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I began writing here a few years ago, putting out my deepest spiritual angst for the world to see, and I always hoped, could benefit from in some way.  As my need for therapeutic writing (processing) has diminished, I’ve had less to say, and have no intention of trying to contrive content in order to keep a blog going.  This has never been about finding followers or selling anything.  I guess my desire was to reach out – find like minds – offer a warning alarm for anyone seeking to take the detours I’ve taken.   I didn’t come out of an unhealthy religion (twice) just to find a comfortable pew to spend out the rest of my days.  The journey marches on with new challenges, disappointments, and a continued desire for more understanding.  Having been born and raised a Seventh-day Adventist, and now being an ex-Adventist, makes up a part of my identity I can never truly erase.

I thought I’d moved on past this label, and gotten to where I can just be a human.  But you really can’t cut off your formative years.  They mold you for a lifetime in some way or another, a sobering thought as a parent too.  What brought this back to the surface for me was a show I ran across on Netflix called Amish:  Out of Order.   Reality shows have their severe limitations, and I don’t know when it became necessary to format programming as if the target audience was five years old, but the sincerity of the people in this show sharing their experiences  had me in tears myself.  The show centers around an ex-Amish man, Mose Gingerich, who does what he can to help other young Amish people make their transition to the “English” (outside) world.  He offers much counsel, encouragement, and finds ways to bring the ex-Amish together as a family to replace the ones they left behind.

In one episode, the focus turns from the young people to Mose and his own pain he continually carries from past abuse and being cut off from his family when he left.  He goes back to attempt to reconcile and re-spark a relationship with his mother.  His father has passed on.  She won’t let him in the house for fear of what her community elders will do to her.  She can’t even agree to correspond by mail.  She can offer no relationship, because she has been given a choice between her son and her church.  He chooses to forgive those who have hurt him and to pursue a relationship even if there is no response in return.

While Adventists are rarely (but sometimes) this extreme in their shunning of those who leave, the effects of growing up in a church that teaches salvation only within its own membership, creates fear and confusion that only those who have left one can understand.  In this episode an ex-Amish evangelical minister mentioned that suicide is sometimes the preferred option for someone who can’t stay or leave.  I also knew many Adventists who committed suicide.

As I look back on my life, I feel like my entire adult life has been an attempt to grapple spiritually with my original heritage, which has a culture all of its own.  While not as secluded as Amish, and very worldly by comparison (more so now than when I was young), this church has a very distinctive culture of food, religious lingo, and a prophet that dictates nearly every facet of every day life, for those who take her seriously enough to comply.  Adventist churches of my youth were close-knit and in my family where work/church/school all centered around the institution, we had little or no social connections with any non-Adventists.  If we did happen to meet people on the outside, we felt it our responsibility to share our truth with them.  Outsiders were a lesser class of human and seen only as targets for saving.

Since leaving, I have never found any other group that had the same close-knit feeling of community as we had growing up.  (Our Hebrew Roots group came close for a time.)  Sometimes I wonder if I’m not out looking for truth as much as I am looking for that type of spiritual family.  American churches I have been involved with are not like this.  I cannot even imagine the void an ex-Amish person must feel upon leaving.

Going from this closed system into a public school my senior year, I found myself lost in family dysfunction and grasping for my own identity.  I felt like my new social world operated on a set of rules from a secret code somewhere, and I didn’t have any instincts or discernment about who to trust.  I went into college continuing the reckless abandon I had begun the previous year – trying to prove to the world and myself I wasn’t a religious freak.   I didn’t want to think about God, religion, rules, personal safety, or the future.  I wanted to be seen as a wild child just like everyone else, and it’s much easier to fit in with a joint in your hand.

Decades later, I see that the main focus of my adult life has been trying to find a spiritual path and identity.  I can remember shortly before our awakening out of the Hebrew Roots Movement, feeling so thankful I finally had found the truth and wouldn’t have to go through any more transitions.  That’s pretty funny, because I’m still in transition.  I don’t get to rest comfortably in correct knowledge, because the older I get, the less I know.

I don’t have access to cable or satellite television, but this week I was at a friend’s house and decided to check out 3ABN for the fun of old times.  This Adventist television station plays a variety of programs designed to teach the church and also evangelize outsiders.  The current program featured an evangelist we had watched almost 20 years ago.  We used his videos to evangelize the community.  In fact, one of my husband’s employers and now lifelong friends came through this connection as we reached out to our town with the “truth”.   This evangelist, with more grey hair now, paced the stage selling the same rote speech on the Mark of the Beast as we had handed out umpteen years ago.  He now has a more elaborate stage, complete with life-size golden angels and state-of-the-art multimedia technology, but the defining message of the organization marches on:  If you do not keep the 7th day as the Sabbath, and keep it correctly, and instead worship on Sunday as the harlot of Revelation has taught you to do, you will be damned.  At least I can watch it now without the anxiety, only sadness that people are still being led into this.

This month I am going to visit SDA family I love so much, and have learned to put down the sword of aggression toward their faith.  I don’t think they are going to hell, even if they think I might.  I no longer believe I need to save them from what I consider false beliefs.  They are happy.  It’s home for them, and they have contentment in their path.  I envy that at times  – being settled.  I don’t know if I ever will be.  The spiritual truths most precious to me now cross all barriers of sect and culture, so I hope this time around, we have more in common than not.  Because after all, I will always have some Adventist in me too.

 

 

 

 

 

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I really believe the human default (for adults that is) is law and legalism. I am not sure we are born with it, but society operates on this paradigm so it’s drilled into us at a very early age. Even if you don’t grow up in a legalistic religion, classmates and teachers both will make sure you understand the ground rules of success both socially and academically. How far back can we trace our fear of failure and rejection? Maybe parents were critical and you felt you must achieve something to gain their love. I am starting to see behavior-based religion as a secondary element that we choose because it flows with the worldview we already have. All the world religions I know of fall well into this same paradigm.

The problem isn’t that the law framework is false. Reaping and sowing are obvious – and even Jesus talked about this.  But grace is the supernatural variable that comes in, and unconditional love sees only that which remains – the good He planted in you – His own life and breath spreading light into the world.

The shocking, scandalous grace Jesus brought offends this law-based world, largely because we are led to believe that law is an end in itself. We never imagined there was another way, so if we can’t see the higher way He taught, we will try to fit him into the old wineskin where we understand how things work.

I read an essay yesterday by an environmental activist who saw the tragedy in living by a contract – that you will give no more than you absolutely have to. Sustainability concepts teach that you should endeavor to not take more from a living system than you put in, whether it be your land, community or family. This “contract” he stated, has created a mindset of people who are not willing to go out of their way for anyone or anything if they believe they have fulfilled their obligation. I understood exactly what he meant. Legalism at its finest.

Yesterday my children gave me a beautiful picture of what it looks like when Love trumps Law. I left my younger two with their older brother while I went to run errands. The house had been neglected for three days as we had spent most of our time working in the garden and yard over the holiday weekend. I constantly struggle with feeling overwhelmed, unable to keep up with my own expectations (law) about what I believe I need to accomplish.  I left them with two things I wanted them to do while I was gone, not really expecting it to be done by the time I returned. This brother and sister can take ALL day to clean a room, between playing and fighting – very normal kids.

When I came home, I instantly noticed the living room looked unusually tidy. My young son couldn’t wait to tell me what they did. But he didn’t have to tell me because I could see it! I walked into the kitchen to find my daughter sweeping the floor, and a note on the table said, “For You Mom”. The table was cleared off, along with the rest of the clutter around their desk and school area. She pointed to my bedroom door and said, “Look we even made your bed!” They also had started their laundry. I nearly cried. My gratitude for this gift was beyond measure. They weren’t even asking for extra allowance! They just wanted to help me. As I kept telling them how much I appreciated this extra help, my son said, “Wow mom, I didn’t think you would be THAT happy.”

I very soon thought of our Father in heaven and how it must touch his heart when we joyfully do things as a gift of love for Him, and not just doing our duty. Doesn’t the Scripture say, “God loves a cheerful giver?” I always go back to our human family as a reflection of our relationship with Him. Where there is love, no law is needed. Love goes above and beyond. It is a Law in itself, but one that breathes life and joy. (Not saying children don’t need boundaries… they do!) But as they grow and mature I want this love to be their motivation, not living up to my law or anyone else’s version of “have to”. Because everyone seems to have one, in and out of church or religions.

I would have been pleased enough if they had done what I asked. But to see them thinking outside of themselves, beyond reward or punishment to what would bless someone else, gave me a far greater joy – not just for the help it gave me, but for them to know this joy also. I don’t want to see them living a life seeking only their own benefit which leads to the never-enough syndrome, whether it’s in trying to ensure they avoid the wrath of God, or just impress the world on its terms. My prayer is they choose Love.  

 

 

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My mental backlog of blog posts is starting to get a little overwhelming.   I could go into all the reasons why I have no time to write, but I guess I’ll just let this one fly off the cuff tonight.  It’s been a really strange, but wonderful day.

First I will start with a dream I had this morning, which I don’t fully understand, but feel it’s related in some way.  It was definitely one of “those” dreams – the kind that stands out from the normal kind, whatever normal is.  But some just scream, “Pay attention!’

I was in a small village, out in the main street, and many people were out walking around.  News was spreading that someone important was coming, and everyone seemed excited and started lining up on the sidelines like it was going to be a parade.  But a man began warning to not go and see, not to look.  He said a powerful woman was coming in really fine, splendid clothes, and an entourage, and you will want to look at her, but you must not look.  If you glanced at her in the least, you would be under her dominion in some way.  My excitement turned to fear, and I began looking for a place to hide from this splendid, yet frightfully powerful woman.  I could find nowhere, until I came upon a seating bench that had a lid with storage underneath.  I was trying to get in and place the lid over me, but I realized I was too late, so I sat behind it, facing away from the street, hoping to just not be seen.  I could hear the crowds going wild and felt powerless to stop what was happening.  A woman was standing near me who was not cheering, yet she was not hiding either.  A man from the entourage stopped, and I pretended to be asleep (so I could keep my eyes closed and not see anything.)  I could hear the woman near me talking to him.  She wasn’t afraid, but she was pleading with him.  The man was her brother.  She kept saying how much she loved him and it seemed she was hoping to be the one with the most influence over him instead.   Then I realized that I had based all my fear on the warning of one man, and not even known if he was telling the truth or not.  Then I woke up.

Not long after I awoke, my husband received a phone call from someone we met through this blog who does desire to obey God through Torah observance.  We never knew if we would meet in person or not, but he just happened to be in town today, so we readily agreed to get together, and had him over for dinner.  As I was working in the kitchen preparing the meal, and he and my husband were having a good visit in another room (which I could not hear), I had the strong impression that this dream is about our meeting in some way.  I will let the reader decide in discernment.

I let them know when the meal was ready and we all sat down.  He was very kind to patiently listen to my expounding (I get really passionate about Jesus, Spirit, and the power of Love).   We went around the usual circular discussions that are inevitable whenever the Old and New Covenant ways of thinking collide.  There are so many ideas, so many angles, and ways of seeing things.  I can’t give someone my eyes, or my heart vision.  Nor can I judge their heart.  I sensed in him a deep conviction, and desire that was very familiar.  I have it too.  I used to walk on that path he is on, but found a different way to apply that conviction.  In fact the practical application of my belief system continues to change and grow.  I believe now more than ever that patience and love is the most important element in relationships of any kind where religious differences are present.  Can we make the other party approach the table this way?  No.  Can we choose to?  Yes.  I have seen and sadly been party to some painful divisions since leaving the HRM between people who had much more in common than they disagreed on, yet the mountains of offense continued to build over differences in information and perception.

If someone believes with all their heart, they are doing the right thing, then they are.  Even if their ways seem crazy to us, their hearts are being true to what they believe.  I have a great deal of respect for our new friend who loves God, trusts God, and wants to obey Him.  That is a beautiful thing, even if that looks much differently to him than it does to me now.  Of course I did my best to explain the new and improved version of righteous fruit (it’s not really new, we just have it in HD with Jesus, with the static taken away).  But I can’t force him to see the world my way.  No one could have forced me.

After our friend had gone, I saw a status post on facebook:  “Do the right thing, regardless of whether bad things may come later or what it might lead to. Do the right thing today.”  This friend does not observe Torah as given to Moses, but follows Jesus whole-heartedly.

A short time later I found a similar quote while continuing an internet search I had been on for a few days about my family history.  I ran across an article written in 1961 about my grandfather who gave up his 15 year career as a law enforcement officer because he had just been baptized as a Seventh-day Adventist.  They would not allow for him to have Saturdays off, so he turned in his badge.  Ironically, the article was written by my other grandfather who was the pastor that baptized him.  The editors added a relevant quote from Ellen White that read, “It is the very essence of all right faith to do the right thing at the right time.”

I had seen this piece in a scrap book a long time ago.  Our family had held it up for many years as the picture of integrity.  My husband also for years would not accept a lucrative promotion at work because he refused to work on the Sabbath.  We followed our conscience and I don’t regret that.  However during those years, we have many regrets about failures to love with our whole heart.  Which will hold more weight in the end?   I am thankful for the few instances where we were given a chance to redeem those lost opportunities.

Today I also saw a picture of my grandmother’s headstone, wife of the former police officer.  I did not attend her funeral, and she is buried far from where I live.  It was the first time I’d seen it.  Under her name it reads, “She Loved Country Music.”   She also observed the Sabbath and the feasts, and out of respect for her, I will only say that it makes me sad this was the love she was known for.  I loved her, but she loved very little and it has grieved me to see how the pain of not being loved gets handed down from generation to generation.

So there we have it, a day all about doing the right thing, which is not exactly defined the same way by everyone.  HRM followers disagree about this all the time between themselves, as well as Christians.  We think having a Law would simplify it and preserve it.  It doesn’t.

Often the right thing is determined by fear.  There is something that needs to be avoided, controlled, or protected, or an approval to gain and keep.  These fears used to drive my view of faith, scripture, and my value system about what is right.  I understand this path very well.  I go back there a lot in other areas of my life as it seems to be my default operating system installed since birth.  It takes conscious effort, or realignment I should say, to His heart and mind, to operate from the other center point.

Perfect Love casts out all fear.  I believe this is the example of the fearless woman in my dream.  What if the right thing was determined only by what was Love.  Perfect love loves no matter what.  Even to the death.  What is the right thing?  A legal system can never answer this question because the explanations take volumes of Talmud, endless Supreme Court cases, or other books and tapes and videos without end.  Yet there is always something left unclear and uncovered, or impossible.

Love answers the question with itself and satisfies all.

Romans 13:8 Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loves another has fulfilled the law.
Romans 13:10 Love works no ill to his neighbor: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
Galatians 5:14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
James 2:8 If you fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, you shall love your neighbor as yourself, you do well:

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A couple weeks ago I had a great time with a close family member who is still a very loyal member of the Seventh-day Adventist organization.  Some people believe they can pinpoint the errors in beliefs about God that would prevent a person from having what they call “saving faith” in God.  I’ve been one of those people.  When pressed, they (I) would admit we don’t know the person’s heart, but we DO absolutely know they are wrong.  It was evident to me this family member of mine (after many heart to heart talks) has the same heart I do – one that resonates of the same Holy Spirit and the Love He pours out, in spite of some really huge differences of opinion on doctrines.  If we were forced to talk about the fine print, we would still strongly disagree and say the other is wrong.  But how much does that matter to God?  How much does that matter to each other?  Maybe this person still believes I’m wrong enough to go to hell in the end, but she is kind enough to not let on.  I don’t believe that about her (and actually never have.)

God has been widening my horizons at a painfully quick pace the last year or so, and He showed me much during this visit as well.  I realize that if I went back a few years on this blog, there are posts I probably wouldn’t write now.  While I still passionately believe the core issues that delivered us from legalism, that same legalism has taken a long long time to work its way out of my thought processes.  It is so easy to replace one form of legalism with another.

When we leave a system of belief that touts itself as the elite truth above all others, we immediately sense battle lines will be drawn.  We need a way to reassure ourselves that we truly are right.  Often doubt and fear can creep in so we fortify our defenses, and as happens in all wars, the”enemy” becomes much worse in our eyes.  I believe most fractures over religion – in families, churches, etc.,  come not so much from the differences in the beliefs we hold, but the attitudes of the heart that lead us to feel we are superior, and the desire to exert control of our position over others.

I had already begun to write this post when someone on our forum for HRM friends and family asked a question about spiritual fruit.  The individual wanted to know what the connection was between this movement and the fruit of love in its followers.  Are there any loving Torah Observant people?  Are they all cold and judgmental?  (Don’t look at their comments here, but no – they are not).  Does it matter what theology they have if they are kind?  And does their theology interfere with that?

Lots of loaded, complex questions here.  Jesus said to identify false teachers by their fruit (love rather than Pharisaical righteousness or knowledge), so these are really important questions.  And is there a difference between a false teacher and the followers?  Is it more difficult for a teacher to be blindly sincere than the follower?  I just like to ask questions I don’t have answers for.

As my very long story posted on this blog tells, my eyes were initially opened to the error of our law-centric theology by the overall lack of good fruit (as defined by Jesus) in the Hebrew Roots Movement.  Yes, there were exceptions to this generalization, but the overall atmosphere and focus did not naturally generate a loving, compassionate, sacrificial attitude toward anyone who was not aligned with our way of thinking.  And Jesus did say there wasn’t any glory in loving those who love you back, because well… anyone can do that.  When you love the unloveable, then you are on your way to being perfect, “as My Father is perfect”.

So, we moved on to enthusiastically embrace mainstream Christianity, where we knew things would be so much better.  That idealism eventually died as well.  I am starting to see a more level playing field between those who claim truth and those accused of error.

Jesus remains my Truth and the most beautiful love ever demonstrated to humanity.  But  I see that we who call ourselves by His name, in general, don’t know Him, and His verdict on false religion is that HE never knew us.  The heresy hunter’s favorite accusation is that cults invent their own Jesus.  And they often do.  But I’ve seen some strange versions of Him in the evangelical world too.  If it’s true what they say, that a false Jesus can’t save you, then maybe we should start getting to really know Him.  Really.  Know His heart before we seek to know soteriology, ecclesiology, eschatology.  What does He love?  What does He hate?  When you fall in love, you crave to know everything you can about the object of your desire, but you would not cut them open to study their organ tissue.  You would LISTEN to them and enjoy their company.  Scientists study cadavers and cells under microscopes.  They have great knowledge but take no thought of the life it used to be, before it came under their knife.  It is no longer a being but a source of information.  Do we benefit from what they learn?  Yes.  But oh the grief of what we may lose if we insist on living in the knowledge of God without really knowing Him.  We may look at a tissue sample and come to very wrong conclusions, because we see such a small part of the picture.  

So what do we do with this fruit problem?  I rejected a movement on a premise that indicts most of Western Civilization and its institutions, in orthodoxy or heresy either one.  The world is an unloving place but the light and fire of Christ still burns, sometimes in the most unexpected places.  I don’t have an answer for the question about theology and fruit.  Maybe there is a flaw in the knowledge base somewhere, but I have come to believe that the problem is not a lack of knowledge, but a failure to integrate Truth (Jesus) into the fabric of our whole being.  We have selfistic (my word) desires, half-truths from the world systems, a million other “isms” competing to be our paradigm for life.  This isn’t just an American problem, it’s an ancient one.

When Yahweh delivered the Hebrew nation from their slavery, they did not have a knowledge of Him in the way He was planning to reveal Himself.  They could comprehend very little of their Father and Creator, and even with amazing displays of power, didn’t believe He loved them enough to sustain them.  They didn’t resemble a priesthood, or a bride.  Yet these are the symbols He used to refer to them and describe His desires for them.  Even in their state of helplessness and ignorance he demanded Pharaoh, “Let my people go!”  They were HIS people, based on His covenant with their fathers, not on their own merit or worthiness.

Today there are many many children of God held captive by dogmas and falsehoods of countless kinds.  Can any of us say we really have everything right about God?  I don’t find my security in that pursuit.  And I don’t see other people’s spiritual worth from that vantage point either, anymore.     I can see where a certain untruth can hurt them, or others – like the whips of the slave owner.  But maybe someone is saying, “Let my daughter go.  Let my son be free to serve me in joy.”  Maybe they belong to Him right where they are, right now.

“Love the Lord you God with all your heart, mind and soul.  Love one another as I have loved you.”  These simple words will shatter slave-holding dogmas, if taken to heart.

God didn’t call me to be right.  He called me to be love.  It has taken a lot of humbling for me to give up that desire and pursuit.  I love to be right more than just about anyone. (Ask my husband!)  What good will it do to uphold the foundations of doctrinal purity while we let our love and compassion wither on the vine?

I am not negating the whole purpose of this blog.  I believe cults and heresies rob people because they cloud the Son.  But my reason for speaking isn’t to prove someone wrong.  It’s to point to the Son, so we may all be healed.  Because we all need that, no matter how right .. we think we are.

Only a small part of truth can be understood. The rest must be caught as an intense longing for a beautiful, loving, harmonious world. Truth is something much better than a set of ideas.

-Richard Wurmbrand

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I recently discovered a really beautiful, refreshing blog, Mongoose Mom – purely by “accident”.  Just wanted to share this post with you because it’s so relevant to the entire purpose of this blog too.

The other day I heard a Christian radio talk host, whom I enjoy listening to a lot and who my kids think is very funny and entertaining, talk with a caller. The caller was a young father who called in to talk about his New Year’s resolution/ desire for change. The young father was obviously broken over his own failures as a father, and he talked about how he had an abusive father and could not seem to give love to his children. His children constantly reminded him of his own father – it was like holding up a mirror to his hurt and brokenness. The caller was torn up about his own failures and talked honestly about calling out to God for the grace to change and give his kids the love he never had. He stated it was so much easier and more natural for him to correct them or to tell them what they had done wrong than to give them praise and affirmation. The radio host gave the caller encouragement to some extent, and then he hit him with the law…..   FINISH READING

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Yesterday I sat down for lunch with two men who will both be 70 within the next twelve months.  They could not be more different if they had been born on separate planets.  One had lost his way in the drugs and parties of the 70’s.  The other had gone to seminary and doesn’t even know a single Led Zeppelin song.  One worked for over 40 years as a union worker, even through the party life, and lives on an adequate retirement, in a rent house.  The other re-built his life from scratch after divorce and career change left him with nothing.  One watches TV most of the day, the other works his small ranch and plays basketball on a city league with men half his age.  They are my fathers – one by birth, the other through marriage.  Even though my husband and I have been married over 20 years, this was the first time our fathers had ever been together long enough to have a conversation.  My dad is a former SDA pastor, and my father-in-law, former long-time member of the Worldwide Church of God, founded by Herbert W. Armstrong.  Over lunch at this home-cooking diner, they found common ground, and I sat in awe of God’s amazing love and faithfulness to all of us over the last many years.

My father left Adventism  in the 80s during the big upheaval when the truth began to come out about their prophet, Ellen G. White, and prominent leaders began to question the doctrine that had been seen as the founding pillar of the group.  He lost his job for the sake of the gospel, and over other matters, his wife as well.  For a long time I feared he was going to give up on faith altogether.  He never seemed to find a church where things worked out after that, and his questioning began to take directions that frightened me as I began my own life with Christ in my early adult life.  But through all the confusion, he has found Jesus to be the only worthwhile Truth.

After Worldwide Church of God shifted their theological position from Old to New Covenant in the early 90s, through the influence of their leader, Joseph Tkach, my father-in-law also embraced the new path.  On a side note, my father’s mother – also a long time member, did not.  She followed one of the many splinter groups that sprung up after the shift in opposition to the change.  My grandmother passed away seeing grace as too good to be true, and my father-in-law drifted out of fellowship and back into drugs.  As often happens when people let go of the Law-based religion, they feel lost and alone, and overwhelmed at the thought of trying to attend a mainstream church. (His old congregation dwindled and floundered badly.)  If you don’t replace the void with a very real Jesus, you will feel hung out to dry.  Simply changing your mental understanding *about* God, does not always spark a living relationship *with* Him.

After losing his wife two years ago, and surviving massive heart attack, followed by bypass surgery this past year, I saw a huge transformation in my father-in-law.  He stayed with us during his recovery and we really formed a new bond with him.  I saw His spiritual heart had been broken when his physical heart nearly ended his life.

Yesterday he was re-baptized at his new church two blocks from his home.  My father, visiting from another state, attended the service with me.  The significance of the day began to sink in as I sat on the pew, between them.  Two men with long journeys to tell.  And a young whelp of a pastor who had no sense at all of the holy ground he was treading on.  He was in a hurry.  Dunk the new member, rush through the sermon, brush off the old man who puts a hand on his shoulder and tries to tell him how much he reminded him of himself as a young pastor back in 1966, with tears brimming in his eyes.  I believed a good lunch was in order so insisted we sit down for some real fellowship after church.  There two men were able to share and rejoice in what God had done for them, with someone who understood.  I sat mostly quiet (I know, hard to fathom) in awe of what God had orchestrated this day.

Early yesterday morning before getting ready for church, I saw a friend living on the opposite side of our planet had posted a quote by Joseph Tkach on his facebook page.  I took this amazing “coincidence” as  gift from God for the day, and printed it for my father-in-law.

We have always understood grace to be unconditional, an unmerited pardon of our sins. But we tended to think of it as one of the components of salvation that needed to be “stirred into the mix” because we can’t keep the law. We need to see that God’s grace is much more than that.

Grace is not just a spiritual supplement that God provides because we can’t keep his law, like a whiff of oxygen to help a sick person breathe a bit easier. Grace is the love and freedom-producing action of God that reconstitutes humanity into an entirely new creation. It transforms us and gives us a new kind of life – life that no amount of law keeping could sustain. Grace is the environment that allows us, God’s new creation, to not just survive, but to grow and flourish.
Joseph Tkach

Sometimes it takes a long time to see what Grace can do.  It knows that life cannot be forced or coerced before its time.  In our short life spans we find it so hard to endure this slow process, in ourselves and others.  It reminds me of the words in Corinthians, that love bears all things, and believes all things.  I have often been like the young pastor, in a hurry and unable to see the miracles in front of my face, wishing for big things to happen.  But God is at work in every moment,  no matter how hard or dark.  I pray to be more aware of every day of Grace!

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The word “cult” gets tossed around a lot, even by people who belong to them.  Many definitions abound, so it’s easy to pick one that might not include your own group, especially if you don’t meet all the criteria on a particular list.  Various degrees of denial make cult definitions a subjective pursuit.  This week my friends shared two helpful links about cults and abusive groups that are worth your time to check out.

Looking back on my life, I have quite a cult resume.

My husband and I would have never considered ourselves in a cult, or worse yet, the leaders of one, when we were in the Hebrew Roots Movement.  We did not follow any particular teacher, although we had friends who did.  We saw the movement as something God brought together because it wasn’t started or led by any one particular person.  People from many different Christian backgrounds came together under one common bond.  While every group had to muddle through many various points of contention, we had given our minds over to one idea which became the foundation of belief and the basis for our fellowship.  Nearly anything or anyone we recognized as having this same beginning premise, we trusted, and believed.

As this election season has heated up, I have watched this phenomenon in the political realm too, and see the human condition is so very prone to wanting a framework with neat, concise answers. We want talking points, dogmas, and simplified answers to our dissenters.  Go-to catch phrases head off any opponents arguments.  We become emotionally attached to our systems and ideas, take them on as part of our personal identities, and tie them on tightly with our fear and pride.

Seeing the political sides take shape, I realized that cults can gel around an ideology just as easily as a person.  Candidates are playing into the idea, trying to appear as if they are closely aligned with the values of the group they seek to represent.

Once the idea has become concrete, this is where the danger comes in.  Anytime we give up asking questions, listening, and investigating, we are in danger of cult-like thinking.  If we pledge our support for something, and emotionally invest in a “side”, we are much less likely to think objectively about our own camp, be it religious, political, or national.  It doesn’t matter how free of an atmosphere we have to ask questions, if we don’t.

Our religious “cult” was not formed or held together by Jesus, but a list of commands that pointed to Him.  We saw them as Him.  And He came to open the way for so much more than this in our relationship with Him.  What if I, as a wife, viewed my husband as only our marriage license.  I look at the paper every day, frame it so I can hang it on the wall, and make sure I tell everyone I meet about this agreement and what it entitles me to.  Yet, he is standing there wanting to love and be loved.

Cults of any kind are demanding, but Jesus is inviting.  The spiritual difference is life and death.  People who have not experienced the deep, healing love of Christ are trying to fill a need when they follow a cult of any kind, religious or otherwise.  We want belonging, and we want to be right.  It feels safe and warm in a way, yet we never quite “arrive”.  There is always one more bit of knowledge, or a higher degree of compliance to achieve.

If I could zap you through this screen and give you a sense of how much MORE Jesus has for you than the much less you are settling for, while believing you are in the elite crowd of the chosen few, I would.  But I can’t.  I pray the Holy Spirit does reveal this to you even though you probably found this blog looking for information that you agreed with, and this wasn’t it.  I say, just let Him love you.  He died so You could know the depth of His love, and you are running backward to the shadow.  You don’t have to earn His love, or fear a curse.  Just let Him love you.

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