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Rejecting Religion – Embracing Grace December 28, 2010


“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.”
– Matthew 23:13


I’d read somewhere that “Rejecting Religion – Embracing Grace” was the best Greg Albrecht book to date.
This is the 5th one that I’ve read, and I would have to wholeheartedly agree.

I think my previous favorite was “Revelation Revolution: The Overlooked Message of the Apocalypse.”
I’ve gained from each book read, but this newest outing is certainly the “meatiest.”

This book does suffer from some of the same drawbacks as the earlier writings, but they’re minor in relationship to the insight gained. I may be somewhat prejudice, since I communicate with Greg, happily support his wonderful ministry, and have written for PTM publications, online and in print. Still, I think I’ve remained predominately objective 😉

This book is very valuable. There are personal stories, as well as seriously researched information.
The whole thing is pretty much an expose of the 23rd chapter of Matthew, where Jesus “tears into” the religious leaders of the day.

For me, it took the first three chapters to really set the stage. Then, POW! Chapter four, “The Hell of It All,” is well worth the price of the book. If I would have gained nothing from the rest of the book (which, of course, I did) it would have been worth it all just for this chapter. By looking at the scriptures and external historical evidence, this chapter shows how badly religion has distorted the very nature of God.
(I’m currently reading another book that covers the subject in even more detail: “The Last Word, And The Word After That” by Brian McLaren.)

The remainder of the book continues the study of this section of Matthew, concluding with a chapter appropriately titled “Embracing Grace,” which is the second of my two favorite chapters. In this chapter, I found the best commentary on “Well done, good and faithful servant” that I’ve ever read or heard anywhere! One that’s actually in sync with the nature of Father.

I will be re-reading much of this book. I hope you will be reading it, too.

Oh, and by the way, I’m actually IN this book. Not physically, of course. But when Mr. Albrecht refers to his “friend from Indiana,” that’s me!
– df

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Buy the book. Click HERE.

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From the PTM ad:

Join Greg Albrecht as he examines what Jesus has to say about the kingdom of religion, through an eye-opening study of Jesus’ sermon in Matthew 23. Jesus uses words like woe, hypocrites, blind, greedy, self-indulgent, unclean, desolate, hell and snakes to describe the religious industry, its professionals and the consequences it brings into the lives of those it “serves.” But the kingdom of heaven, in stark contrast to the oppressive kingdom of religion, is a spiritual dimension of freedom and peace. Rejecting Religion—Embracing Grace affirms the ultimate victory of God’s grace—even as the relentless waves of his grace will eventually erode and cover the shifting sands of religion like the waters cover the sea.
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And, of course, some QUOTES:

The gospel of the kingdom of God is an announcement that the time has come for religion to go out of business.

To speak of the kingdom of heaven biblically is not to speak of a far away place that you merely go to when you die. In Scripture, it is God’s present relational reality and realm, present now even as he is present forever.

The Kingdom of religion appeals to human vanity…Human performance is the common denominator upon which all religious cons base their empty claims and promises.

Ironic, isn’t it? Christ-less religion places a great deal of emphasis on how it can help you stay out of hell, but Jesus says that religious professionals are actually luring you into hell.
Notice Jesus says that the teachers of the law and Pharisees are already children of hell.

God includes those whom the temple authorities had banned.

Some within Christendom have made the Bible itself into an idol!
The Bible never refers to itself as “the Word of God.”

Intense preoccupation with externals leads to a fascination with trivialities which in turn drives us to hypocrisy.

Hypocritical legalism often leads those it enslaves to police others, in a vain attempt to ensure that no one gets away with anything. Christ-less religion is characterized by zealous attempts to guarantee that everyone gets what they deserve.

Everything Jesus said and did reveals a loving God, rather than the agitated, punitive god pushed by religion.

Hell hath no fury like religion when it is exposed! Religious violence in an inevitable product of Christ-less, fundamentalist, legalistic religion, followed to its most logical and extreme conclusion.

Everything God says and does springs out of love — for love is his fundamental, core essence.

If a voice in your head is telling you that God is not at peace with you, you can bet your bottom dollar that voice is not the voice of God.

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Buy the book. Click HERE.

 

No Dancing Allowed! December 13, 2010


Today, for some reason, I was thinking about when Taylor University was still in town. For those outside of the area (Fort Wayne), Taylor was a “Christian College.” It became a satellite of Taylor University in Upland Indiana. Prior to it’s association with Taylor, the Fort Wayne campus was known as Summit Christian College, and before that, Fort Wayne Bible College. There were, I understand, a couple of other names before that.

Like many religious institutions, Taylor had various rules against “worldliness.”
One of the things not allowed at Taylor was dancing.

Enter modern curriculum.

Someone decided that Taylor should offer aerobic dance classes. OK, aerobics certainly provide a valid benefit, but how can an institution that has taken a strong stance against dancing offer such a class?

So, they did what religion always does. They did the kind of thing that always put the Pharisees on Jesus’ “bad side.” They did the exact same thing they condemned others for doing, BUT they called it something else. They changed the name of dancing to “rhythmic movement.”
Instead of a “dance” class, they offered a Rhythmic Movement class!

No people, I’m not joking. As ridiculous as it sounds, that’s exactly what they did.
This is religion in it’s purest, disgusting form. This hypocrisy is the unavoidable outcome of religious legalism.
I’ve seen it time and time again. I still see it. And it seems to totally blind those who engage in it.

I don’t know why this came back to my mind today. I find it laugh-out-loud funny, and frightfully terrible.
I just wanted to share this example while it was on my mind. I’ve written before about the subject in longer blogs.
If you’ve not read any of them, here’s one you might check out:

“Smoking, Sex, and Dung”

 

She’s Free. Her Friends Aren’t Happy. December 4, 2010


I got a call from a dear saint I’ve know for years. For some degree of privacy, we’ll call her “Jane.”

Jane’s been struggling, also for years, in religious bondage, fear, and worry. We’ve had a number of talks throughout our friendship. She watched and listened as the journey my wife and I were on led us to new depths of freedom in the Lord. There was a longing in her eyes. Our words rang very true, but she couldn’t seem to find that place she longed for.

Recently, she found it.

Jane came over a number of weeks ago to talk with us. We re-emphasized many of the truths we had shared before. My wife made some observations that were hard for Jane to take, but she knew they were true. She knew things had to change.
Still struggling, she had decided she was going to leave the institution she was currently attending.
She had close ties there, and didn’t want to just walking away without talking with one of her closest friends.

She called her friend, and asked if they could go out to breakfast soon, so they could chat. Her dear friend of many years said, “I don’t think so.” Jane kind of chuckled, knowing it must be a joke, and asked again. “I don’t think so” was, again, the response.

When I left the institution, I had relationships I tried very hard to retain. One in particular. That gentleman, whom I still love deeply, simply doesn’t want to keep that relationship. Like Jane’s friend, this once-loving, dear brother saw leaving the institution as leaving the friendship.


How sad is that?


If that doesn’t show the power of the perverse grip of religion, I don’t know what does.

Jane’s friend knew of her struggles. But rather than rejoicing in Jane’s new found joy of the Lord, she
couldn’t see past her dedication to her religious institution.

These people aren’t intentionally evil. The power of religion that enslaves them, however, is!
Like the Pharisees and religious leaders of Jesus’ day, they hate and fear the freedom of God.
They talk a good talk, but truly never understand the “scandal of grace.”


I’m glad Jane called me, knowing she would have someone to share her joy. It has renewed my commitment to continue to stand against oppressive religion, legalism, and much of fundamentalist evangelicalism. If there is an anti-Christ spirit alive today, it is, as Carol Harper has said, the thing we call “Christianity.”

Today, I rejoice with my sister, while sharing the sadness of friendships lost. Her friend told her the exact same thing mine told me: “It will never be the same between us.” Sadly, that is true only because they make it so.

On the up-side, the “good news” for Jane is finally good news. She has felt a heavy burden lifted. She is entering a new rest, and a truer understanding of grace.

Praise be to the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

What The Hell? December 2, 2010

Some Quotes from Bert Gary’s Blog:

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Hell is number one in the playbook for much of modern evangelism. I’ve made clear (in the linked article), the words Sheol, Hades, Gehenna, and Tartarus have been but should not have been translated into English as “hell” in the first place. No biblical mention of Sheol, Hades, Gehenna, or Tartarus is in reference to the afterlife.

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It’s not appreciated the extent to which Jesus used poetic pictures in his teaching. Let me demonstrate by showing you Jesus’ best known quotes about [hell].

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Gehenna—geenna {pronounced gheh’-en-nah}—occurs only a dozen times in the New Testament. The term is a Greek transliteration of the Hebrew words ge hinnom meaning the “Valley of Hinnom,” or ge bene hinnom meaning “the valley of the sons of Hinnom.” (ISBE) Yes, it’s a real valley. It’s downhill from the southern wall of the Old City of Jerusalem. I’ve been there many times. I’ve explored its length. The valley was notorious for two things:
First…

[You’ll want to read ALL of this article! Click:  Bert’s Blog.]

 

 
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