Thursday, August 22, 2013

Down Memory Lane

The last few days talking to fellow ATI survivors brought back alot of memories.  I am so grateful that God has led me down the path he has.  It has provided contrast.  The darkness of legalism against the blinding light of grace.

Life is a constant barrage of contrast.  In fact, I believe that is the entire purpose to this life on earth during this evil time.  All of humanity is destined to experience the glory of God's perfection, but it cannot be truly appreciated until we have seen the darkness of IMPERFECTION.

This is why legalism is so destructive.  The drive of legalism is simple; to achieve perfection.

Legalism is nothing more than a demonic teaching.  In this age, humanity is a broken pottery.  It is never meant to be perfect just yet, and all attempts to achieve that leads only to frustration and eventual destruction. 

Perfection is only found in Jesus Christ, and that is GIVEN even WHILE we continue to sin.

Anyways... I just wanted to share some of my own journey with you.

My Journey to Grace

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
Micah 6:8

  When I was 14 we joined the ATI group and was raised on it's teaching.  Every morning we had family wisdom Searches (Bible Study).  We were home schooled and taught out of the Wisdom Booklets that we bought from ATI.

  We also had other curriculum but that was the main focus of our studies.

  By the time I was 16 I was wholly absorbed in the ATI cult.  I went everywhere wearing a suit.  I attempted to study my Bible daily, which ironically - I was ever reading, but never learning.

  I went to Indianapolis for further training in the ATI lifestyle.  For the better part of two years, I preached, talked, walked and lived the life of a shiny, navy blue suited ATI boy.

  My Church thought I was a golden boy, a halo so perfect there wasn't a smudge on it.

  I preached against the evils of pornography, I railed against rock music of any kind.  I split hairs regularly over anything that I could, in order to be as holy as possible.

  Inside I was rotting.  I was full of hatred towards anyone who didn't agree with me.  I was prideful as I strutted around in my suit, looking down at those who were unholy and only wearing jeans and T-Shirts.  I thanked God that I was not like them.

  I spent one summer with my cousins out in BC.  I went to my cousin's public school to see what he did for a day.  What an embarrassment I must have been. Wearing my suit and walking around like prep school kid.

  How uncomfortable I was with common "unholy" talk. How upset I became over any rock music I over heard.

  I even had a crisis of conscience while I was out there over reading fantasy books.  I began to think those were a sin and burned a whole stack of them.

  That was when it began to unravel.

  Not long after coming home, I had remembered the looks in people's eyes out there in Grand Forks.  Me in my holier than thou attitude, I had alienated my closest cousin.  

  I began to feel like such a fool.  My pride was on full display, and I'm certain God was holding a mirror to me so I could see it starkly.

  I was nothing like Jesus, nor could I ever become as holy as he was, by my actions alone.  Even my foolishness over burning books showed to me the ridiculousness of my self righteous behavior.

  There was nothing in those books that were evil any more than a children's bedtime story about Goldilocks and the three bears could be said to be evil.  I was, as Jesus put it, "Swallowing a gnat and eating a camel."

  I was splitting hairs over books, while trying to have a feast of unachievable Holiness.

  It simply isn't possible.

  I put away that suit not long after.  I stopped my preaching.  I went back to my books and the life I had before.

  Unfortunately, I was still unfulfilled.  I still wanted to experience the burning light of Jesus Christ and be lost in Him.  I had no idea how to do it.

  Then in 1998 I joined the ICOC.

  Most of you know this part of the story, but I'll summarize it as best as I can.

  ICOC toted itself as being radical disciples for Christ.  Again, it was a life devoted to studying the Bible.  Converting people.  And living a life where all the outward forms of legalism existed again.

  It was more subtle this time.  Less overt.  It was still the same shit, different pile.

  I condemn complete strangers to hell, but had pride in the fact that I belonged to the One True Church.

  We mastered proof texting.  We pulled and contorted our rubber Bibles in every way that we could to shame others, and exalt ourselves.

  We attended Church on Sundays AND Wednesdays, turning down family occasions, and work responsibilities for the sake of our religion.

  We openly rebuked family members for not being in our Church and told them they were going to hell.

  We had no will of our own.  Our minds and our lives were held hostage to the will of the Church leaders.  And we were glad for it.

  We had become soulless automatons, unable to see anything in our Bibles except what we were told to see.  If someone glimpsed a crack of truth, they were quickly broken by the leadership.

  I lived this way for 6 years.

  In 2004 after the cult had taken a deeply grievous wound due to a scathing letter from one of it's own leaders, exposing the travesty of its system and how unbiblical it was... 

  Well, I had become disillusioned.  It had become obvious how empty this religion also was.  I came to see and realize I had no true friends.  No one that genuinely loved me... All I had were ashes in my hand.

  My girlfriend, now my wife, and I left.

  For over 4 years I lived in anger and deep bitterness due to the resentment I felt towards the ICOC.  I had held such high hopes and great dreams.  I had been manipulated, and beaten spiritually and emotionally.  I had been deceived... again.

  I attended different Churches but after having been through ATI and ICOC, I could now easily see the facade for what it was.  It doesn't matter what title you give your Church or your Christian belief, at it's very root it remains the same...

  Man attempting to replace Jesus' completed work, for his own.

  Disdaining Church and it's systems, I walked away never to return.

  I began to recover, learning that the God of all Grace is far happier with me than I thought he was.  After having my daughter, I began to realize he loved me far more than I could have imagined.

  In fact, I began to discover than these decades search for Him was HIM showing me that he was always there.  Always leading me by the hand.  Always showing me who He truly was, by leading me through to see who he was NOT.

  You see, as I've said before in this blog, God doesn't care what you do in so much as trying to please him.

  When Israel did all the right things with their sacrifices and offerings, yet did not in the hearts love God by taking care of those less fortunate... When they were not gentle, and kind and care for others in the HEART.  This is what God says;

Jeremiah 6:20

What do I care about incense from Sheba
    or sweet calamus from a distant land?
Your burnt offerings are not acceptable;
    your sacrifices do not please me.”

  Yes, this was from the Old Testament and we live in a new time... But the God who said this then, says the same thing today.  Paul says;

2 Timothy 3:1-7

1 Now this know, that in the last days perilous periods will be present,
2 for men will be selfish, fond of money, ostentatious, proud, calumniators, stubborn to parents, ungrateful, malign,
3 without natural affection, implacable, adversaries, uncontrollable, fierce, averse to the good,
4 traitors, rash, conceited, fond of their own gratification rather than fond of God;
5 having a form of devoutness, yet denying its power.
6 These, also, shun. For of these are those who are slipping into homes and are leading into captivity little women, heaped with sins, being led by various lusts and gratifications,
7 always learning and yet not at any time able to come into a realization of the truth.
8 Now, by the method by which Jannes and Jambres withstand Moses, thus these also are withstanding the truth, men of a depraved mind, disqualified as to the faith.
9 But they shall not be progressing more, for their folly shall be obvious to all, as that of those also became.

Nothing defined what I had been through with ATI better than those verses.

Yet Paul goes on to teach what we be instead of a life full of meaningless rules and regulations for what we should do.

10 Now you fully follow me in my teaching, motive, purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance,
11 persecutions, sufferings...

What were Paul's teaching?  Motive? Purpose? Faith?  It is the gospel that he was given on that road to Damascus... the same one I preach on here.

Alas, I'm out of time.

Take care, and go with the Grace of God.

Travis Penner

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