Why I Believe Jesus Spoke In Parables?

Outsiders GuideI believe Jesus spoke in parables because what he wanted most was for people to start thinking. It wasn’t about just proclaiming information that could be accepted ‘by faith’. Rather, he spoke in a way that forced people to really think about what he might possibly mean, and they needed to think quite a lot before they could even get to the point to believe it ‘by faith.’

In a world full of preachers proclaiming information about God, or information about the covenant, or information about how God relates to us, Jesus was different. He didn’t even make his message clear. He spoke in parables, in pictures, and none of them had a quick and easy explanation.

In the gospels, Jesus called people to follow him, just as he calls us today, but it is significant to note that he did not indoctrinate any of them. He did not sit them down and force them to understand his theology, to repeat it endlessly so they had it memorized and could then force it upon others.

While he did teach them, it was mostly through creating word pictures in the form of parables, it was through captivating their imagination and their hearts with questions, but he did not enforce them to have the answers he himself knew. That was a significant part of freedom Jesus seemed to respect: The freedom to seek our own understanding so when we have it we will know it really is what we believe and not just what others have told us we must blindly believe.

I guess Jesus knew it was not the accepting of information that was important, but rather the actual act of thinking that was important. For when we think, we engage our spiritual life in a personal way. When we think things through, then our conclusions belong to us fully. When we think, only then do we truly begin to believe, for only then do our beliefs truly become our own.

This was an excerpt from my forthcoming book, out Aug 26: An Outsider’s Guide to the Gospel.

A Greater Peace within all You Don’t Know

Outsiders GuideThe further away you travel from religion and the know-it-all mindset you inherit with it, the more freedom you find in asking questions about your faith. You no longer feel obligated to pledge undivided allegiance to your doctrines. You become pleased to put them on trial, to examine then, and to discard them if they are found to be without substance.

You begin to enjoy the engagement of such questions with others; whether they agree or disagree is no longer the point. The point is to have an honest, respectful and open conversation. You get used to being uncomfortable with new questions. More than that, you begin to expect them to arise and for your next rabbit-hole experience to begin where you follow questions wherever they take you, and discover truth in strange and wonderful ways.

Religion’s starting point is answers. When you enter into it you are stuffed full, and over time you get into the habit of stuffing newcomers with the same answers. But walking away from religion, while maintaining your faith, sends you on a very different path. You step into a wildly different pattern.

It is no longer a starting point of answers, but continual journey of questions. Each question draws you into a greater understanding of God. Also, at the same time, each questions leads you into a deeper acceptance of the mystery of God, and a greater peace within all that you don’t know.

This was an excerpt from my forthcoming book, out Aug 26: An Outsider’s Guide to the Gospel.

Jesus Didn’t Teach with Answers, He Taught with Questions

Outsiders GuideJesus talked a lot in parables, in little short stories. He also seemed to be more interested in questions then answers. When people asked Jesus a question, often he gave them a question back. In fact, he hardly ever gave a direct answer to anything. Even his big statements about himself such as: ‘I am the bread of life’ required people to go away and work out for themselves what it possibly meant.

Jesus didn’t teach with answers, he taught with questions; he taught in parables that required the hearer to go away and figure out the answer for themselves. I think that is a really significant thing to understand regarding how we learn from God. It’s not about waiting for answers, but, rather, we learn by daring to follow the questions God stirs in our hearts.

From the earliest times of the human experience, religion was steadfast in presenting God to mankind in the form of as an exclamation point; when Christ entered the world, he bent the presentation of God into a question mark. Jesus loved questions. We should, too.

Jesus didn’t try to enforce upon us a doctrinal statement. He didn’t come to indoctrinate us. He came to liberate us. He came to encourage us to ask what we truly think about God. He presented parables to get us to stop and think, to question our own perception of God, to draw us into questioning what our own beliefs about God’s nature and plans are.

Jesus showed us that not only is it okay to question who God is—what his nature is, how he operates, and how he thinks of us—it is actually the only way to truly step out of the prison of Belief-by-Indoctrination that religion binds us to.

This was an excerpt from my forthcoming book, out Aug 26: An Outsider’s Guide to the Gospel.
(Want to help out a little with the book launch? You’re invited to join this facebook group here)

What Does a Personal Relationship with God Look Like?

Outsiders GuideSo what does a personal relationship with God feel like? It feels personal, that’s what. It’s a relationship that you and God experience and understand. It’s not a corporate relationship.

Yes, many others also have a personal relationship, and that’s a beautiful thing, just as connecting with other believers is a beautiful experience, but I don’t expect their relationship to God to be a cookie cutter of mine. Vocabulary that describes my faith and belief is—and I think should be—different. The way I connect with my divine Father naturally varies to others.

The thoughts and questions that God stirs my heart with—and the answers I find—are never going to be the same as everyone else, because my relationship with God is personal.

Contrary to this is religion. Religion creates a corporate identity. When we buy into religion we end up speaking, sounding, even looking like everyone else within that corporate branded identity. Same thoughts. Same beliefs. Same well-defined doctrines—and if you step out of line and have questions that don’t fit that corporate identity, chances are you might be silenced, or even booted out.

Well, you know, I don’t mind if I don’t fit the corporate identity of Christianity, nor do I seek membership. I’m happy to have a relationship that is unique with my creator. I’m thankful the Spirit of God is leading my life, and showing me more each day how to let go of religious ambitions, and simply live the life of love he’s always been inspiring me to live. To walk freely in each day, with an open mind to learn new things, and a open heart to connect with others gracefully and genuinely.

To live. To love. To celebrate the gift of life with others, and to enjoy the personal relationship with God I’ve been graced to have.

This was an excerpt from my forthcoming book, out Aug 26: An Outsider’s Guide to the Gospel.
(Want to help out a little with the book launch? You’re invited to join this facebook group here)

Jesus and the Revelation that we are One

Outsiders GuideJesus revealed a divine truth about God. He is on the side of the excluded. Jesus identified with those whom the exclusive groups within the world rejected. He didn’t identify with the poor simply because they were poor; rather, he connected with them because the were being excluded due to their poverty. Jesus connected with those who had been rejected by other groups.

Truth be told, Jesus is the ultimate outsider of all groups and labels—he does not stand on the side of the rich or the poor, of men or of women, of black or of white—he is on the outside of all these separate groups, and it is outside of them we are welcomed, no matter where we stand on the world’s social ladder, to make our home and discover our true identity with him. It is on the outside we begin to see each other no longer as different, as better or worse, but as family. As brothers and sisters. As one.

Jesus didn’t come to build his own little group, he came to bring us into a place where there are no groups. A place where we let go of the labels of the world. He did not come to create an army. On the contrary, he came to implant a truth so deep within the human heart it would have the power to end all armies.

God is Love. He has no tribe, no army. Rather, he has the world in its entirety in his hands. A humanity as a whole that he loves. Jesus came to break the belief in tribes (at the time, not unlike our current times, every nation, most notably his own, believed their God was exclusively theirs and theirs alone) to bring us into the truth of Oneness.

He revealed that our reflection is not just the person in the mirror, it is the person across from us. Across from our political beliefs. Across from our religious beliefs. Across from our social status. Across from our suffering or our blessings. Across from the color of our skin. He removed the belief in camps and groups, in the lifestyle of separation and exclusion.

Jesus revealed how all the reasons we conclude make us different (and therefore, in our minds, justifies separating ourselves from others) only blinds us from the truth.
We are not different. We are more than the same.
We are one.

This was an excerpt from my forthcoming book, out Aug 26: An Outsider’s Guide to the Gospel.
It is the follow up to my novel SNAP: Everyone has a Breaking Point
(Want to help out a little with the book launch? You’re invited to join this facebook group here)

Jesus, Friend of the Outsiders

Outsiders GuideFrom the world’s perspective, there will always be people pushed outside the accepted circle; there will always be people branded as outsiders. Jesus was intuitively aware of this, for he experienced it first-hand.

When Jesus entered the world, he was born—in society’s eyes—an illegitimate child. The son of an adulteress. He was born in the equivalent of a side alley dumpster. In the first few years of his life, he was harassed and hounded as a menace to his own nation and was hunted down to be slaughtered, keeping his family constantly in hiding, refugees, in other nations. He was born in poverty and disgrace, and returned there to grow up in the slums, known as Galilee, where the lower class lived with their embarrassing accents and tattered clothing.

Jesus could relate to those labeled as outsiders, because he was one. He could relate with those who had a tarnished reputation because he grew up with one. He could identify with the misfortunate and poor, because he had known of it his whole life.

But he did more than just grow up. He came to stand up for all who were looked down upon. He came to stand up for all who were pointed out by society and the religious as unworthy, unclean and unacceptable.

Jesus did more than just save the world, he showed all the outcasts of the world that he stands with them— right here, right now.

He showed those whom were mistreated, misunderstood and misrepresented that he will stand between them and the religious folk with their stones and exclusive theology they use to beat and condemn; he showed us he would go so far as to take the beating of the stones in place of the outcast—if any dared to still throw them.

On the outside, where those who are part of the ‘in’ groups never desire to venture, is where Christ makes his home and from there he calls out to all, “Come, follow me, this is the way to life”.

This was an excerpt from my forthcoming book, out Aug 26: An Outsider’s Guide to the Gospel.
(Want to help out a little with the book launch? You’re invited to join this facebook group here)

Jesus, The Outsider

Outsiders GuideWhen Jesus turned up to start his public ministry, he did things differently. He didn’t schmooze with the politically connected and wealthy, nor did he get cozy with the ruling religious class in the hope of gaining support and influence. He didn’t obsess over his own imagine in the hope of presenting himself as picture-perfect, with picture-perfect followers and admirers. Instead, he identified with those with no image in the eyes of the ruling class. He picked a bunch of teenagers and a few young men from the poorest, most mocked part of the country, and even threw in a tax collector that the whole nation despised.

He openly befriended women, even the most despised in the eyes of his own nation, Samaritan women, and prostitutes of ill repute. He drank alcohol liberally with those society looked down upon, much too liberally for the religious folks of the day, causing him to be branded a ‘glutton and a drunkard’.

He publicly exalted the women who followed him, at times pointing out how they understood the truth about God while both the Pharisees and his own male disciples failed to grasp the reality of his ministry and the true character of God.

But he did more than just identify with those whom society so easily cast into its shadows. He came to stand up to all the religious bullies standing behind their pulpits and holy robes, obsessed with twisting the God of love into some kind of split-personality mental case.

He went on record, talking openly while making his claims, that God does not consider it acceptable behavior for anyone to harass, suppress and abuse people because they hold a position inside a religious institution or have some kind of religious title before their name.

He came to be a light for all who were living in the darkness of the abusive and manipulative tactics of those in powerful positions in religious institutions. To the everyday person, he offered: “Come follow me, for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” But to the religious leaders he declared: “And you experts in the Bible, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.”

The only thing that got Jesus mad, from what we see in the account of his ministry, is thinking one can judge and condemn others and place a heavy burden upon them due to a belief that they are some kind of divine mediator for God on earth.

In the gospel accounts we see that Jesus’ finger was not pointed at those with moral sins. The only time Jesus pointed his finger in judgment was when it was pointed at the religious, hardened in heart by their pious pride, who made it their self-appointed duty to look down upon, correct and condemn others.

In every way, Jesus went against the grain of the strongly established social, cultural and religious prejudices. And in doing so he broke this awful yoke off the neck of all who wanted to be set free from it. The yoke of the social, cultural and religious falsehood that measures people unjustly, that pushes people down, that keeps rank, that keeps count. That separates. That rejects. That oppresses. That disqualifies.

He consistently stood on the side of those society looked down upon, and lifted them up. Time and time again he showed those who were exalted in society—by wealth, title, sex, or nationality—that the very people they pitied were in fact the very ones greatly blessed. Yes, blessed, for while they may have been looked down upon by men, they were not looked down upon by God. Rather, they were as equal as everyone else in God’s eyes.

Jesus showed us all by his life—and also by his death—that there are no outcasts or outsiders in God’s eyes. There is no unclean. There is no lesser sex. There is no lesser color. There is no lesser race. There is no lesser human being.

An excerpt from my forthcoming book, out Aug 26: An Outsider’s Guide to the Gospel.
(Want to help out a little with the book launch? You’re invited to join this facebook group here)
(Also, when you join my mailing list you get a free audio book. Details at the top of the sidebar)

An Outsider’s Guide to the Gospel

Outsiders GuideGood news everyone: The 26th of August is the official release date of my latest book: An Outsider’s Guide to the Gospel. This book is an important one for me personally, and I believe will be a worthy read for all you, too. It’s huge for me because it doesn’t hold back any punches on exactly what I think of Jesus, walking the path of faith, the here and now reality of the gospel and the salvation of whom, when, why, and how. I believe I can honestly give this book to someone and say: “Here, this is everything I believe about the gospel.”

It is the follow up to my novel SNAP, and although is completely aligned with my own beliefs, it is written from the perspective of Frank, the preacher’s son who no longer participates in the institutional church, and, after three years, has come to terms with how he understands his faith, and subsequently lays it all out there for all to read.

Something I can promise you about An Outsider’s Guide to the Gospel is this: it is full of original thought. Whether you agree or not I leave up to you, but my promise is it is a thought provoking book, a positive book that expresses the gospel in a way that is hardly heard from any pulpit. A book that explores, in depth, the reality of love as the central theme of the gospel. It is honest. It is real. It is a culmination of about ten years of thought on the subject, and the conclusions I’ve come to have not been reached by reading them in other books, but rather, I’ve reached my conclusions through my own research, contemplation, and honest exploration of my faith.

Every weekday for the next six weeks, leading up to the launch of the book, I am going to be posting excerpts from the book, so bookmark this blog and check in regularly. You won’t be disappointed.

If you sign up to my mailing list, you’ll not only get an email letting you know when the book is released, you’ll also get a free audio book version of my book: God’s Grace Apart From Law.
Just add your email below to get your free gift. Enjoy.

If you want, you can take a moment to join a new facebook group I have set up specifically for people who want to stay updated and learn how they can help me out during the book launch (party!). Join here and stay tuned for more details.

I hope you’ll join me in being excited about this book release. Stay tuned!

Who else but Jesus?

What Does It Mean To Abide In Jesus?

As Jesus sat with his disciples eating, what would be his last meal with them before his crucifixion, he began to speak about the importance for the disciples to ‘remain in him‘, repeating himself several times, and explaining that it was through, and only through, remaining in him that they would bear the fruit of the Spirit in their life.

But what does it mean to abide in Jesus?

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.” John 15:9

After talking about remaining his him several times, Jesus extends his sentence to give it a fuller, and clearer meaning. He says: “Now remain in my love

Jesus first explained to his disciples how much his heavenly Father loved him, testifying how he accepted and embraced this love reality, and then went on to explain that this is what enabled him to love them.

From a big, eternal perspective, Jesus fills the whole universe; everything was created through him. He is undoubtedly powerful in his supreme and eternal reality; however, while Jesus walked the earth he had stripped himself of all that glory, humbling himself to come to earth in the image of man. In the body of man. In the limitations and weaknesses of man.

He was limited to the same weaknesses and challenges we all have in these jars of clay, yet he loved us all so genuinely and passionately, and he loved all the way to the cross. But, living with the same limitations we also are burdened with in these earthen vessels, the question is: How did he do it? How did he love us so much?

The answer is that he did it by abiding in the love of his Father. Jesus demonstrated the divine power found in a life that rests in the truth of God’s love for them, and he encourages all of us that we can experience the same. Not by striving in our own strength, but through abiding in his love.

Resting in the truth of God’s unconditional love for you is the power of God to outwork his love through you into the world around you. This is what it means to remain in Jesus. He loves us just as the Father loved him while he walked the earth. We can walk with the same assurance we are perfectly loved and accepted as he did as he walked the earth. It is by remaining in the reality of Christ’s love for you, that allows God to freely let the fruit of the Spirit flourish in your life.

Everyone, in their mind, embraces the idea of being a loving person, but it is the out working of that belief in a way that bears fruit this is often the challenge. Jesus reveals both the problem and the solution to us. The problem is that we simply can’t love out of our own limited source of love. The solution is God has given us an unlimited source of love as a home to live in. In Christ. In Christ’s love. To truly love in a way that bears the fruit of heaven we need to remain in the abounding love of Christ, and allow that source of love to overflow through us into the lives around us.

Abide in Jesus’ love. Enjoy it. Rejoice in it. Jesus actually told us it is through resting in his love and embracing this glorious reality that your joy will be complete. You are completely, unconditionally, and gloriously loved by your Lord and Savior – what can make us more joyful than resting in that great reality? And so, abide in him; enjoy his love for you, and allow him the joy of loving others through you, to the glory of God.

“I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” John 15:11

Advice For A Friend

Caught In A Storm – Advice For A Friend

A man was hiking over the beautiful snowy Alps, along the way a violent storm suddenly appeared and the man had no chance to take shelter, he was trapped right in the eye of the storm. The snow storm was so intense that he could not see a thing; he could not even see his hand in front of his face. In desperation he tried to use his mobile phone, and to his amazement he could still get phone reception to make a phone call. He called a close friend, he did not know what his friend could possible do for him, but in hope he called anyway.

His friend, reading one of his favourite books in front of the open fire and his lovely wife preparing dinner for him, picked up the phone. On the other end of the phone he listened to his friend share his emotions, his fear and confusion, he was walking aimlessly in the worst storm he has ever been caught in, and he had no idea how he would make his way through it.

“Just walk east!” his friend yelled down the phone. “Just walk east! If you just walk east you will easily get out of the storm!”

However, the friend in the storm could not see a thing, only a blur, he was confused, he was already aware that if he walked east he would find shelter from the storm, he wasn’t arguing that. His problem was he had no idea which way east was. He could not see anything! He was completely incapable of doing anything to get himself out of the storm.

He tried to explain this to his friend, but his friend just keep yelling to him ‘just walk east!’ His friend, warm and comfortable at home, could not understand why his friend could not do this one simple thing ‘Just walk east!’

Meanwhile his friend was still stuck in a situation he was incapable of changing. He tried to explain that he was not arguing that walking east is what he should do; his problem was he did not know how to walk east. Which way was east? West? North? South? He was trapped, nothing was in his control, he did not know what to do, and his friends advise, although well-meaning, was only creating more fear in his heart.

“Just walk east! Stop making excuses and just start walking east and you will find shelter from the storm.” His friend yelled again, getting more frustrated. Eventually, his friend hung up the phone and thought to himself: ‘You can’t help someone who won’t help themselves’. Warm and safe in his lovely home, his friend picked his book back up and continued to enjoy his evening.

Meanwhile his friend was left in the storm. He was lonely, fearful, and hopeless. He continued to wonder, and the storm just kept getting worst. He felt so depressed, so misunderstood, so lost. In desperation he decided to try to call another friend, what could his other friend do for him? He did not know, but in hope he called.

As his friend picked up the phone the man began to retell his situation; he cried, he was broken, he was trapped in the storm, he could not do anything, he could not escape or find shelter.

“Remember you are not alone” his friend yelled down the phone. “What ever you do don’t forget you are not alone!”

The man stood in the storm, the tried to understand what his friend was trying to tell him, what did he mean? His friend continued in desperation to remind him that he was not alone. “What do you mean I’m not alone?” his friend cried? “I’m completely alone. I’m in a storm and I have no power to change anything and I’m incapable of finding my way out.”

The whole time he spoke to his friend, never once did his friend try to give him instructions on how he could get out of the storm in his own strength, his friend just keep reminding him he was not alone. Again the man asked his friend “What do you mean I’m not alone?”

“Remember when you started the journey across the mountains” his friend said, “Do you remember when the weather was beautiful and calm?” His friend thought back, yes he remembered! “Do you remember you did not start this journey on your own?” Again his friend thought back, yes he remembered! He remembered that he started the journey with a guide, a seasoned mountain guide. He started the journey with a professional guide who knew every corner of the mountain, who had guided other climbers through storms even worst than the one he was trapped in now.

“Do you remember you’re not alone?” His friend cried down the phone once more. “Yes I remember!” The man said. He remembered he started the journey with a guide. His friend kept encouraging him “Remember that your guide is still with you! He’s still right beside you, he has not left you. Let him take hold of you hand and he will lead you out of the storm.”

The man hung up the phone. He held out his hand and cried out for his guide to lead him to safety. He could not see anything, he could not see his guide, he could only have faith his guide did not leave him when the storm began. As he stood in the storm, completely blind and unable to help himself, he felt the beautiful hand of the one he knew could save him from the storm; it was his guide.

His guide was still with him. When the storm first began, it had taken the man by such surprise and had come upon him so suddenly that, in his fear and confusion, he forgot his guide was still with him.

“I don’t know the way out” the man cried to his guide. He felt the guide embrace him, in the deathly cold of the storm he held him close, it made him feel a deep warmth inside himself, a warmth he almost forgot existed. The guides warm embrace comforted the man, and his heart felt strengthened, even in the storm.

The storm was so heavy the man still could not see the face of his guide, he could not see anything, he only heard the voice of his guide, the one who was capable of doing what we could not do, the only one who could save him.

The man could not see anything, he felt so weak, and in himself there was no strength left. He could only rely upon his guide and believe in his weakness, his guide would be his strength. As the storm continued to rage all around them, the man heard the guide whisper into his ear:

“You don’t need to know the way out, you only need to trust me, I can lead you to safety”

In that moment the man felt peace in his heart. Yes he was still in the very same storm, but he knew he would make it through the storm, because even in his weakness, his guide was strong enough to carry him through to safety.

Why is it when our friends face an emotional storm in their life we always want to instruct them on how they can fix the problem themselves?

“Just let it go!”

Seems like such simple advice to give someone who is heart-broken from a relationship breakdown.

“Why don’t you just let it go, and move on with your life?”

Sometime we spend all our time trying to instruct our heartbroken and depressed friends on how they must lead themselves out of heartbreak and disappointment, and with our best intentions we only cause them to feel more broken. In contrast, the greatest help we can be as a friend is to remind them that within their heartbreak, within their sadness, within their inability to change their feeling and their situation, Jesus is still with them, still loves them, is still embracing them, and is still the one who will save them and heal their heart.

Within the heartbroken sadness they are suffering in, a true friend reminds them that their guide is still with them. Their guide has never left them, and they don’t need to worry about finding their own way out of their emotional crisis, they need only to trust that Jesus is with them. Always remember Jesus. It is Jesus who desires to strengthen our hearts through the storm. It is Jesus, and not ourselves who leads us; not through our strength, but through his grace given freely to us in our time of need.

Jesus is our savior for our whole life, in this life and the eternal life. When we are unable to save ourselves in any situation, and our friends and family can not possible understand the emotional crisis we are facing in our life, Christ understands.

People will always try to instruct us on how to save ourselves, Christ however, shows us his desire is to save us and lead us in his strength.

He is our guide, he is our strength, He is always with us, and he will be faithful to lead us to safety.

I pray that I’m always a friend that reminds you that your guide is still with you, and he will lead you through the storm, He loves you, He is with you, when nobody understands, the Lord understands.

“Do you remember you’re not alone?” His friend cried down the phone once more. “Yes I remember!” The man said, he remembered he started the journey with a guide! His friend keep encouraging him “Remember that your guide is still with you! He’s still right beside you, he has not left you! Let him take hold of you hand and he will lead you out of the storm!”