God had said through the prophet Isaiah:
Mat 12:18  “Here is my servant, whom I have chosen, the one I love, and with whom I am pleased. I will send my Spirit upon him, and he will announce my judgment to the nations.
Mat 12:19  He will not argue or shout, or make loud speeches in the streets.
Mat 12:20  He will not break off a bent reed, nor put out a flickering lamp. He will persist until he causes justice to triumph,
Mat 12:21  and on Him all peoples will put their HOPE.”

Actually the Bible surrounds us with Hope.  In Jesus we have the personification of hope.  1 Tim 1:1- “…God our Savior and Christ Jesus our HOPE.

Look at these verses:
1 Peter 1:3 -“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a LIVING HOPE through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
Heb 6:19- “This HOPE WE HAVE AS AN ANCHOR of the Soul, a HOPE BOTH SURE AND STEADFAST  and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us…As a ship is safe when it is anchored OUR HOPE IS SECURE when it is binds us to Christ, our Great High priest who has entered the sanctuary.
1 Peter 3:15 – ” be ready to give an account of the HOPE THAT IS WITHIN you to everyone who asks.”
Romans 5:5 – “And HOPE DOES NOT DISAPPOINT us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.”  It gives us reason to be joyful
Romans 12:12 – “Be JOYFUL IN HOPE, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”
1 Thessalonians 5:8 – “But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the HOPE OF SALVATION as a HELMET.”
Hebrews 10:23 – “Let us HOLD UNSWERVINGLY TO THE HOPE WE PROFESS, for He who promised is faithful.”
Titus 2:13 -“Looking for the BLESSED HOPE, and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior.”
Titus 3 :7 – “…so that being Justified by His Grace we should be made heirs according to the HOPE OF ETERNAL LIFE.”
Colossians 1:27- says “Christ in you THE HOPE OF GLORY
In these verses we will see words like.  Living hope, Hope as an anchor. Hope that is secure.  Hope within us.  A hope that does not disappoint.  A joyfulness in hope.  Hope of salvation.  A hope we profess.  A Blessed Hope.  Hope of eternal life.  The hope of glory.  These are powerful words.  Hope it seems is something else when God moulds it into our lives.  With Jesus comes a different kind of hope.

Have you ever seen the moment in a person’s eyes when hope shines into the darkness of their lives?  Actually, it’s difficult to describe.  There is a quickening in their heartbeat.  It happens in their souls, so to speak.  A moment ago the room was filled with wretchedness.  And now suddenly, the air is filled with anticipation and expectancy.  Nobody speaks.  There is a dawning of something profound.  Hope is happening.  Yes, hope can explode into a person’s life.  I have seen it, and to me there is nothing better.
“What?  You mean Jesus loves me?? Just as I am?”
“Are you saying I am not alone any more?”
“Are you saying that Jesus forgave my sins?”

Hope begins in a person’s life and out of this hope grows faith and love.  Col 1:5  When the true message, the Good News, first came to you, you heard about the hope it offers. So your faith and love are based on what you hope for, which is kept safe for you in heaven. 

You may ask me, “What about faith and love, then?”  Hope is the beginning of faith and love.  Without hope, faith and love remain undiscovered.  Faith and love however are made of a stronger substance than general hope.  For example, a husband might have a massive stroke and he is bedridden for the rest of his life.  He is unable to communicate.  His wife may take care of him with the hope that he will get better.  This hope might diminish over time.  If it does, faith and love will remain.  Faith may also start to wither away in her.  “Where are You, God?”, may become the empty cry of her heart, but her love for him remains.  In the end love will stay behind and walk alongside a lost cause.  It is interesting however, that when love is strong, faith and hope will make a comeback.  Rom 5:3  We also boast of our troubles, because we know that trouble produces endurance, Rom 5:4  endurance brings God’s approval, and his approval creates hope. Rom 5:5  This hope does not disappoint us, for God has poured out his love into our hearts by means of the Holy Spirit, who is God’s gift to us.  It seems, the three is intertwined with each other.

Perhaps we misunderstand the very substance of hope.   I wonder if the erosion of hope is a consequence of our searching for hope in the wrong places.  Jesus is the source of hope.  Jesus in us, gives us a power to change people’s lives forever.  We can go to places of dispair and shine the light of the “hope in Jesus” into their lives.  Not a wishy washy hope, but a hope with a sure foundation.  A hope that is powerful enough to get us out of bed in the morning. 
 
This then is my prayer to all of you.  Rom 15:13  May God, the source of hope, fill you with all joy and peace by means of your faith in him, so that your hope will continue to grow by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Speaking of birthdays

It may have been my 39th birthday on Friday, but in blogland I am officially one year old.  (How old is that in human terms?)

It’s been a great blog journey thus far.  I enjoy the writing, but I have to admit, for me it’s tough.  I’m not a wordy person.  And I type with 2 fingers.  As I’ve said before, I believe that all the christian talk(to which I am adding) smothers the life of Jesus.  Sometimes, this makes me depressed and cynical.  During such times I tend to stay away from writing.  But I love the church and I love to share the journey.  Because of Jesus, we are all connected.  We are not alone. 

I think this is one of the reasons why I blog.  When Anette and I started on this journey, we felt very much alone.  There were no guidelines for us to follow.  We did not have the 10 point plan of what to do.  Sometimes I would lay awake, questioning if we were not deceiving ourselves and wondering if we were not starting on a slippery slope that will lead us away from God.  People would ask us why they don’t see us “in church” any more.  Our explanation left them looking funny at us 🙂 You know the frown with the “oh-you’re-one-of-those-people” looks.  Yes, dammit “we” were now a “them”.  But we were not alone.  A lot of us share the same journey or asks the same questions.  It is comforting to know that there is quite a few fellow stumblers 🙂

Please join me in my rambling rumblings as I share some my posts that made an impact on me the last year.  Where do I begin?

Perhaps with this post on the 101 of discipleship.  I think discipleship is totally lost in the church today and we are seeing the results of that.  Then in December I asked what the difference was between our love and God’s love.  I loved how the post changed while I was writing it.  The devil has a way to hurt us and then make us believe that it is our fault.  He asks us “What have you done?”  I shared my faith heroes.  The three posts that took the most out of me was “When I am weak“. (part 1), (part 2), (part 3), especially part 3 where I cried throughout writing the post.  I have a lot of sympathy for Peter 🙂 There was the one who did not obey Jesus and somehow Jesus was very much impressed with him.  I talked about the temptations that will come across us in the church, especially when we want to do good things for God.  This post together with the one on God’s judgement is the most read posts on my blog.  How many people do we have to reach in our lifetime to grow God’s kingdom?  What would your number be?  A lot of our writing is about the loss we experienced when we left the organized part of church, but what have we gained?  Watch out when God is bigger than our perception of Him 🙂 I can see dead people and I tried to explain love.  I asked some of you what it will look like after a city “has been won for Jesus“.   I’ve even made William P. Young, author of the Shack, grin with “My discernment will kick your discernment’s ass.”  I’ve asked “what God is this?”  God permeates this world, but we miss Him because we only look where we expect Him to beScripture can be used and finally I started to debunk some of the sentences we throw at people to make us look good.

Well, that was my trip through memory lane.  Thanks for the past year and the commentaries you guys left behind.  I appreciate it a lot.

Birthday

Today, is my 39th birthday and I am at work.  Sheesh, I should be playing golf 🙂 We do not have anything planned for today, but Sunday a bunch of friends are coming over to have a braai(barbecue).  Children included, we should be about 35 people or so.  I’m nine days older than my wife.   After I was born, God probably thought, “Oooh, ooh, We have to make somebody quick.  He will never make it on his own.”  It’s our theory and we stick to it 🙂

I hope you have a wonderful day with us.

God bless

Debunking (part 2)

(first part here)

In the first part, I talked about “Christianity is not a religion”  Today then,  I will talk about the second part.  “It’s a relationship

What do we imply when we say “it’s a relationship”?  We can have lots and lots of different relationships.  You get give-and-take relationships where both parties benefit.  You get competition relationships where both parties compete.  You get parasitic relationships which benefit one party and the other is harmed.  Neutral relationships where both parties are relatively unaffected.  Commensality relationships where one party profits and the other party is unchanged.  Survival relationships where partners feel like they can’t make it on their own.  Confirmation relationships where a person may seek another’s validation.  Healing relationships where a person needs caring after a period of loss and struggle.  Investigational relationships to see what happens.  Avoidance relationships where a person avoid deep intimacy.  Leisure relationships for fun and games.

We have close relationships, long-term relationships, short-term relationships, intimate relationships, sexual relationships, strong relationships, weak relationships, contractual relationships, financial relationship, love-hate relationships, customer relationships, working relationships, mentoring relationships, healthy(unhealthy) relationships, abusive relationships.

We even talk about the relationships between countries eg.  To say that there is a relationship between the US and Britain differs from the relationship between the US and Russia.  I can have a relationship with my car(Please! Please, start…. I’ll wash you every Saterday).  We can even have a relationship with an historical situation.

We can establish a relationship.  We can build that relationship.  We can maintain the relationship.  We can examine what this relationship means.  We can explore the relationship.

Characteristics of healthy relationships are respect, listening, valuing each other, trust and support, honesty, clear boundaries, communicating openly and truthfully, fairness, commitment, an open mind/open heart, compassion, fun, warmth, joy and humor.  Unhealthy relationships are more viewed as a means of meeting one’s needs for love, attention, and security rather than a shared experience.

Nearly everything stands in relationship with another.  But relationships differ.  Grown-ups have different type of relationships, than children.  A father’s relationship with his son is different than with his daughter.  The relationship between a mother and her daughter differs from the one the mother has with her own mother.  One family can have complex relationships between the individuals that make up that family.

If we are busy with religion, we have a relationship with the rules.  Most people busy with religion have a relationship with a God that simply does not exist.  How does our relationship look like, NOT what is it supposed to look like.  What kind of relationship do we have with our creator?  Are we parasites?  We know that God went all the way and did everything needed for us to have a relationship with Him.  Do we choose the religious relationship that ignores what He did and believe that we can make it on our own? 

Yes, we have a relationship with God.  But saying that there is a relationship fools us into a security that we simply cannot afford.  What kind of a relationship do we have?  Subsequently, when we say it is a relationship, perhaps we should define what we have.  How does your relationship with Jesus materialize in your everyday life?  Is it a shared experience?

It is simply not enough to say “Christianity is a relationship.”  We have to come to a place where we say “It’s a relationship where this and this is currently happening in my life.  Or perhaps there is a better word we can use for relationship.  I’ll talk more about that in part 3.

Is this us? (part 5)

Brant is blogging again.  Yeah!!

Sometimes I read a sentence and suddenly all the gears in my brain goes….”click”.  I think all of us have this experience.  While reading Brant’s blog this centence jumped out and nearly stopped all the gears in my head 🙂

I’m merely asking you to feign human attachment, forging a temporary and shallow emotional connection, in exchange for the promise of goods.

Is this how we approach God?

Worship Music – Help!!

When it comes to worship music, I’m mostly still stuck in the late 80’s.  I love the hossana/integrity albums that came out during that time.  I listen to Keith Green,  Rich mullins,  Vineyard,  Robin Mark, John Michael Talbot, Michael Card, Don Francisco,  Philip, Craig and Dean, Rivertribe and a few other albums and songs here and there.

I’m looking for new praise and worship music.  It must be simple.(After listening to the song for the third time, I want to be able to sing along.)(No more than 5 guitar chords, preferably 3.)  Not alot of “me” and “I” in the lyrics.  They have to mention Jesus by His Name.(“You” doesn’t really work for me.)  Do we still get music with the above criteria? 

It seems to me that praise and worship got much more professional, since we left the organised part of church.  The music seems so…..how shall I put it?…… “just the thing“, for the past few years.  Maybe it’s just me. 

 

How about it, can you help me?  What do you listen to?

The journey and the movies

During the recent holidays, we saw a couple of movies. One of them was Wall-e. I did not like it that much. I can watch the same movie over and over and over again, if I like it a lot. Wall-e I think, will be a one-timer for me. Perhaps once more on DVD 🙂 One of my friends, Christo, however liked it a lot and wrote this about what he saw in the movie.

One of the things that happens in this movie, is that these huge airships are build for people to go on a five year holiday in space while robot’s clean up the earth. And an added benefit is the “air-chairs”. Which means granny can go with you anywhere you go because the “air-chair” moves around by itself.  Now THAT was the original idea with the chair. But this chair eventually becomes the centre of everyone on the ship’s existence. Eventually everyone is in chairs, overweight, unable to move. When someone falls out of his chair, robots need to put him back in.

Eventually they stay in space for 700 years and you know what got lost? The original idea for the chair. Everybody simply accepted that how things are done now is how it is suppose to be, nobody questions it, they simply accepts it. Until one lady looks beyond the little screen in front of her and her whole world changes. Suddenly she realises there is a world out there, there are actual things to see and enjoy, and then another guy, and together they enjoy the swimming pool for the first time in 700 years!!! She actually says “I did not know we had a swimming pool”, while the pool is huge and they sit next to it everyday!!

It made me realise the danger of tradition, comfort and becoming too attached to something. (read the rest of his post here)

I have to agree with Christo. Tradition has a slow manner of making us comfortable and dims what we experience. Like the small screen, we let the comfort of “what-is-known” in front of us, make our lives small.

The movie I liked a lot was Kung Fu Panda. Already seen it 3 times 🙂 He dreamed of something bigger than what he was currently experiencing. He made a choice without knowing where it will lead him. His journey frequently led him to where he was out of his depth. He thought his Kung Fu was OK, only to discover. “There is now a level zero” He desperately wanted to be somebody else, only to find out “there is no secret ingredient.” The journey is the same for those who chose to leave the organised part of church. We do not know where it will lead. We find ourselves out of our depth. We thought we knew something about Jesus, only to find out.” There is now a level zero.” We look at the relationship others have with God and wish we were more like them, only to find that God made me, to be me.(See Tracy)

His master also had a problem. The methods used to teach his other students, did not work with our panda. What we always depended on, do not work now.

There so much we can take out of the movies. Sometimes we can come out of the theatre only to praise God and thank Jesus that we cannot repay Him for His awesomeness!!!

Disclaimer

Barb at Former Leader think that some of us should have this disclaimer on our blogs. 

Beware all who land on this site. This site may enable you to see truth for the first time. Seeing truth may be just what you are looking for but you need to be careful. Once you have tasted truth you will never be able to stomach lies. You are on dangerous ground if you ever want to fit into the established system. You may lose all your friends. You may not have anyone left to worship with. Your children may be left only to you to raise. God will not be controlled any longer. He will be good but no longer safe in that you will not be able to predict his every move. And as for many of your friends. You will need to be willing to loose them. They may (probably will) shun you, dismiss you and turn away from you despite what you now may think. You need to think long and hard about this because it will effect your life. Please be careful with this site. Only enter at your own risk.

I’m afraid if I do that, nobody will come and read the posts 🙂 Anyway, what I can tell you is that this warning/disclaimer will probably not deter you from finding Jesus.  If there is one thing I’ve learned , it is that once you’ve tasted God, nothing else will do.  The established system and friends may shun you.  “The God we want” will probably disintegrate.  Your life may fall apart.  But all those things will not stop you.  The Truth after all is not always what I write about.  It is a Person called Jesus.

Debunking (part 1)

Have you heard the following sentence, “Christianity is not a religion, it’s a relationship.”  I’m sure we all have.  I want to talk about the first part.  “Christianity is not a religion”. 

My definition for religion is basically this:  It is what men/women do in order to get to God and please Him in order to get His blessing.  That means that
1)we know we are separated from Him and have to find a way to Him
2)we want to stay on His good side and please Him
3)in return for being good or doing what He wants us to do, we expect Him to return the favor and to spare us the unfairness of life. 

Religion is full of rules of stuff that you have to do to please the gods.  Do this,  Don’t do that.  Do that.  The Bible is full of rules and a lot of people are very pleased about it, because now they can get on God’s good side.  The rules are not always clear-cut, but generally the rule of thumb is, “The more rules you keep, the better God will like you, or the stricter you follow the rules, the better God will like you.”  Religion also has a harsh conformity about it.  People are required to believe the same as I do.  If they do not, they are the enemy.  The enemy is then also of course, my god’s enemy, because they are not following the rules like I do.  In religion, people are dispensable.  Religion also has a measuring stick.  Some people are more religious than others.  Some people are christians.  Others are “good” christians. 

What ticks me off is that it is people, very much busy with religion, that utters the words, “Christianity is not a religion”.  They read the Bible.  They follow the rules.  They believe that if they work hard at it, God will come through for them.  They also believe that when they say someting like “Christianity is not a religion”, it places them above the other religions out there.  The phrase is not being used to describe their reality, but to show their superiority.  You might say to me, “But in order to be a good christian, you have to read the Bible.”  I differ from you.  You assume that everybody can read.  You assume that literacy has always been present.  You assume the disciples could read.  You exclude the billion people who cannot read.  I assume that they cannot be “good” christians?  Oh well, luckily us, we can read.  Let me ask you this “What will happen to your faith when you do not read the Bible and do not have fellowship?  What will happen to your faith when you are free to do what you want?  What will happen to your faith when there are no rules to follow?

As Real live preacher said:

What we have are religions that clamor after The Word and talk about The Word and market The Word and brand themselves as keepers of The Word. It’s all best guesses and hearsay, and if you can’t own up to that and still keep faith with your brothers and sisters, you’re just fooling yourself and maybe that’s okay with you. That’s all some people want – to be nicely and gently and comfortably fooled.  I know the Bible, for I have spent half a lifetime looking there, but it cannot give you The Word. And if you treat those words as if they were The Word, then the Bible will be dead to you.  The stories will turn their faces away from you, fold their robes over their shoulders, and go to sleep.  So you won’t have the Bible to cling to. I’m sorry.

In the late 1980’s we came to know God as a Father.  Some of us could literally feel His arms around us.  The experience was tangible.  He broke our defenses and it changed a bunch of us forever.  His love came and healed our hidden wounds.  The kind of wounds that you don’t share with others.  God came and revealed Himself as a Father!!  Unexpectedly we knew that the false image we created of Him was founded upon our earthly fathers and authority figures.  He was not as fickle as they were.

It did not take long for the church to start preaching along the same lines.  In the preaching lay the correct words, but the transforming power wasn’t there.  People were told that He was not like their earthly fathers and authority figures, but it remained knowledge.  The knowledge did not transform the hearers.  What was alive was co-opted into religion.  Religion incorporates the good with the hope it will get us to God or move Him to respond.  The same happened to “Christianity is not a religion.”  If you want to utter that phrase, then you can say it after a year of not fellowshipping, not reading your Bible and not feeling very christian like.  You had to be in a place where you were alone mostly spent in anger or depression.  You had to be in a place where nothing made sense.  You had to be in a place where your good works were not rewarded.  All that you believed before were in question.  The crutches of religion that kept you standing fell away.  This can sometimes be brutal.  And after this happens, you will never “just” say “Christianity is not a religion” in a congregation, because you know that behind the statement lies an experience that cannot be manufactured by human hands. 

Real live preacher again

You must lay your religion down. Lay it down hard. Drop it. Leave it on the trail and walk away from it. And you have to mean it. You can’t fake this. You have to renounce religion and leave it for good. As far as you know, you’ll never pick it up again. 

Start with what you can see and feel and touch. Start with what makes you cry. And if you do not cry, ask yourself why not. Start with what brings you joy. And if you feel no joy, ask yourself why not. Start with what draws your eye and your attention and your obsessions. And if you do not see or notice or obsess, ask yourself why not.

After that you can walk freely in the wild places where faith can still be found.

(p.s. these sentences come from different paragraphs.  I pasted them this way to tell the story.) 

We have to come to a place where we separate from the principal and join the Person.  That process is called the end of religion.  Then, and only then, can we say “Christianity is not a religion.”