Monday, December 07, 2009

Dear On-Fire Christian...

Dear On-Fire Christian(/legalist):

First of all, I have to say that as infuriating a conversation with you can be at times, I really do love you. And I understand where you're coming from because that is where I have come from. Maybe that's why your words are so frustrating to me, I remember so clearly not so long ago living the 'life' you're living, speaking the same words to people, feeling the self-righteous rush of satisfaction when I thought I'd pleased God with my 'ministry'. I remember how good it felt to have said the right thing at the right time to someone who obviously needed my help to do better or be better, to get their life in order. What a high you can get from giving someone the answer to all their problems, the exact prescription they need, what they need to do to get what they want in life, to get closer to God, to become more holy and righteous and respectable in the church. Yes, I remember...

So thank-you for your good intentions, I appreciate your sincere concern and care. But you needn't waste your time worrying about me! I admit I don't go to church right now, I even admit that I don't want to go to any church I know of. I admit that church is either mind numbingly boring or alternately infuriating to me and I avoid going like the plague. I say 'church' with your idea of church in mind; the so-called organized church of any and all shapes, sizes, denominations,systems, theological slants, or various creative versions of it. And I don't think less of anyone who is part of that church, if you enjoy it then more power to you! I'm glad you can, and part of me wishes I could too...I'm sad that for me the 'meeting together' happens less often and regularly at my house or someone else's, on the phone or online...

It's a little lonely sometimes, and sometimes I dream of packing up and moving far away to live closer to people who know what we're talking about when we say 'gospel' or 'grace' ! But we belong here, here with the chickens and ducks, rabbits and cats, one dog and four children...and no grace church. But as lonely as ever I get, I can't come to your church and sit by while everyone is slowly crushed to death by the weight of the law, either by a little law or much more. Don't tell me all proud of yourself and your church that you only mix in a little bit, that really won't impress me. I'd rather you went the whole way and preached the entire Old Covenant and left Jesus completely out of it, you're tarnishing his Good Name, the name I love. So if you think you can guilt me or in some way manipulate me to go to church, yours or somewhere else, I think you might sooner convince me of my need to go to synagogue. Honestly I stay away from your church out of respect, I know I won't fit in there. I know I might get up some day in the middle of your service and scream because I can't take anymore of that bull dung (I forego using the appropriate word out of respect for you). See? Now you made me cry. I can't stop thinking about all the words you spoke to me, words of condemnation though you don't even know enough to see it. Condemnation is second nature to you in your spiritual world. You are the serious christian, and now, thank God, I am not. I'm just a beloved son of God with whom he is well pleased.

And I don't spend even a second of my days anymore worrying about the right or wrong of what I'm doing. I'm not busy trying to get close to him, to try and figure out his will about what I should be doing. I'm not anxiously trying to please him and there are no special conditions I need in order to worship him or experience his presence. So please forgive me if I politely ignore your advice to seek his face, to pray and ask him to show me his will, as though you already know exactly what his will for me is and what I should be doing. In fact, if you're right, why do I need to pray? You already graciously told me exactly what his will for me is, and if I don't do it then you can continue to graciously pity me because I must be miserable in my rebellious disobedience to your christian rules and regulations.

I don't mind you pitying me, really I don't. I am happier and freer than I've ever been in my life. I don't want to kill myself or divorce my husband, and attribute this largely to have gotten out of the horrible guilt system that we call the church. I am part of a happy church now, one that will hopefully materialize here physically some day soon...which is, after all, why we moved here in the first place. But it's hard to be in such a hurry when I'm resting in God, knowing that his timing is good and perfect. I'm sorry that it freaks you out to see me so calm and peaceful when you think I should be striving and working. How can I even tell you that I'm happy in God and he in me? You have no category for such a statement, you wouldn't even know what I'm talking about, it would just worry you more that I'm so casual about 'sin' and 'righteousness'. But you miss the passion I have for the gospel! Passion and burning joy in the truth that we have already been given everything need for life and godliness in Jesus! I lack nothing. I am excited to grow and learn more in grace, to receive more and more glorious revelation of what I've received, but I LACK NOTHING!

So though I love you very much on-fire christian, I will not join you in YOUR lack. I am not judging you, you have admitted your lack with your many different words and arguments and I can see that you want me to join you in your lack and your striving to be filled by God. You will never find what you seek as long as you are operating by old covenant strategies. There is only one way to have God and his loving blessing on your life and that is only faith in Jesus, not ever ever ever ANYTHING you may do. Not prayer, not fasting, not worship, not obedience of any sort...and conversely, not praying, not fasting, not worshipping, not obeying can never remove the loving blessing of God on your life once you have received him by faith.

But I too would love to talk more. I would love to talk about the gospel next time we talk, to revel in the goodness of God's love for both of us, instead of worrying about the knowledge of good and evil, trying to figure out right and wrong. Has that ever helped anyone do better or meet God's perfect standard of righteousness? I have probably heard thousands of such sermons and teaching over my lifetime and can tell you it never did me any good. I spent my days up and down between self-righteous triumph and suicidal self-hatred according to my perception of how well I obeyed the church's (God's?) law for me. Ironically I am still respected as a very godly person in many of my past circles because I was such a legalist! I hope that God uses my past legalism to give me some credibility when I meet these people and with you now that I am able to share the good news!

Sorry for my long long rant, and I apologize for rolling my eyes so much as we talked on the phone, I hope I will remember not to do that if you ever come over and talk in person...



Jordy's Thoughts said...

Hey. I'm Jordan. We haven't talked much. You bring up some interesting stuff here. An "on fire christian" doesn't seem to make you feel right. Kinda makes you uneasy it seems. Well I'm just wondering why you believe what you believe. Like were you once an "on-fire-for-the-Lord-christian"? And if you were, what's so bad about that???


Dan Bowen said...

Okay .... church ....

" I admit I don't go to church right now, I even admit that I don't want to go to any church I know of. I admit that church is either mind numbingly boring or alternately infuriating to me and I avoid going like the plague".

Amen and amen sister!! The rare times I visit my SGM-going parents, I never, ever get asked; "How's your relationship with God?" or "When did God last speak to you?" or "When did God last touch you?". I get asked; "How's church?".

I love this point, because in true radical, TRUE on-fire style you are making us re-think our views of church. Does church mean simply attending somewhere on a Sunday? Or does it mean part of being a family - a REAL family? A family that love, and stand together no matter what?

So so thought-provoking and challenging!

Alan Hiu said...

Wow... my precious Sister in GRACE, you have resolved to listen to the One who shed His blood for you despite of your environment, situation and circumstances...

Who else can we listen to? Who shed His blood for us? The "On Fire Christians"?

Jamie said...

Ah, Jul, how truly beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!!

Thank you for throwing yourself unreservedly into Grace and for preaching the Gospel with all the passion that only a heart set free can understand.

I couldn't help but think of this song by Kelanie:

I like that she provides the guitar chords with her lyrics and thought you might like it, too. We use quite a bit of her music in our fellowship. Yes, I am one of the blessed few who is a part of a fellowship that teaches GRACE ONLY. I've never heard David say ANYTHING stupid. Ask Matt; he's been. :) How refreshing, right? I can totally identify with your wanting to get up & scream though but then my heart hurts for the people who get the crap beat out of them from the pulpit in God's name every Sunday!!

And...I say YES to getting together over New Years in Delaware, if it's at all possible. My niece is living in Baltimore now and my parents used to live in south Jersey, so I would LOVE a trip back home!! I have driven that road trip many, many times. Let's seriously try and swing it. I warn you. I will cry. I mean, really?? You, & Lyds, & me?? Ahahahha, that would be toooo fun!

BTW, I'll trade you some horses, pigs, & cows for some chickens & rabbits...and baby Amilia. :D

jul said...

Hi Jordan, welcome! I've read your blog a few times I think. I guess when I use the term 'on fire christian' I'm referring to the idea that we categorize christians into good, better, best (or bad, worse,worst). It's a sort of legalistic idea that some christians are more holy because they look holier on the outside; their performance is more impressive. The term is from my past I guess. There's nothing wrong with actually being 'on fire' with passion and the love of God! I suspect I myself tend to be a little fiery at times, but I don't attribute that to my serious dedication to pleasing God, but to his serious dedication to loving me so well.

The kind of "on fire for the Lord Christian" you mention, yes, I was one of them, but for me it was all about self-righteousness. That's what was bad about it. I hope that helps you understand where I'm coming from, but if not, feel free to ask more questions! And it's also completely fine to disagree...

jul said...

Dan, thanks for commenting! I always feel so special when you leave a word and I agree with you on the whole church thing. The question really is, what is church? It's so freeing when you realize it's not what we originally simply meeting together for encouragement and relationship, sharing revelation and love with one another. That can happen anywhere, anytime, and most often in my experience it hasn't happened in 'church'. Anyway, if I dread 'church', something terrible must be wrong and of course most 'church' people say that something is wrong with me, not the church. I used to judge people who didn't go to church very harshly and now, doesn't God have a sense of humor? I'm one of them.

There is nothing wrong with me. I don't mean that literally as in I'm perfect with no flaws, I mean that my problem with the 'church' is legitimate and I won't go to a church that preaches any kind of mixture of law and grace (I mean that they believe they should be, not talking about a grace church who inadvertantly mixes at times since I believe we all do that in the process of growing in grace). Don't blame me if I don't want to go to your ministry of death and condemnation church! And don't self-righteously preach to me that God isn't happy with me for not going, he's the one that set me free from all that! He's very happy with he happy with you legalist? (Not you Dan haha, here I go again..)

Anyway, we don't have to quietly sit back and just take it all, we can stand up and fight for grace and freedom!

jul said...

And Alan and Jamie my friends! I'm long winded this morning...well that's no surprise. Thanks for all your encouragement. Life is so much better when we learn to value the words of Jesus to our hearts far above the words of anyone else in our lives isnt't it? So much more security and freedom to just be who we were created to be and not obsess over our mistakes but just be happy learners along the way.

And Jamie, I will definately let you know when we plan to be in DE, it would so amazing to finally meet you! And it'll be great to see Lydia too, but the three of us together...that sounds rather explosive and somewhat dangerous! Ha!

SLW said...

I really do get much of what you say, but I've got to tell you, this letter worries me a bit. Brothers and sisters have been made so by God, who deals with them according to grace, should we not also? Where would we all be if Paul would have wiped his hands clean of the Galatians, and written off their kind of church?

Is it not possible to see the gospel so narrowly that we effectively become the only one believing it? If we demand that the only one who preach, preach it that way are not our own ears subject to the charge of being itchy? (1 Tim 4:1-3)

sparrow girl said...

I loved your comment about being more likely to go to a synagogue than a church preaching mixture - law is just the old covenant, and that's what a synagogue would preach. I never saw that before!

Also I loved the part about how you're not a serious Christian anymore, just a beloved child of God!

How you called legalistic church a "ministry of death and condemnation" church. So true! I want to go to a "ministry of life and righteousness" church!

As a former legalist, I feel I've been on both sides of this letter! It is freeing to be out from under law, and yet I do hurt and feel heart-broken for those still in it..So many in those pews I feel are just trying to survive another day, hoping God will somehow be pleased with them even though they never seem to do "enough"..never having heard the true gospel of grace. That is heart-breaking.

Thanks for this post!

jul said...

Hi SLW! I was expecting you might comment and be a little concerned with this post, after all, you are a pastor (and I suspect you are an excellent one).

I think there is some validity to what you're concerned about. I am a bit cynical which isn't helpful, and there is a little fear in me about the whole idea of church, which I'm sure is coming from the fact that the last serious church experience I had was a bit cultish (to be somewhat polite about it). I realize that I have some issues to work through that can cloud the real problems if I let them. Bottom line, thought the whole modern day church structure makes me nervous, it isn't the real problem for me. I don't really care what clothes people wear, what style of music (though I care about content of worship music), programs ect... but I think to use the Timothy in this scenario doesn't really makes sense:

2 Timothy 4:2-4 (New International Version)
2Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 3For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.

Seeing as my main argument is that churches are not preaching sound doctrine but myths that people want to hear instead, I don't think it applies in this situation. I don't think Paul was talking about people's ears itching to hear the truth! Do you? And as far as Galatians go, I wouldn't sit in a pew in that church and neither would Paul. Paul had authority to address the false doctrines being taught which he did with gusto, I don't think he would have submitted himself to those false teachers.

So my goal was not to say I will never be part of a church again, I hope I will be. But I will never again submit to false teachers, and will never again sit under a ministry of condemnation and death. I can't handle it and last time I did I ended up suicidal and probably would have been divorced if I didn't kill myself first. I just don't believe God is calling me to that... Hope that makes some sense.

As an aside, though I don't think we'd agree totally on doctrine, I think I would love to visit your church if I lived nearby...I have a lot of respect for you. I hope you don't think what I'm looking for is 100% agreement with my opinions! Diversity is completely necesarry and healthy, though heresy not so much hehe.

SLW said...

Thanks Jul, that was calming. ;-)

You probably wouldn't think I was much of a pastor if you visited my church-- not that many others do! ;-)

I think the old saw, "you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink" was written with the church in mind. We don't seem to be a particularly spiritual bunch, whatever progress we make into the provision of God seems serendipitous and unsteady. Whether the root is unbelief, idolatry, or pride I don't know, but dealing with it is messy business. There are pockets of folk, who grasp things and progress wildly, there are others that are legalistic, religious, superstitious, and self-righteous. If they truly know Christ is the Son of God, slain for their sins, resurrected for their justification, then they're worth correcting, teaching, persuading, and rebuking (over and over and over again). I do think it's possible to be clear on who he is without being clear on the ramifications. Regardless, we don't get to choose sheep anymore than we do our parents.

Of course, that perspective may be colored by my call: when I was in Bible College wondering about whether or not I really was called, God spoke to me and said, "I have called you to a ministry of message and I will send you to the hard and broken places." I suppose I have an affinity for those who are getting quite right. ;-)

jul said...

Hi Sparrow Girl, thanks for dropping by again and it sounds like we have some things in common! Glad you liked the post...

jul said...

SLW, you still sound like a good pastor to me, and someone who has more patience than I do hehe, though I have more than I used to believe it or not!

Glad I could calm you down a little...

Anonymous said...

Hi Julie,

Wow, are Aaron and the kids not going to church anymore either? I will certainly keep your family in prayer. You've come a long way from the Morris family I knew. It makes me very sad, as you used to be an encouragement to many.

Anonymous said...

Hi. This is Aaron, Julie's husband, writing. I think most people who read Julie's blog know where she is coming from. I think most who know her understand that she is very black and white and very passionate about what she believes. This is one of the many things that drew me to her in the first place. I wanted to post a comment mainly because, although there are mostly comments that encourage and support her (and us) on the journey, there are many who read anonymously who may wonder at times where she is coming from. I may write a post on this soon. For now however I want to say that it is the thoughts or the feelings that many may have in the church circles we spent much of our lives in that frustrate me. Julie and I are believers. We love God. We love others. We fellowship with other believers. We uprooted our family from the States to move to Canada because we feel God directing us to do ministry here. The anonymous comment before this one just reinforces the post that Julie wrote. People get scared and react self righteously to the thought that we are not plugged into a particular local church here in Moncton. How does that make us a "long way" from the Morris family that this person knew? How does that make us less of an "encouragement to many"? I feel like we are as real as we have ever been in our lives. No more shiny outside to impress people with but the reality that we are (and always were since believing)actually internally new creations in Christ. So whoever the anonymous poster was I'm sure if you were around us you would be encouraged by us, happy for us and believing that God will raise up a work here in our part of Canada that helps people rightly understand what it means to be a New Covenant believer. Don't be sad for us we are as Paul was when he went into the desert to learn from God. We are learning and reveling in the Grace of God. Our distain for churches that mix the Old and New Covenants does not make us not love the people that go there. Christ died for the church. It is His "plan A" and there is no "plan B". So although the post was harsh and extreme, don't be freaked out by someone's honesty and transparency. We are indeed on a journey that has highs and lows. We are moving forward in joy and truly happy. And we have not given up on the church or the idea of church. Maybe just some of the ideas of what church has become. :)


It o.k. to leave your name when you post. We really won't bite.

Faith said...

Hey! I just wanted to leave a comment and tell you that I found your blog today while looking for any resources I could find on grace-filled parenting. I ended up sidetracked looking through your testimony and other blogs you've linked. I have been coming slowly to the knowledge of grace this year after reading Watchman Nee's Normal Christian Life in January, then being introduced to Joseph Prince sometime in the spring... Now I'm eating up anything I can find so quickly and I can't get enough!!!

All that to say, I completely related to your testimony and zeal for Jesus. I'm so excited about Him and His love for me and being FREE! It's so encouraging to see so many others out there experiencing the same thing. I thought I was alone!

Would love to hear more about your experiences with your children. I'm coming from a Shepherding Your Child's Heart background with my three kids (4, 2, and 1). It struck me this week that spanking immediately upon disobedience does not really mirror my relationship with Christ at all. And that the whole idea that the spanking "redeems" them from the sin they just committed and placing them back within the "circle of blessing" is not really biblical whatsoever. So I'm praying about it, but am feeling a little lost as to what discipline should look like.

Well, I've rambled on and on here, but I just wanted to tell you that I really love your blog and I'm glad to have found it.

Oh, and congratulations on your littlest one!



jul said...

Hi anonymous, welcome! I don't know who you are obviously, but I'm guessing you knew us from Covenant. Hope you're doing well...

I think you're quite right, we have come a long long long way from the Morris family you 'knew'. I'm not sure how well you 'knew' us though. Did you know that by the time we were leaving Covenant our marriage was falling apart and I was researching methods of suicide on the internet? I felt so much guilt and condemnation 24/7 that I didn't think I should go on living. I thought if I was gone then maybe Aaron would have a chance at finding a godly woman who would be able to get everything done on the to-do list as well as produce perfect children and be a perfect obedient wife and sex kitten, basically be the person I was failing at being every single day. And Aaron felt he was a constant failure as well, because if his wife and kids weren't performing up to speed than that means he's not 'leading well' right?

So, be glad we left...we were horribly bad at being what you and others thought we should be! Obviously we were somewhat good at faking it if you thought we were at one time acceptable! We never were and never will be according to SGM or any aother law. But we are no longer under the law and we have been given the GIFT of righteousness in Jesus just because we believe in him! So your judgement of me doesn't bother me in the slightest, I'm just sad that you still believe that any of us are being judged by any law or standard of God other than the standard of faith. He has judged me perfectly righteous and his voice over me every single day is 'this is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased".

He loves me to pieces and I guess I love him back just a little! Can't help it really... And in that same vein, can't help loving you too. I know you mean well, or I hope you do at least. Thank you for your prayers, God has not abandoned me yet and I don't think he will, he's definately seen me at my worst yet he still sees me at his best. "blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin"!!!!!!!

That 'man' is me. And if God is not keeping track of my sin I won't either. I am the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus!

As for encouraging people, I think you'll find that some people still get encouragement from us. Others I'm sure do not...that's ok.

Hope you have a wonderful Christmass and find all the freedom and joy and peace and righteousness of God in the fullness of grace that has been offered to you in Jesus!

jul said...

Faith, welcome! We came from that Shepherding a Child's Heart background as well though we were probably not quite as 'diligent' with it as others. It's hard to say because we were taught to think we were utter failures anyway, the more guilty we felt the more 'humble' we were you know? Yes, it is very confusing at times trying to figure out what is the baby and what is the bathwater...but just to encourage you all that stuff does eventually work itself out, well as much as it can. Loving and enjoying your kids is the most important thing, and being honest with them when you parent them more like law than grace, it's a great chance to explain the gospel to them in a context that makes sense to them. The Spirit will teach you how to discipline your kids, little by little, but you're really on to something with the idea of mirroring how God fathers us...

Many of our grace friends have left spanking behind...we still used it sometimes with the younger ones. I don't think the methods are as important as the attitude and heart behind them. But our circle of safety is definately NOT contingent on our obedience but on the perfect obedience of Jesus! He takes care of us not because we deserve it but because he loves us, the same reason we take care of our children.

For us it's been a struggle not resorting to old methods of using guilt, fear, shame, etc...there can be discipline without all that. I think I have leaned more toward teaching and training now, which can involve negative consequences at times but without anger or condemnation. Of course I still get angry and all that but always go back and apologize to my children when that happens and explain why it was wrong etc...I explain why they NEVER should receive condemnation from anyone, not even their parents.

Anyway, the whole parenting in grace is a huge thing! It's one of the things people ask me about the most, though I'm certainly no expert, just learning a little at a time and will surely have it all figured out by the time I have great grand children haha. Feel free to e-mail me anytime, and check out some of my links as well. There are grace forums too where people talk this stuff out together.

God bless!

Dan Bowen said...

It's extremely interesting to me - that to so many Christians, the mark of true spirituality is whether they go to "church" or not - whatever that definition may be.

But the New Testament view of living church (Plan A as Aaron rightly says) is VERY different from the religious, legalistic, formalistic creature that we see today.

So I don't know the Morris's of Covenant era. But I very much suspect they were something like the Dan of Dunstable era. Living a not very good lie and also hiding suicidal thoughts.

Whereas I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the Morris's of today! Honest, vulnerable, open - and oh how I wish we could all form a REAL living church in the same place! Now THAT would be a sign and a wonder!

Bless you guys both - keep going and keep at it.

jul said...

Dan, you're such a good brother! We love the Dan of today too, though I'm sure I would have loved the Dan of every other time as well. Do you remember when I first found your blog I was an SGM defender? Hopefully I was still kind to you but it might be funny to look back at my first comments on your blog...of course it wasn't long after that we were on our way out of it all too, you were a God-send in the that process, thank-you thank-you, thank-you!

Anonymous said...

Hey there Sister in the Lord! Dave here. Just wanted to encourage you and Aaron to not give up the reason why you came to Canada ( to church plant etc ). Anna and I long for good weather to come see you guys..( 88 days I think..)well at least until most of the snow storms stop. I encourage you to become inspired and not listen to my words but Danny Silks at and his message I think on nov 8th of 2008 on the topic of the traditions of men..I was inspired and so was Anna. please pray for us, we had an awful Christmas...more details on the phone maybe sometime. BTW you can hear Danny silks message I think for free...there are some " freebies" you can connect online to at the website. bless you and Aaron and kids this new year and don't lose hope! Larry Crabb once wanted to write a book entitled " I"m a mess, you're a mess "...his publisher didn't think that was a good idea...I thought the title was awesome. now if only " the church " could agree..:) bye for dave and anna and kids..

jul said...

Hi Dave, thanks for commenting! Less than 88 days now huh? Hopefully that goies by fast and the sun will shine on us again...but you guys can come over before then you know. I'm somewhat back to normal though I'm still pretty sleep deprived and you might have to say something 5 times before I respond haha.

I vaguely remember that message you're talking about, I wonder if I might have listened to it before. I'll have to check it out again and see. Thanks!