Burned out on religion?

MANY YEARS AGO I came across a print of Jesus, a painting by Twentieth Century artist, Richard Hook. What captured my attention was how the eyes of Jesus followed me around the room, gazing upon me regardless of where I sat. I saw in that image the love of God, the gentleness of Jesus and his invitation for us to “Come, follow me.”

Somebody once told me my faith in God is too simplistic, that there is more to him than simply accepting Jesus as Saviour and seeking to live for him. In a sense that is very true, but in another way it is not.

I am deeply concerned at how the Church makes it so difficult for the average person to understand anything about God. While some churches preach the simple gospel message, others add a mish-mash of rules and regulations that people must obey in order to become members of a particular congregation. That is not God.

As much as I try, I cannot escape the simple – yet profound – message of our Saviour. Once we grasp his invitation and begin to learn about him and the life he led here on earth, a whole new world opens up – we begin to experience a profound peace and freedom and can enjoy life to the full, as God intends:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life” (Matthew 11:28, The Message).

 

Jesus

 

 

 

To be like Jesus

One of the attributes that attracted me to Jesus was his love of people on the edge of society, those who others regarded as untouchable and unlovable. He willingly reached out and touched the leper, the woman who had been haemorrhaging for years and who was considered unclean by Jewish law, the lame, the blind and those possessed by evil spirits. He embraced everyone in their uniqueness, regardless of their situation, with compassion, kindness and care.

Many years ago when my life disintegrated into utter chaos, I believed myself to be something akin to a leper. So great was the devastation of my soul that I regarded myself as nothing but excreta fit only to be flushed down life’s sewers.

At the time the church I attended was opening its grand new premises on the outskirts of Brisbane. Such was my despair that I pictured myself as a leper dressed in filthy rags squatting outside the gates of that magnificent complex crying out, “Unclean! Unclean!”

Nobody in that place knew what I was going through.  I have come a long way since then.  However, I have never forgotten what it feels like to be a leper.

It is time for those of us who call ourselves followers of Jesus—whether we go to church or not—to reach out to those around us who feel vulnerable, alone and lonely.

We are all called to be like Jesus and to follow in his steps (1 Peter 2:21).

footprints

Unforced rhythms of grace

My favourite Bible passage is from Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 11, verses 28 to 30. Jesus gives us all a simple, sincere, significant invitation:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light,” (New International Version).

Those words of welcome have had a profound impact upon me throughout my life, particularly when I was going through times of distress and heartache, doubt and confusion.  Always, they drew me back to my Saviour, my Lord and my God.

Recently I read that passage in Eugene Peterson’s version of the Bible, The Message.  It was so refreshing!

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion?  Come to me.  Get away with me and you’ll recover your life.  I’ll show you how to take a real rest.  Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it.  Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.  I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.  Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

I sure have been “burned out on religion”, well and truly.  But what struck me even more was the intent of God’s invitation to “Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.” That is such an exquisite expression of God’s love, kindness and care—the “unforced rhythms of grace”. It is as though he has all the time in the world to bathe us with his love, his grace and his mercy.

“Unforced rhythms of grace.”

May that be our reality as we nestle into the arms of our loving God and experience the joy of knowing him more fully and more deeply than we’ve ever known before.

 

 

 

2018 – Year of the blog

I’ve been puddling about with WordPress for years, trying to master it through a range of ways.  I’ve been to workshops about blogging and I’ve read books – WordPress for Beginners and WordPress for Dummies.  I ended up still being a beginner and still feeling like a dummy.  I set aside

my desire to have a blog and got on with life.  But the urge to write and maintain a blog has returned.

2018 will be the year of the blog!

I had thought I’d set up several blogs, each having a specific purpose and reaching a particular audience.  However, once again I’ve changed my mind.  I’ll now concentrate on this one site – Authentic Christian Living – in which I’ll share thoughts about life in general as well as addressing issues about faith in God and how to live for him.

I’m looking forward to my blogging experience.  Who knows, by the end of this New Year I may be an accomplished blogger.

 

 

About God and you

If there is one message I want to get across to those reading Authentic Christian Living it is that God loves you.

He cares for you.

He understands your heartache, your despair; your brokenness and the distress you are going through. He grieves with you and for you. And he loves you so very much.

In times of confusion and personal chaos it is normal to question the reality of God and why he allows so much pain and suffering.

Very often we do not have the answers we so desperately need. Very often those answers don’t come until way into the future.

When our world crashes around us, we need to nestle into God and allow his healing balm to calm our souls, heal our hearts and reassure us that he is with us, no matter what.

When all hell erupts around us, God is there. God’s word remains true for all of us:

“Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6).

Jesus2

 

A personal invitation from Jesus:  “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly”  (Matthew 11:28-30, The Message).

God in the midst

I LOVE the Christian Church – the Body of Christ. But I do not like church.

What a contradiction that is!

Ever since I accepted Jesus Christ as my Saviour and Lord, I had been actively involved in the local church. My whole life revolved around the church; I believed that was what it meant to be a Christian, a follower of Christ. Then, in the 1990s, my world turned upside down – and I left the church.

I never left God. In fact, in my isolation from Christian fellowship he became my Rock, my Shepherd, the Lover of my soul, my Guide, my God. Without him I would never have come through the decades of intense psychotherapy needed to deal with deep psychological trauma from a problematic past, and become the person I am today.

In time, I tried to return to church. For years I struggled to connect with a local congregation. I went to churches of all denominational persuasions, staying at some for weeks, months; leaving others after my initial visit and one even mid-way through the first service. The whole process was excruciatingly painful; my church visits often ended in tears. I have finally accepted that, for me, trying to find a contemporary church of the twenty-first century is a futile exercise. Not only do I not fit into that scene, I find so much of church culture incongruent with the teachings of Christ, and with New Testament examples of Christian fellowship.

At present, church for me is meeting with one or two people at a time, talking with them in a mutually supportive way about God and what he means to us. It is often in these informal ways that we come to better understand one another, connect in significant ways, be an encouragement to each other and together grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18). I am sure this is what Jesus meant when he said:  For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them (Matthew 18:20).

Authentic Christian Living

THE CHURCH TODAY has lost its credibility in the community. Incidents of child abuse by members of the clergy have tarnished congregations of all denominations.  Reports of domestic violence within supposedly “Christian” marriages are increasing.  And the teaching of many churches simply bolsters their particular theological brand rather than focussing on the Gospel message of God’s love, grace and mercy, and how we should live for him.

For many decades I had struggled to find a spiritual home where I could feel loved and accepted.  However, trying to find a church to belong to was a painful, futile experience that eventually came to an abrupt end when vivid memories erupted of my being sexually abused by the State leader of my particular denomination.  That betrayal affected every part of my life – body, soul and spirit. It took all my determination to process the many issues that surfaced, in particular aspects of my spirituality and my sexuality.

Although I had many questions about what had been done to me, and why, I could not turn my back on God.  I knew he would once again see me through this difficult time, just as he had with the many other challenges I had been through over the decades.

However it was obvious that there was no way I could belong to a church that had caused such offence.  The church had robbed me of my right to experience the reality of a loving, living God and had replaced that reality with their restrictive, legalistic teachings that I had soaked up for years.

As I worked through the many issues stemming from that spiritual abuse, I began to understand something of what it means to live an authentic Christian life, one that is genuine and which attracts others to the Lord Jesus Christ.   It is aspects of this journey that I want to capture in my blog Authentic Christian Living.

Many people have been wounded in churches.  Many have either lost their faith or are struggling to hold onto it.  It is for them, in particular, that I address this blog Authentic Christian Living.  I pray that it will be a source of comfort and healing for all who read it.

Many blessings,

Irene.