Bible Worship and Hierarchies (#581)

Wayne sifts through the mailbag to explore some responses to recent podcasts. One invites a discussion about the misuse of Scripture as a substitute for a real relationship with God instead of a valuable tool to help us explore that relationship. When we try to use a gift other than for the purpose it was intended it can become destructive through no fault of its own. Brad and Wayne also sort through an article by Brad Jersak as he ruminates about institutions and hierarchies offering an idealistic hope for their value even though they often fall short of that ideal. Can hierarchies be valuable among broken humanity? And for those who forsake them, how do they avoid simply becoming independent anarchists that deny the community that faith engenders?

Podcast Notes:
Jodie Foster's travel scene in Contact
Here's more about Brad Jersak'and his article blog About Hard Questions I Ask Myself about Hierarchy and Institutions
You can find our latest update on our work in Kenya here.
Add your voice to our question/comment line via Skype at "TheGodJourney"


  1. I’m looking forward to listening to this podcast. Bibliolatry and hierarchy are m two of my main concerns with the institutional church. I was an early reader of C S Lewis and especially enjoyed his Screwtape Letters in which he skewers the devilish world and its highly competitive but rigid hierarchy. Screwtape cannot seem to get a handle on the mutual respect and “fondness” of the church.

  2. I happen to be one who has come to place little importance on the bible. Having gone through a worldview change, I now understand how my worldview controls the interpretation and understanding of that which I read. So, my problem isn’t so much the bible, but my own limitations. There is also the question, “what does the bible give us in terms of understanding reality that knowing God as love doesn’t?”

    • Kent, If we may pair your concerns and thoughts along with Lila’s, flipping your question around may itself suit as an answer. Where as: Does love give understanding to the reality of God’s expressed fondness for us, even within the bible? Part of our problem lies within our attempting to make “interpreting” a THING, where our thing is better than their thing, etc. That was a huge trap for me for years. This results from the domain of the knowledge of the tree of good and evil. God’s domain is love; and that’s why, we have to let him renew our minds over time. Not only was this a huge “learning curve” for me, it was a totally different domain, because it is. The bible does express his extreme fondness for us if we allow his love to interpret it to us. Another aspect that’s been flipped for me these past few years. Regardless of our limitations, God is quite capable of revealing himself through absolutely everything around us, even dirt. The You, which love (as in God) has created, is revealed to you by and through love. And since love dwells within you there’s no worries. Following from the heart, where God dwells, is far more of an organic thing than any THING man can establish. Love isn’t going anywhere, everything else is…even knowledge is passing away at some point. Does anyone really need to teach us what love is? There is a work in progress whereby God is revealing his love for you and within you so that you may be transformed into his image;and asking questions like the one you did would reveal that very thing is in progress even now, awesome!

      • hey mitch, i think you made exactly the same point i am making…it’s not that god cannot reveal himself as love through the bible, it’s that the bible is the source of most peoples’ confusion because they don’t approach it from that perspective. they approach it through the world view they have gotten from “church” which holds to a bipolar god whose justice regulates his love. therefore, when they read the bible through this lens, how they read it only reaffirms their worldview because they only see things as their worldview allows. do i see god as love revealed in everything? you bet i do. did i see god as love revealed in everything when my worldview came from “church”? i did not… my worldview had blinded me. this is my experience, and so i tend to trust my mind very little…my heart is what i pay attention to in order to see god revealed in this world. hope i have explained myself better…seems to be a problem with written text

  3. “If I’m mastering all that, and it doesn’t lead to a relationship with the God it speaks about…what’s the point? Yes, Brad i agree!!!
    I can not read the Bible at this place of my life – although I did for 20 years. It literally causes a visceral reaction of disdain, because it seems like all reading the Bible does for me right now, is tease me with this alleged reality, that seems like a fairy tale! I find greater peace not reading the Bible, and not trying to think about and pursue God. I am tired of trying to find Him like it’s a game of hide and seek; it leads to more disappointment and feeling ignored – the silence of god is yelling at me in mockery.
    I was talking the other day with a “christian atheist” who believes that the story of Jesus is one of the greatest love stories ever written, but he does not presently believe in the deity of Jesus. For the last 25 years I never thought I would seriously entertain this thought, but maybe this person is right. Although, I can not find any other love story greater than that of Jesus, it still only seems like a story.

  4. Brads last comment is gold!!

    “If we saw church as family, not an institution, we would naturally do this far better”

    When you talk of ‘family’, Brad, you must mean ‘healthy and well adjusted’ family…. I gather that both you and Wayne have mostly healthy and loving families.

    I came from both institution and disfunctional family, and that combination I believe is the biggest killer for a true and engaging relationship with Father!

    Im just so grateful that when Father ‘saved ‘ me out of religious institution, he also drew me into a journey of healing and growing in my own family and in Fathers family.

    I have cleaned the slate with how I see church etc, and began from the assumption that Father wants a healthy, adult friendship with his children. That’s it! No other iff’s, but’s and ‘what about this or that’!

    So far, everything I could ever have wished that traditional church could offer but didn’t, has come to be! Fellowship, love, friends, and an engagement with Father which actually is real! It’s just inside and invisible to others!

    Jim, I get totally what you feel about ‘is it actually real’ although I jumped off the train after only 15 years in the institution. Your journey will be different to mine, obviously, but try wiping your mind of every notion, doctrine or perception about what you were taught God is……

    What if he actually is a loving father in the way a loving, healthy, well adjusted father should be. How would he view his kids, his grandkids…. what if he doesn’t want to be ‘found’ but just wants to love you? What if all you ever wanted will actually happen, with him, if you stop trying, striving and just breathe? Just maybe believe that he is real and loving and will draw you in, when you stop striving!

    Father bless, brother!

    • Thanks, David. I have been out of religious institutions for at least 6 years now, and thought I had a hold of God as a loving Father. But I don’t know anymore. I think I had an academic understanding of god beyond institution and somehow intuitively knew that was the better place, but never really experienced it.
      I also came from dysfunction (mother married four times, father married three times and other stuff…). I am sure this ruined me to be able to experience and give love with another – including God, because I was so strained with fear and anxiety that someone else would leave. At this point in my life, I am convinced I am damaged goods and irredeemable. So if God is real, I don’t think I am even capable of experiencing Him as real.

      • I hear your deep pain Jim.

        I too was convinced that I was beyond hope. That my waywardness disqualified me from any hope of ever really “getting it”. I was out of forgiveness coupons and I might as well give up. I felt I had screwed up so bad that He was no longer interested in me, or so broken, that I was beyond His reach, unrepairable. I was so tired. I was at the end of myself. But before taking the plunge off the deep-end, I said to God: I am not able to do it anymore. If you are who you say you are, then I am willing to look to you one more time before making decisions that will destroy my life as I know it. But I just can’t try anymore so if You have something else for me, You are going to have to do it.

        Jim… He is real. He answered my prayer. In the absolute lowest, darkest most despairing point of my life. When I had given up on any possibility of being changed, of being redeemed.

        Corrie Ten Boom (The Hiding Place) wrote: No pit is so deep that He is not deeper still.

        While you may be convinced that you are damaged goods and unredeemable, I would like to tell you that this not true. Its a lie. You got tangled up and cannot get yourself out, but the Shepherd is looking for you. He is leaving the 99 to specifically come rescue YOU. He knows where you are. He will not forsake you. You are valuable. He is especially fond of you.

        What can you do? Just be honest with him about your fears and struggles. Ask Him to help you.
        Stop trying to get it right. The thorns and branches simply tighten around you as your struggle to figure out what to do and how to experience and give love. The Father is the one who does these things in us as we look to Him and rest in Him. He’s got this. Change in you is His responsibility.

        Have I got it all right today? Absolutely not. Significant struggles continue in my life. BUT… I have come to know that I am secure. I am loved. I feel solid and secure in Him, not because of what I did, but because He has done it… all of it. Over the last 17 years, it has been a slow, painful yet hopeful process discovering who the truth about who He really is. Still not done.

        Perhaps you feel disqualified because you have not done enough or that your failures are too big. Fact is… you and I will never do enough to earn His favour or His love. You simply have it already… even with your massive failures and all … past, present and future…

        Every morning I remember, and remind myself:
        His mercies are new every morning and great is His faithfulness.

        Lord, reveal to my brother Your deep deep, unfailing love.

        • John, I don’t know if it I am trying to earn His favor, or what it is that is going on in me. I feel so alone much of the time, and do not sense God’s presence anywhere. I sense the love and compassion of others – to my amazement considering where I was 2 years ago (walled off in fear)! Maybe that is God showing up through people, and maybe it is just people drawing from their own compassion and love…I really don’t know. I think I am at a place of giving up “my” beliefs so that maybe I can find, with out my own biases clouding reality, what is true. That is where I feel like I am at. I do not know what I believe anymore, and maybe in this journey I’ll find a path that leads to what is true – whatever that is.

          I have been as honest with God as i am aware of – at many times very raw and viscerally honest. I sometimes worry that my very candid honesty, and at other times apathy, will drive Him away; and unless I am daily repentant, and seeking, and asking, and showing Him that I want His presence…He will not show up. I’ve asked God to help so many times, I am tired of asking! I think what you said is probably true, “The Father is the one who does these things…Change in (me) is His responsibility.” Hopefully He can reach me in this place of darkness, because I do not have the willpower to just think positively enough and recite to myself bible verses until I make them stick – that just feels so fake.

          Thank you, John for your response!!! Your words sound like they come from a place that has tasted darkness and despair.

  5. I hear you Jim!

    I truly believe now, that broken and unhealthy families do more to distance us from Father than religion does, but it’s never talked about or recognized in religion, because that would be admitting that religion actually fosters unhealthy families.

    My hearts breaking for you brother!

    I was very blessed that Father caught me just when I was about to destroy my family, and has shown me about how he loves by nudging me into how to love my family. I’m still very broken and would love to be a much better Father and husband, and I have stressed and strived and got nowhere!

    This year I felt Father just wanted me to stop! Breathe! Stop striving, stop trying to be a better father and heal myself! ( I’m a self help junkie) just last week I felt the nudge to stop all my research and trying to figure out all the answers. I think he wants me to just live each day and try to be content with what is right now, and trust that he will be in the journey and that it will unfold in a way I like.

    Biggest problem for me is living for the future, not right now. I always miss out on what is right in front of me because I’m tryin to fix the future!

    Well if you feel you are irredeemable Jim, Father loves a challenge! ( not being at all demeaning of your situation) I can only speak from the hell he redeemed me out of ( hell inside me)
    I think it’s in one of Wayne’s engage videos, he says about just put the question out there! “If you are real and loving, please show me” and then just leave it!
    Father is the older adult in this relationship, I believe it’s his ‘job’ to draw us in… not the other way around!

    Anyway, not trying to fix you brother, I’m just very passionate about how Father can draw us in, despite of anything. Was a life changer for me.

    • Wanting me to stop and breathe and stop striving to find him and heal and stop being selfish and controlling and whatever else, may be where God is moving me too – like you, David. Sadly, unlike you I did destroy my family with my broken and controlling and fearful ways. I still have “old” fears and shame – maybe to a lesser degree; but now I have the new pains of a broken family; which is what I feared the most.

  6. Responding to Brads last comment in the podcast…

    “Family” IS an institution.

    There are good institutions, there are bad institutions, and there is everything in between.

    It will be difficult for Americanized Christians to grasp the truth of what Jersak is saying relative to positive hierarchy; we are overly individualized, to say the least, and very few have any significant experience or understanding of the Eastern Orthodox Tradition. Not everything is defined by the Evangelical Circus.

    • Hi Tom. The way Brad and I use the term institution in our podcasts is always in contrast with a family. Institutions run on very different premises than a healthy family does. While many institutions, especially religious ones, claim to be a family they don’t operate as one, putting relationships first, but make them secondary to whatever agenda or conformity demand benefits the institution. And of course there can be healthy institutions, too, but they are indeed rare.

        • The term relationship does apply when talking of a healthy family, or believers who interact solely as led by Father and the spirit nudges.
          The term institution applies when talking of unhealthy, authoritarian families, and groups of christians who gather under a name, or have rules or codes or creeds which everyone abides by.

          • The term relationship does apply when talking of a healthy family, or believers who interact solely as led by Father and the spirit nudges.
            The term institution applies when talking of unhealthy, authoritarian families, and groups of christians who gather under a name, or have rules or codes or creeds which everyone abides by.

            Those definitions strike me as extremely narrow and idiosyncratic. You have taken a sociological term and produced a pejorative.

          • I believe you may be right Tom, I apologise! I did not mean to produce a perjorative. I was indeed looking at a very narrow context of the use of relationship and institution, mainly a family unit versus a religious ( body, gathering, denomination, enclave )

            I agree that in the broader context, these terms can be much more widely utilised and employ a variety of applications.

            Besides, I do confess to having a background of both authorative family, and opressive religious institution, so I admit to having a very biased lens to look through there! To me both of these are a pejorative.

            Cheers Brother 😉

          • David, thanks for recognizing my perspective.

            I was also raised in an authoritarian ecclesial structure–the Churches of Christ (Stone-Campbell Restoration/Reformation Movement) and was part of that until my mid-40’s. Since then I’ve been something of an ecclesial mutt. At one point the problems of “church as ‘normal'” just became too much for what I thought any sane person to have to handle. At which point we and a small group of other individuals decided to meet in homes. Did this for 6-7 years. It had its good times and its bad times–and a lot of time that was just simply boring. Our goal was to be “family”, and we worked hard at it. However, just as the old saw about “you can take the slave out of Egypt, but…” the influence of “normal church” often worked its way out in our family setting.

            At this point in my life (sixth decade) I’m ambivalent about “church” in any form–though I do have more of an affinity to the older, more liturgical styles. Every person’s mileage will differ.

            Simply stated, an “institution” is created when people group together to achieve common goals. That’s a very broad and simplified definition, but one that is usually accepted by people who study/observe social situations. Any particular institution must be judged by its stated purpose in comparison to its actions and product. We all live in and surrounded by a multiplicity of institutions. Personally, I try to avoid the institution of “Religious Business Clubs”, but some I have found to be helpful and true to their purpose.

            I think one of the problems in present day European derived cultures is that we have such a long history of the “Church” that we’ve come to expect either too much or not enough of it. We’re in the middle of an ecclesial basement clean-out and a lot of stuff which were “givens” in the past are now up for grabs.

            I also think that “Evangelicalism” as we have known it up to the present is a bankrupt theological system and presently is in its death throes–which, like a shot bear, can make it extremely dangerous to approach. At least that’s my impression from the Bible Belt of NE Tennessee. People are naturally (for the most part) resistant to change so institutions are often used as a bulwark against the necessity of change and transformation.

            I find that much of the discussion at thegodjourney is rooted in the angst of Evangelicalism–and rightly so because most of us are perhaps “post-Evangelical”. On top of that, or should I say, below that, is often an “Americanism” with all of its assumptions/presumptions about how things are. (I note by your spelling and syntax that you’re probably UK or Australian, or perhaps a NZlander. And that’s groovy.) And given that I think it’s very difficult for people who have none to little knowledge or experience relative to Eastern Christianity to understand or to not react negatively to the article and topic by Brad Jerzak. Brad C’s reaction to the ideas of Hierarchy and Institution in the religious/faith realm is typical of those of us raised in the American Evangelical zone. That in and of itself is neither good or bad–it just is, and we do well to recognize it. Brad Jerzak is a Canadian–distinctly NOT like us politically and significantly different in certain sociological ways (my dad was Canadian, my wife is Canadian, half my family lives in Canada) and he is also of the Eastern Orthodox Tradition–and that alone would make him more strange than aliens from space to many of our “normal” ways of thinking. EOdoxy is a CULTURE that represents a significant contrast to our Evangelical culture in the US and UK derived societies. It often seems that when we try to talk “faith” with the EO it’s like we’re talking different languages–even though it sounds like English. The more narrow our definitions the more likely we won’t be able to talk to people who are different from us.

            Charis, brother.

          • Gday Tom

            You got me, I’m an Aussie! True Blue and all that!

            I love your wide view on life. I think I would like to understand where people are coming from a lot more. Lucky my personality likes research!

            You remind me a lot of my oldest brother, you wouldn’t be a first born would you? 🙂

            Down here down under, even in groups who have left traditional church life, still all seem to have some concept of ‘corporate’ body life, worship, and the like. We visit some of these groups from time to time, and while we enjoy the one on one time, we never leave any ‘organized’ event feeling that we were drawn more into relationship by the ‘corporate’ sections of these events.

            The best times have been spontaneous and spirit led, every time, usually one or two other families and it is always just right for the season we all are in. It might be deep discussion, food and light chatter, or even just sitting around a fire and singing because we can.

            What’s your view on ‘corporate’ body life, Tom?

          • David, yes, I’m a first-born. I hope you have a good relationship with your brother ;o)

            I don’t have a particularly positive or negative view/experience of “corporate body life”. I don’t expect the larger gathering to be intimate like a small gathering of friends (to state the obvious). As you have expressed, I find that generally the most personally impacting things happen in the small settings. “Events” as you describe just aren’t nor can they be like face-to-face interactions. I have experienced a broad spectrum of +/- in corporate body life–just as I’ve experienced a broad range of +/- in personal interactions and relationships. Sometimes I benefit from attending a Rite 1 Anglican/Episcopal Eucharist. Sometimes I just want to hang out with a friend or two. (I always avoid attending the Evangelical Circus event–totally off-putting to me personally at this point in my life even though that was the norm in the past.)

            Sometimes it’s a good idea to “institutionalize” to get some things done. For instance, where I come from it isn’t unusual for a broad spectrum of churches to cooperate city wide to address the problem of homelessness. So, in this case we see institutional churches combining resources with a specific goal in mind. Many who associate with Wayne and Brad via thegodjourney cooperate to materially assist a community in Kenya–this is a way of “institutionalizing” in order to do a specific task.

            But, I’ve departed from the definition given by Wayne and Brad for “institution”. I agree that it’s a fallacy to equate institutional dynamics with family dynamics–even though from a sociological perspective the family is an “institution”. From wikipedia;

            Institutions are “stable, valued, recurring patterns of behavior”.[1] As structures or mechanisms of social order, they govern the behaviour of a set of individuals within a given community. Institutions are identified with a social purpose, transcending individuals and intentions by mediating the rules that govern living behavior.[2]

            The term “institution” commonly applies to both informal institutions such as customs, or behavior patterns important to a society, and to particular formal institutions created by entities such as the government and public services. Primary or meta-institutions are institutions such as the family that are broad enough to encompass other institutions.

            Perhaps the key point is that institutions “transcend individuals and intentions”. Families are made up of individuals, yet “family” transcends any individual within the family. I would say that the same applies to “church”. Which is more important, the institution or the individual? From my individuality I would say that I’m more important. Yet, as an individual I’m very much the product of my family and the group religious identity in which I grew up.

  7. Matthew 16:1 NIV, The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested him by asking him to show them a sign from heaven.

    2 He replied, “When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’ 3 and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. 4 A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.” Jesus then left them and went away.

    5 When they went across the lake, the disciples forgot to take bread. 6 “Be careful,” Jesus said to them. “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”

    7 They discussed this among themselves and said, “It is because we didn’t bring any bread.”

    8 Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked, “You of little faith, why are you talking among yourselves about having no bread? 9 Do you still not understand? Don’t you remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets full you gathered? 10 Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many baskets full you gathered? 11 How is it you don’t understand that I was not talking to you about bread? But be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 12 Then they understood that he was not telling them to guard against the yeast used in bread, but against the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

    Verse 4 and verse 11 reveal something of the depth of Jesus’ outlook on life and it is that depth we must seek if we are to share his reality. I doubt Jesus was merely teaching them to only be wary of the teaching of the Pharisees as it says in verse 12, either. Here is my explanation. Verse 4 he calls the state of mankind both “wicked and adulterous”. But the greater error is in looking for a sign; measuring the value and authenticity of life by human based thinking and/or material standards. In the next series of verses he repeats his disdain for this. Only this time he includes the Pharisees and Sadducees in his observation. In other words, even those who consider themselves religious practice this same human based level of life valuation.

    Jesus’ labor in attempting to get his followers to see the value of reality as proceeding from God the Father to us was constantly thwarted by even his Apostles in their unshakable desire to see the Kingdom in material and human terms. It is no wonder that in the next series of verses as recorded in Matthew 17, “Jesus replied, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.’”

    Jesus is explaining the value of the revelation of God within a man. “On this rock”! Do we really think that Jesus would change is mind from what is revealed in the earlier passages, to this one? Here we have the basis for one of the great misunderstandings in Christianity. On what rock? Peter? Materially thinking Peter who after 3 years of association with Jesus still carried a sword and cut off a soldier’s ear? Really? No not really! Jesus didn’t change his whole approach to life suddenly. He didn’t hand the keys to the kingdom to a man. And though he did hand the keys to ALL MANKIND, what he most sincerely and seriously did was this. He handed the keys to EACH MAN. In doing so he revealed our own personal responsibility for our own personal relationship with Him. He simply stated that the rock is the rock of true faith, actually exchanging human thinking for spiritual thinking; personal spiritual experience between each individual human and the real God, his Father and ours. In doing this, he showed us that even Peter, who was spiritually dense as a post, was able to receive direct revelation from God.

    Once we know Jesus in this personal way, we know he would never have told Peter to go build a church institution. The authority of the church is this personal experiential relationship with God. It is this upon this living and interactive relationship with him that he will, in fact, build his church. He hasn’t finished yet. You see, building the church is your job and my job and it has nothing what-so-ever to do with an institution.

    So am I saying that the Apostles misunderstood Jesus’ words? Most certainly, repeatedly! Further, I am saying that by allowing ourselves to subjugate ourselves to the “authority of the church” we do the same. Are we bold enough to get out from under this yoke and actually stand on our own with the real God and say to the world, I know him? Excising the institution is only part one, embracing the reality of God in personal experience is part two. Scary huh?

    Institutions have functional authority, relationships have living responsibility. As family we are responsible for and to each other. As institutional subjects we have only to satisfy the boss. God is not our boss, he is our Father.

    • Responsible = the ability to respond: what makes us incapable is fear; and yet, love casts out fear. Even when we feel faithless he is not. Love will win each of us into his loving arms overtime and as we learn to yield to it… It doesn’t happen overnight does it? And each of us who have felt a thousand miles away he has loved unto himself., I got so tired of trying I didn’t anymore and a breathe of sweet freedom finally came at a time when I felt I too would die of desperation. The work is on God’s part not ours, ours is to simply BE. The church isn’t God’s agenda it’s his kinfolk. What Christ said he would build he will. Our heads have been so cluttered with paralyzing garbage and fear that we are frozen by it. But God’s love is the great thaw!

  8. Jim George wrote;

    Jesus’ labor in attempting to get his followers to see the value of reality as proceeding from God the Father to us was constantly thwarted by even his Apostles in their unshakable desire to see the Kingdom in material and human terms.


    We can only seek to understand that which we don’t know through that which we do know.

    The disciples were products of Second Temple Judaism. Most of us here are products of Evangelicalism which is a branch of Reformation Theology. There was/is very much a circus aspect in both cultures.

  9. Today, one of the TV networks claimed their news is REAL NEWS, probably in response to the prevalence of fake news. I listened again to comments made during this podcast.

    The knowledge of good and evil is a land of mind twists. It tends to make us believe that reality is made up of polar opposites: good/evil, right/wrong, win/lose, heaven/hell, true/false. The term ‘diabolical’ comes to mind. Competition, enemies, conflict, distinctions, categories, controls, disagreements, evaluations, mental illness – all these destructive forces stem from that knowledge. Then we assume that everything we experience can be categorized through that knowledge, including spiritual things, or even scripture.

    But the spiritual reality (tree of life) does not suffer from dichotomies like this. The God who is real is extremely one-sided in a very diverse way. God is LOVE, and all that is included in ‘love.’ God’s only concern is to impart LIFE to whatever exists, while removing every obstacle to that first concern. We don’t see this, because the knowledge of good and evil obstructs our understanding that LIFE itself is a spiritual reality. Jn 17:3 Jesus defines the tree of life for us: this is eternal life, that they may come to KNOW you, the one real God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

    Consider light. Ask anyone the opposite of light, and they will say ‘dark.’ We default to think in opposites. But dark is not the opposite of light. Dark is just a place where light is absent, or has not reached. Genesis calls it ‘void.’ The tree of life and the tree of knowledge are not opposites either. The knowledge of good and evil may be a place devoid of the reality of life itself, or devoid of knowing the one real God. Jesus said he came so that we might have life (as if we don’t). He refers to this void as ‘perishing.’ Paul calls it ‘alienated from the life of God.’

    Here’s the one that tripped me up for most of my life: REAL is the opposite of FAKE. I discovered that this is where Satan’s lies had been working overtime against me. I had been believing that I had a personal relationship with God – I even professed that in public. I believed it because I knew it wasn’t fake, so it must be real. Polar opposites had me convinced. Then one day God began to make himself real to me and I realized I had been deceived by the ‘almost real.’ So close to the truth, but not. The tactic doesn’t surprise me any more, since he also twisted scripture to tempt Jesus.

    We tend to think of the kingdom of God in opposites also, or that it is some kind of system. But the King is a shepherd; the Lord is the servant of all, that washes people’s feet. The kingdom is not a hierarchy. The kingdom is FLAT. A shepherd and sheep. A Father and children. There are no distinctions between sheep or children. There is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free man, neither male nor female, but Christ is ALL and IN ALL. And the kingdom is not of this world. I am considering myself saved from the knowledge of good and evil, which has set all creation toward destruction.

    As God becomes more real to me, as my heart hears his voice more, I come to realize that he operates in realities. The first one I recognized was a seed of TRUST planted in my heart. LIGHT is another one. TRUTH. KINGDOM. LIFE. The difficulty we have is that, because we can define these realities with words, we think we can understand them. But both the definition and the understanding exist in the realm of the knowledge of good and evil. When God makes these real to us, we see them in a totally new light, as spiritual realities. Listening to a sermon today, I was struck with the question, “do you mean ‘heaven the place’ or ‘heaven the reality?'” One is tree of knowledge, the other is tree of LIFE. (good question, not my idea)

    As I come to know God more personally and authentically, I realize that my relationship with scripture is changing also. But that’s another conversation for another day…

    • I think your observations are very astute. Especially your focus on the tree of knowledge versus the tree of life. Feasting on knowledge fattens the ego while feasting on life grows the soul. This is true even if the knowledge is of God. Knowing about something or someone is so flat compared with knowing someone (God) personally and it is the multidimensional reality apparent in an individual’s experience that reveals the true “knowledge of the holy”.

      • Thanks, Jim, for keeping the conversation going.

        I grew up in the third pew on the right and sunday school. We went to a church building to ‘learn about God’ and to worship Him, hoping He would show up. Sometimes He seemed to show up, but that event was rare. We all deeply believed that we had a relationship with God, and we encouraged each other in that. I was so convinced it was real that it bugged me when kids from school said, “your family is religious, right?” and I would reply with, “No, we have a personal relationship with Jesus.”

        The miracle of God making himself REAL to me began 50 years after my ‘conversion experience,’ when I ‘gave my heart to Jesus.’ I’m sure now that the greatest impediment to the REAL was the ALMOST REAL, and the group belief in the almost that goes along with it. What I thought was a personal relationship was not personal, nor was it a relationship. It turns out that, until God is REAL, I don’t even know what a relationship is, or that it is another spiritual reality that God establishes in my heart. (which makes it also personal) [Wayne has said, and I agree, that we are all ‘relationally challenged,’ like we think we are relating, but we’re not]

        Now that I’m feasting on the spiritual reality that IS KNOWING GOD (tree of Life), he establishes these same spiritual realities between me and other people, and even between me and myself. [Paul writes about this discovery of progression in Galatians 4] So now I realize I have a new, authentic relationship with myself, a new, authentic relationship with scripture, trust, truth, __________________(put any spiritual reality in the blank).

        I appreciate your use of the term ‘multidimensional reality,’ because that’s truly what it is. My ‘knowing God’ and yours are not going to match, because we are different people and in different places in the knowing journey, but both our experiences fall within the multidimensionality that IS GOD. I’m still totally fascinated by the story of how God got me here, and even more intrigued by the stories of others. It is very exciting to watch the news and recognize God’s engagement with the person being interviewed! Apparently God can and will make himself real to whomever he wants! Should I be surprised that this always happens outside of the ‘group belief’ I was trapped in?

  10. All these references to “multidimensionality” brings to my mind the phrase in Ephesians,
    “10 So now through the church the multifaceted wisdom of God [in all its countless aspects] might now be made known [revealing the mystery] to the [angelic] rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.”
    That word, “multifaceted,” keeps coming up at me because I think that only the whole church can reflect the wisdom of God and I can only add my little facet of experience.

    • The true knowledge of God’s mystery is Christ Himself, in whom are hidden ALL the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. [Col 2:3]

      And to your verse: the multifaceted wisdom of God is UNknown to rulers and authorities in the heavenly places until it is revealed by God through human beings (the church). It is NOT revealed to heavenly rulers and authorities! They get it second-hand through us humans!

      Seems to me there’s more than enough “multidimensionality” there to keep me awestruck every single day well into eternity… Now that God’s reality has blown my god-box into tiny bits, I can’t understand why or how I built that box in the first place. Why would anyone WANT to limit the UN-limited? Loss of control and certainty, perhaps?

      As I ponder the cross and the resurrection, I’m coming to realize that a totally new spiritual reality was created during that three days (very much like the creation of the world in a week), but this reality never existed before, except maybe in the mind of God. It is a reality created only for human beings, that we are ‘born’ into (not created into), and Jesus is the first human born into it…. perhaps the epitome of multidimensional reality?

  11. And if we allow his mind to be in us as our desired substance, goal and process aren’t we merely opening up our minds to the true potentials inherent in reality? To ponder the fact that my best and brightest ideas of God both come from him and are woefully inadequate to properly conceive of him, I realize I must practice the art of non-attachment to my ideas while I keep a real focus on my ideals. In other words, my best idea of God always falls short of his reality so my embrace of my ideas as a stable base for my concepts of growth is more truly a detriment to my growth. Yes, this is a criticism of doctrines of belief. They tie us to man conceived ideas about God or better, mankind’s misunderstandings of God’s communications, and often require great effort in disconnecting ourselves to set us truly free to explore. Those kinds of dimensions are real too. I maintain that we have only just begun to imagine the true reality of our potential experiences and like trusting, excited, willing children we must embrace his infinite love for us.

    • The most liberating part of God becoming real to me was the realization that the knowledge of good and evil had me stuck in the prison of my own mind. My whole existence had been trying to extract life from that mind pit. (which is even deeper if you believe you are intelligent) I had my imagination fabricating a god, protection mechanisms, justifications, appearances, survival strategies, good works, a multi-faced persona, acceptable addictions, etc., all of which had become intertwined with ‘the law,’ morals, doctrine, etc., over time. My self-talk had become polarized and adversarial, so I learned to quiet one side or the other. If I was hurt, my mind went into hyperactive overdrive, manifesting anger or some other base reaction that I was not proud of. Then I would ‘fix’ the part that had been exposed to the public, and then avoid being hurt, at all cost. I was desperately trying to survive life using the only tools I knew: those I had fashioned in my severely tangled mind.

      Yet, I had no awareness of any of this until God began to make himself REAL to me; not to my mind, but to my HEART. For me, he made me able to HEAR, through all my clutter and noise, with my HEART. These ‘hearings’ have increased in frequency throughout my life; decades apart, then years, months, weeks, days. The hearings differ in magnitude. Some are blow-me-away realizations (like the previous paragraph), some are just ‘inklings’ that I write down so I don’t forget them. Now, I hear something pretty much every day. Hearing with my heart has become my lifeline – literally. This is what ‘knowing God’ has come to mean to me. [Mt 4:4]

      My vocabulary has had to change, also. My favorite word is “REALization,” for obvious reasons. My heart processes input (notice I didn’t say information) in a very different way than my mind does. There are far fewer impediments in my heart pathways than in my mind – my mind is in transformation phase, though my heart is new. [Ezekiel 36] Heart certainty is very different from mind certainty. My heart is not compelled to interpret or understand or act. My heart knows that the real God of the universe has got my back. (and also has the back of all my loved ones) His reality will continue to unfold in my heart for eternity…

  12. Craigslist your switch to “hearing” God is curious. What was the impetus for this? I notice that many say they want to communate with God but few actually have the faith and courage to say it happens and is real.

    Your explanation so far sounds so similar to mine, I had to check to see if I wrote it. Ha, ha.

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