To non-religious spiritual pursuers and my children (See ABOUT THIS SITE tab above or under Menu on phones to navigate site and Follow to receive future Posts)

Archive for March, 2015

How Do We Discuss God With Others According To Jesus?

If you grew up going to church you may have experienced pressure to share your views of God with others despite their possible disinterest. Some of this pressure may come from the belief that Hell is real, but the traditional understanding of Hell is nowhere to be found in the Bible. Jesus did not force God on others but discussed spirituality in a natural, relational way. Jesus brought up spiritual matters when it seemed appropriate and was accepted. Jesus’ agenda was to simply love people in the moment, not to manipulate them.

We may be surprised what Jesus said when asked directly how to have eternal life by a religion expert (Lk.10:25-37). Jesus did not warn one to run like/from Hell. Jesus simply advised to love God and your neighbor. A love relationship with God empowers us to love others like we wish to be loved. Jesus didn’t counsel to repent or get on your knees and say a certain prayer. Jesus implied immortality begins in this world by living according to the golden rule. One saves their life by running from selfishness. Jesus simply asked others to follow Him if seeking a better life.

Many misinterpret the passage: For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it (Matt. 7:13-14). Jesus wasn’t being exclusive. Saving one’s life for Jesus was not giving an out a get-out-of-hell-free card. Jesus was only warning that selfishness leads to regret and destruction. The narrower path – loving others as we wish to be loved – leads to true freedom. The truth is that God’s ways are always in our best interest in the long-run.

Who doesn’t know the story of how Jesus responded to the religious elite who had caught a woman in adultery (Jn. 7:53-8:11). When Jesus rightly shamed the crowd, they dropped their stones and left Jesus and the woman alone. Jesus didn’t lecture, pray with the woman, or tell her to go to church. Jesus simply said “Go now and leave your life of sin.” It didn’t matter that Jesus may never see this woman again. Jesus had said all He needed to – God loves you and encourages you to do what you know is right in your heart.

Jesus saved tough conversations for religious pretenders who claimed to represent God. The Pharisees were in love with their power, thus making religion self-serving rather than self-sacrificing. Jesus reprimanded the Pharisees for their misguided emphasis on rules and obedience rather than a relationship and God’s unconditional love. God’s love and mercy is our necessary nourishment. No gloomy uncertainty as to God’s favor can conquer our battle against self-centeredness. Also, the Bible is not afraid to call out what every rational being knows to be immoral – abuse, murder, etc. God approved of war in the OT against nations who sacrificed their children to their supposed gods. If a child next door is being sexual abused would you do nothing to stop this evil? Tough love is sometimes necessary in hopes to change hearts.

People feel manipulated rather than loved when spiritual folks have an agenda.  Jesus’ only agenda was to love others as they wanted to be love. Jesus had a sense when people needed to be encouraged, when they needed to be told to leave their life of sin, when they wanted to discuss a relationship with their Creator. Pray for the same wisdom. Engage in relationships only with the desire to love others as they wished to be loved. The Gospel is simply that God loves you unconditionally and the Creator desires a relationship to influence you for the world and your own good. Jesus only wanted to help others listen to their heart. I am convinced a close relationship with my Creator helps me to be a better man, husband, father, and friend.

Hell Is A Myth!

Is God a sadistic torturer who punishes people forever for sins committed in a few short years? HELL NO! Hell, an invention over the centuries to scare people into submission and obedience, is not a translation but a substitution for certain Hebrew and Greek words. Fire destroys but God would have to keep humans purposely alive to continue to torturer them. Most humans wouldn’t even persecute their enemies to this extent. Hell as unending suffering is pointless as it doesn’t produce any good. Hell must be dispelled as a myth for God’s character is at stake.

The Hebrew word Sheol in the OT is often translated as “Hell.” Sheol was simply a region or place of darkness occupied by the dead regardless of beliefs. Job desired to go there to escape his tremendous suffering (10:21-22). King David describes Sheol as a place of darkness for those long dead (Ps. 143:3). Sheol is never mentioned as a place of punishment. Recent translations simply translate Sheol as “Sheol.” God didn’t warn Adam and Eve about Hell as a consequence for rebellion. Noah failed to warn evildoers about Hell before their death by Flood. The popular understanding of Hell is not found in the OT.

Hades is another word translated as Hell. Hades was used in the Septuagint, a Greek translation of the OT, to represent the Hebrew word Sheol. Sheol in the OT never refers to a place where God is involved in torture where the dead go. Hades simply was a place where the dead go. Those who believe in the traditional idea of Hell never argue that Hades represent a fiery, afterlife punishment for those who didn’t believe. Many modern translations no longer translate Hades with the word Hell.

The NT is silent as well about Hell. The word Hell in the NT is translated from two Greek terms – Hades or Gehenna. Gehenna is used twelve times in the NT, eleven times by Jesus in the Gospels. Once we understand what Jesus says about Gehenna, we will understand what the Bible says about our popular notion of Hell. Gehenna is the name of a real, valley nearby Jerusalem that has a history. It was the local city garbage dump where fires were kept burning to dispose of the garbage and symbolized a place of slaughter and judgment. Gehenna was the place of burned Israeli children sacrificed to false gods (Jer. 7:30-31; 19:2-5). Josephus said this same valley was heaped with dead bodies of the Jews following the Roman siege of Jerusalem around 70 AD.

Jesus used Gehenna to symbolize the horrors of adversaries of God who disposed of their enemies into the burning, worm-infested valley. Jesus never used the world Hell. Hell is a substitution not a translation of the word Gehenna. The best translation of Gehenna in the NT is Gehenna not Hell. The Bible doesn’t teach God created Hell as a place to torture people forever. Paul wrote fourteen epistles and never mentions Hell. Scriptures only say after death that all are judged by our merciful God.

Why does all this matter? Most of us know in our heart Hell isn’t true or we would be crazy, sidewalk, evangelists shouting “you are going to burn in Hell.” Many hesitate to take about God for fear they may to explain Hell. Who the hell wants to explain or get to know a Creator who is a hellish, sadistic torturer who supposedly predestines some people to an afterlife of eternal conscious punishment? What kind of God thinks Hell scares people into true righteousness and an intimate relationship? Translators agree when to translate the Hebrew or Greek word into “Heaven.” There is no equivalent Hebrew or Greek word for our current concept of an eternal place of punishment translated as “Hell.” Imagine how it could change your perspective on God if you discovered there is no such place as our presently conceived afterlife concept of “Hell.”

Are Some Christian Beliefs Similar To Religious Extremist Beliefs?

I am not suggesting Christians who preach “believe or go to hell” are the same as religious extremists who behead infidels. I do wish to defend comparisons between Islamic or other religious extremists and certain biblical interpretations that have been suggested. I am not defending Christianity so much, as Jesus never referred to His followers as such. I do wish to defend the Creator written about in the Bible who came in the flesh through Jesus.

The Creator of the universe is referred to as Allah or God. But, Mohammad in the Koran did not claim to be divine but the last of the prophets; Jesus in the Bible claimed to be God. The Bible seems more credible than fabricated, as the empty tomb can stand scrutiny as a historical fact beyond reasonable doubt. Besides, who writes that their leader resurrected when living eyewitnesses could argue to the contrary. Other faiths often rely on a future promise; Christianity relies on a promise that happened in the past. The God of the Bible, who claimed Jesus was His/Her Son, turns out to not have anything in common with religious extremists concerning freedom of beliefs, women’s rights, the killing of women and children, and human sacrifice.

Freedom Of Beliefs

Is God a sadistic torturer if you don’t eventually believe in Him/Her?  HELL NO!  Hell must be dispelled as a myth for the sake of those who seek to know the Creator. Hell, an invention over the centuries to scare people into submission and obedience, is not a translation but a substitution for certain Hebrew and Greek words. The Greek word Gehenna in the New Testament wrongly translated as Hell was a proper noun and the name of a real valley nearby Jerusalem with a history. Hell is no more a translation of Gehenna than Atlanta is for Chicago. The Bible does not compare to the Koran: “Strike off the heads of the disbelievers”; and after making a “wide slaughter among them, carefully tie up the remaining captives” (Koran 47:4).

God was a respecter of freedom of beliefs from the very beginning. Otherwise, why would a God who is powerful enough to create not annihilate immediately those who choose evil and oppose God? We can believe the God of the Bible upon death will respect one’s choice to spend eternity with their Creator. God’s justice concerning our regrets here on earth may have an educative component and cleansing effect. I cannot imagine anyone would turn down God’s invitation but there are some very evil people who just may choose a second death than spending time in a paradise whether there is equality than dictatorship. Paradise certainly is not a lustful adventure for men only at the expense of women according to the Bible.

Jesus, when asked how to have eternal life, simply said to love God and love others as yourself (Lk.10:25-27). God is not self-centered but a loving God empowering us to love others. Jesus was suggesting that the hope of life forever begins in the present when one looks toward God, whatever knowledge they may have, and strives toward unselfishness. Jesus wasn’t suggesting perfection as the Apostle Paul, once a murderer, was promised citizenship in Heaven upon death on earth (Philip. 3:20).  Jesus’ only agenda was to convince people to listen to their heart.

Women’s Rights

Women are not to be under the authority of men in the God of the Bible eyes, which only encourages dominance on the man’s part and dependence on the woman’s part. Jesus clearly encouraged equality between the sexes and mutual respect against culture norms. The Apostle Paul advised husbands to love their wives as their own bodies. Some religious extremists would rather be dead than advocate for that. One wrote: “What’s the difference between the strain of Islam that proscribes gender roles and its counterpart in Christianity that does the same thing, albeit with a different set of prohibitions?” God from the very beginning created women and men in His/Her image to be fruitful and rule together the earth that God had created (Gen. 1:28).

The Killing of Women And Children

The God of the Bible certainly never approved the rape and slavery of women and children. God preferred the Israelites live in peace with other nations. War was only a necessity in the eyes of God when evil prevailed. God sometimes advised the Israelites in wartimes to destroy the enemies’ land and those who inhabited it, including women and children. God never approved war simply because a nation believed in other gods as opposed to their Creator. But, in OT times men and women would appease the appetites of their supposed gods by sacrificing their children to their gods. Barbaric dictators and cultures exist and innocent lives are lost if the free do nothing. If a child next door is being sexual abused would you do nothing to stop this evil?

The Bible records that evil had become so rampant that God practically destroyed the entire human race, including innocent women and children, during Noah’s time. Evil may have progressed to the level of sacrificing children to supposed gods. God would not have rejected anybody from entering the Ark if they wanted anything to do with Noah’s God. But, who doesn’t understand why family members may not condemn the barbaric behaviors of their husbands and fathers. Corruption though can infiltrate a society so much that a fresh start may be the most merciful thing to do. There may be a better place after death more merciful than abandonment, starvation, or disease when the adult evildoers are expunged. The Flood was not doing evil that good may come; it is ridding of the cancer that can eventually destroy any good for future generations.

Human Sacrifice

The gods of the Old Testament would sometimes demand the sacrifice of children to be appeased. Jesus did not die to appease God’s anger and honor so He/She could love us. The Cross was not meant to change God’s attitude but our attitude toward God. Jesus walked in our shoes, even facing undeserved suffering, to gain credibility and influence. God is not an animal-hating, blood-thirsty Creator. God went with the cultures of the times. God much preferred a “broken and contrite heart” (Ps.  51: 16-17) as opposed to human or animal sacrifice which cannot bring things back such as one’s childhood innocence robbed by an adult abuser. God went to great means to convince us of His/Her unimaginable love and that His/Her ways were truly in our best interests if we only listened to our hearts.

The Creator of the Bible respects forever one’s freedom to believe as they so choose. God is not bias toward men when it came to leadership or decision-making. All are created equally in His/Her image and encouraged to use the gifts they possess. God detests the evil actions of individuals imposed upon others and has approved of wars when necessary for the good of current and future generations. God has always loved us unconditionally and sought to prove that through the life of Jesus. Suffering is inevitable in a world where freedom is part of the creation, but God did not even spare His/Her Son. The God of the Bible and Parent of Jesus is radically different from any God or gods who have existed. God only seeks to inspire us to love one another as we wish to be loved. Is there a better world than that!

Tag Cloud