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Archive for January, 2016

Does A Focus On God’s Love Than Anger Cause More Wrongdoing?

We may misrepresent God by worrying that emphasizing God’s love gives people the license to sin more. A relationship with God, like a loving parent, is a good thing if you believe they have your best interest in mind but does stressing God’s wrath more than God’s love inspire meaningful relationships? Fear of consequences is for the purpose of deterring evil, and is not meant to be the path of a relationship. Religious leaders may have good intentions when they focus on rules and obedience, but encouraging others to get to know God for the possibility of a relationship is what truly leads to life transformations.

A parent’s unconditional love doesn’t inspire a child to misbehave even more. God like parents can’t help loving a child no matter what. A parent warns or gets upset with a child’s actions not in their best interest or the welfare of others, but that doesn’t change their feelings for their child. A parent may even turn their child into the police for drug use or terrorist beliefs. Love doesn’t mean we don’t think consequences are necessary in hope of deterring further self-destruction or evil actions. But punishment is only meant to deter in hopes one day a child may be open to a more meaningful relationship.

God doesn’t worry that their unimaginable love gives us further license to keep sinning. Acting unselfish comes fast and natural and isn’t waiting for permission. The fear of God was never meant to inspire being the kind of person we desire to be. Fear only leads to trying to not get caught or doing enough to soothe others’ feelings. The law is not meant for inspiration but to protect the innocent. God knew sin has its own consequences; God doesn’t seek to pile on more guilt and hate. Our own guilt does enough damage. God seeks to continually assure us of their love so we don’t every give up no matter how demoralized we may feel.

God’s amazing love can lead to one sinning less not more. Accepting than attempting to earn a relationship with God doesn’t lead to more freedom to sin but more freedom not to sin. When we understand what God has done for us and how much God’s loves us, we will be more inspired. Obedience is caught not taught. Obedience, though never perfect, is a natural response of gratitude to God’s mercy and love. It is gratitude toward God that will empower us, not the worries of whether God will be angry with us. God is simply seeking to help us benefit from living unselfish lives. One who treat others like they want to be treated lives a life not full of regrets, sets an example for others to follow, and makes for a better world.

 

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Did Jesus Lay Down His Life To Appease God Or Convince Us?

Many might not pursue a connection with God because of explanations as to why Jesus died on the Cross. Many who have grown up in a traditional church have sung songs referring to “washed in the blood of Jesus or saved through the blood of Jesus.” It has led to confusing legal rather than natural relational interpretations of the purpose of Jesus death. Mark doesn’t say the purpose of the ransom: “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (10:45). Was Jesus really more concerned with God’s reputation and justice being served rather than seeking credibility and influence to serve us?

The best analogy I have read about why Jesus died on the Cross is a soldier often will lay down their life for the benefit of their fellow soldiers. Soldiers often show tremendous courage by putting themselves in harm’s way to protect those they care deeply about. Jesus accepted suffering and eventual death to inspire and influence us how self-centeredness destroys lives and the world we live in. Jesus’ simple message was to love God and love others as yourself (Mk. 12:28-34). God isn’t egotistical as loving God is to love ourselves and others like we want to be loved. Once we know who God truly is, such a friendship can empower one to shun evil and do good.

No single biblical passage requires that we interpret the Cross in standoffish legalistic terms as if God needed to be appeased or satisfied before fully loving us. Does God really care more about their ego than desire to encourage us? God was not so angry at sinners that God had to kill Jesus. God didn’t need to be appeased by human sacrifice like the other gods during those times. God only hoped for confession for accepting wrongdoings is the first step in healing all relationships. How can we truly appreciate God if we think of the Cross in terms of what Jesus did for God as opposed to what Jesus did for us? Jesus’ death being for God undermines Jesus’ pain and struggle for us. 

Jesus was more concerned with the restoration of our relationship with God than the guilt of our sins. God didn’t have to have their honor restored before they could love us. God sought to prove to us their unimaginable love. God went to great means to gain moral authority and credibility to convince us God’s ways are truly in our best interests. Jesus wanted us to avoid paths of destructions that lead to regrets. Jesus faced undeserved suffering so to walk in our shoes to better understand how difficult it is to live selflessly in a world where one is free to love or hate others for their own gains. We can be forgiven and start each day anew with God. It is never too late with God to turn your life around as we see in the parable of the vineyard workers (Mt. 20).

Jesus didn’t come to save us from Hell after death. The Greek word Gehenna, wrongly translated as Hell, referred to a valley near Jerusalem. If seeking to avoid God’s supposed torture chamber, don’t go near that valley! Blood analogies don’t truly convey what God sought to do for us through Jesus. Jesus sought to convince us God would go to any means to convince us of the deception of selfishness. Jesus sought to empower us to be comfortable with God despite our guilty feelings. Selfishness is always destructive and creates the need for forgiveness in relationships, but Jesus wanted us to know we are loved by our Creator and desires to help us be the kind of persons we all want to be deep down.

How Can Heaven Be A Happy Place With Regrets?

One may wonder how there can be complete happiness in heaven if full of people with regrets. We know heaven is going to be full of regretters as only one person has walked on this earth and lived a life without regrets. If you believe the story of the thief on the Cross next to Jesus, Jesus told the thief he would be in paradise soon with Jesus. One assumes the thief was on the cross for some not so good reasons. Even if you have lived most of your life with a belief and relationship with God as I have, you still are going to have many regrets.

Many believers begin to question whether a fellow believer who falls into sin will still go to heaven. Believers rely on forgiveness, so the implication is if one isn’t “confessed up” right at the moment of death you are out of luck. One’s destiny determined by a loving God is not going to depend on if some die immediately in an accident without warning to supposedly get right with God. Besides, is a thief going to enter Paradise but not others with lesser sins simply because they weren’t next to Jesus hanging on Cross right before their last breathe? Some opinions about God are based on false portrayals here on earth. All will eventually have a chance to know what God is really like to make decisions based on the truth.

So clearly, heaven is going to have a lot of regrets flying around. When one seems misguided in this world, it isn’t likely God is busying denying one’s citizenship in heaven. How can a godly mother favor one child over the other children and write them out of her life though they have done nothing wrong morally. Maybe the favored child is right and the other children are wrong, and the mom is just showing tough love which God had to do at times. Sometimes, two siblings are wrong and the favored sibling is right. It is less likely three siblings are wrong and one sibling is right. What are the chances of four siblings being wrong and the favored sibling being right? God has spoken against favoritism from the beginning, so one will assume such parents will be full of regrets when meeting their Creator along with the rest of us sinners.

One can be hopeful when we see that our Creator’s point of view about our circumstances is not God’s, they will melt into their Creator’s arms and be full of anguish. How can that lead to happiness. I believe God’s presence and justice in the afterlife may have an educative component and cleansing effect. Victims will be vindicated as the guilty will face their sins. A cleansing process may take longer for some to have its full impact. No suffering here on earth will be in vain. Confession, not revenge, is really only what will lead to healing. We all will have a chance to do so with God in person, but Jesus came so we could avoid being full of regrets.

Heaven can start now despite the world we live in. The Cross was less about God’s concern with guilt and restoring honor and more about God desiring a personal relationship. Jesus longed for us to avoid destructive paths leading to regrets. Jesus came to earth to simply encourage and inspire all to treat others like you want to be treated. This summarized what Jesus was all about (Mt. 7:12). Jesus wanted us to know we are loved by our Creator and desires to help us be the kind of persons we all want to be deep down. When Jesus was asked how one obtains eternal life, Jesus said simply to love God and love others as yourself (Lk.10:25-27). Loving God is loving others to the fullest. Knowing who God really is, like loving parents, can empower one to shun evil and do good as Jesus taught.

What Did Jesus Really Come To Save Us From?

It is taught that Jesus came to save us from the wrath of God. Does God really want to be portrayed as more concerned with their reputation and honor than love for their children? I may be worried about my reputation as a parent but not solely for my benefit. When the word save(d) or salvation is used in the gospels as it relates to Jesus, there is no evidence that Jesus is concerned with atoning for our guilt for God’s sake rather than aspiring and encouraging us to be less selfish. It is best to read each Gospel as a whole to discern what we need to be saved from. For a quick view of all the times save(d) or salvation is used in the Gospels see here.

Many grow up in the church being told Jesus’ conversations were about if you are in or out of heaven or a supposed fiery pit. Do life transformations really happen when focused on saving our hide? Chapters and verses were numbered later, so the gospel writers surely intending their writings to be read as a whole. It is important to remember that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were writing to an audience who lived in different times and cultures than readers today. Specifically, Jesus came to advise Israel He is the prophesized Messiah and certain warnings relate to times in Jesus’ generation. Readers today must discern appropriate applications. We may not worship carved idols but idolizations today may be misguided and harmful.

The first three gospels end with Jesus being mocked on the Cross to save Himself since coming to save others (Mt. 27:42). What do the Gospels suggest Jesus came to save us from? Matthew begins: “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (Mt. 1:21). Jesus seems to suggest what those sins are during His first crowd appearance in Matthew. Jesus says Laws are good but what about ungovernable matters such as murderous thoughts, lust, and going the extra mile when others don’t respond in love (Chapter 5). Jesus said don’t worry only about the death of your body but the death of your soul (10:28). Jesus didn’t come to save God’s reputation but to save us from ourselves!

We finally get to in Matthew what most think the gospels are all about – a rich young man asked how to have eternal life (19:16). Jesus’ response isn’t what religious leaders often proclaim about salvation. The man obeyed the law, but Jesus focused on the heart of the matter which is what kind of person you are that no one can see. God desires to help us become the person we all deep down desire to be. Luke records when Jesus was asked directly how one obtains eternal life, Jesus said simply to love God and love others as yourself (Lk.10:25-27). This was exactly what Mark writes Jesus said was the most important in life (12:28-34). God isn’t being egotistical. Loving God is to love ourselves and others like we want to be loved. Jesus came to earth to convey God seeks to empower us, through mercy and forgiveness, to shun evil and do good.

After the conversation with the man about eternal life, Mark as Matthew records the disciples’ reaction: “…Who then can be saved?” (Mk. 10:26). Jesus, after giving the disciples another moral lesson about true greatness, says: “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (10:45). The disciples’ response doesn’t suggest they were thinking God needed to be served as much as they needed help. The young man was worrying about just obeying the law, but it is “legal self-centeredness” that leads to personal and relational destruction. Jesus came to save us from the sin of destroying ourselves and one another. Jesus knew God’s love is the same as perfect, human, love. It is God’s love and mercy, not gloomy uncertainty of God’s favor, which is our necessary nourishment for lasting changes.  

John’s Gospel records different sayings of Jesus as it is thought Mark’s writing were used as a source by Matthew and Luke. All are familiar when Jesus says whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life (Jn. 3:16). But, we often don’t notice that Jesus says right after this: “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (3:17). Jesus’ mission was not condemnation for God’s sake; Jesus came to shed light on self-condemning dark deeds (3:18-19). Eternal life in this context is not some future destination. Jesus says His readers who believe in His message can have life worth living forever immediately (3:36). Jesus focused more on the present than future. Further evidence that Jesus’ didn’t come with a vendetta from God is what Jesus ultimately desires: “…I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world” (12:47).

I often learn the most when reading the Bible by looking at Jesus’ personal interactions with others. Jesus said to the woman at the well: “Your faith has saved you; go in peace” (Lk. 7:50). This woman was not in denial that she had lived a sinful life. She understood not being as bad as some people didn’t sooth her soul. She needed to know she could be forgiven by her Creator and Jesus came to give her that hope. Jesus when preparing to enter Jerusalem and face death (Mt. 19:1-10) told Zacchaeus a tax collector how one can be saved.  Zacchaeus had cheated many people out of their money and had decided to payback four times the money he had stolen. Jesus responded: “Today salvation has come to this house.” There was no formal confession or water baptism. Jesus simply commended Zacchaeus for recognizing a journey necessary to avoid personal destruction. Salvation is not a future destination but a currently reality.  

Some worry to claim Jesus came to change our hearts is just another form of Pharisaical legalism – we have to perform our way to being love by God. But, God’s love like a parent’s love should always be assumed to be unconditional. We know if a parent’s love is based upon actions they will be sorely disappointed and unable to love their child to the fullest. When we stress God’s reputation than desire for an influential relationship, the focus is on obedience and often just doing what is required by law. Jesus wanted us to know we have forgiveness and God desires to come along our side in striving to be unselfish which can be challenging in the world we live in.

Jesus came for those desperately seeking forgiveness from their Creator. Some may not feel as immoral. Jesus simply desires to encourage all to pursue striving to treat others like we want to be treated. Most of us would admit we fail to live up to even our own standards. Jesus came to tell us that we can pursue godliness despite our imperfections and constant failures. Jesus didn’t come to rub our failures in our face but to encourage us to never give up. God would love an ongoing relationship to empower one for personal and worldly good.

 

 

What Does God Really Hope For From Us?

Religion leaders today emphasize, as they did during Jesus’ time, God’s demand for certain beliefs or obedience rather than God’s desire for a relationship. Human or a spiritual parent brings children into the world hoping they choose to freely reciprocate their love. Only religious extremists believe controlling decisions results in true love. A desire for a close relationship is not manipulative when a parent’s motive is to encourage guidance always in a child’s best interests. God warns actions that lead to destruction as any loving parent does, but Jesus understood obedience is caught not taught. Whether God is worth following can be decided once you get to know who God really is.

Jesus’ conversations weren’t about certain beliefs or actions determining one’s eternal destiny. Jesus’ message was simply God’s desire to walk hand in hand with us in loving others like we want to be loved. Deep down we all know that is a life truly worth living. When Jesus was asked how one obtains eternal life, Jesus simply said to love God and love others as yourself (Lk.10:25-27). Mark writes Jesus said this was the “main thing” in life (12:28-34). Loving God is to love ourselves and others like we want to be loved. God like earthly parents pursue a relationship with their children in hopes to inspire striving to make for a better world.

James, the brother of Jesus, and disciples after Jesus spoke about the importance of loving others. “What good is it…..if people claim to have faith but have no deeds? Can such faith save them” (2:14)? Certain beliefs don’t necessarily lead to a life worth living. Jesus simply reminded us what we know in our heart to be true about a fulfilling life, but Jesus wanted us to know of our Creator’s love and forgiveness to empower us in shunning evil and doing good. God doesn’t hold one’s past or present against them. God like any parent hopes a child will freely respond to their love to make for a better world.

Jesus never said God is only interested in a relationship if we have certain beliefs or live up to certain standards. God simply like any loving parent wants you to know of a life that doesn’t lead to full of regrets on earth and the life to come. Jesus obviously sought to inspire change not perfection or life is depressing. Jesus wanted to give the hopeless hope and the hopeful an even more fulfilling life. Life transformations don’t happen when obeying out of fear or compulsion but when understanding how much God cares about you no matter your history. God’s continual encouragement and mercy is our necessary nourishment for true changes of the heart.

If you could give a damn how you treat others, the law was created for you. If any part of you is unhappy in such a pursuit your Creator is listening. You may be a moral person who doesn’t feel a need for God. I believe God is open any time in the future should one desire a relationship in striving to be even more the person you desire to be. God-folks might consider getting to know God even more intimately for encouragement. I only need to look how sometimes I fail to treat my wife like I want to be treated to realize I need God’s constant support. Jesus came to do what the law can’t. The law doesn’t require we go the extra mile in relationships but that is sometimes the only way for relationships to heal and continue. Jesus came to encourage a close relationship with God to empower such actions for personal and worldly gain.

What Did Jesus Really Say About Heaven And Eternal Life?

It is natural to assume Jesus knows about Heaven. The Bible suggests Jesus can down to earth from heaven in human form to convey His love. We know Hell as an alternative to living in Heaven after death is a biblical myth. See here. It can be troublesome to defend a loving God who would punish people forever for sins committed in a few short years on earth. Who doesn’t know unending suffering is pointless as it doesn’t produce any good. As it turns out the Bible also says very little about what heaven will be like.

Enough biblical passages suggest all will meet God one day for an accounting of their deeds – good and bad. Paul speaks of our eventual citizenship not being back on earth but forever in heaven (Philip. 3:20). The word heaven appears the most in Matthew in references to the “kingdom of heaven” which was coming in Jesus’ readers’ lifetime (Mt. 3:2; 16:28). Thus, we are presently living in the kingdom of heaven (i.e. age). The second most frequent time the word heaven appears in the NT is in the book of Revelation. Revelation speaks of upcoming events in the writer’s lifetime (Rev 1:1; 22:6), thus the new heaven and earth is referring to an age than a physical location in the future when God will destroy the earth and come down to reign.

Jesus possibly thought speaking more about life after living on earth a short time lead to passive earthly living, similar to focusing on Jesus’ coming again rather than making a difference in the world we live in currently. The Bible seems to speak mostly of a life where one is either spiritually dead or eternally alive. Jesus when asked about eternal life referred to a quality of life than destination. One is living or dying. John 3:36 is like many Johannine passages that advises readers that eternal living is something that begins immediately on earth. 

One may be surprised what Jesus said when asked by a religious expert how to have eternal life (Lk.10:25-37). Jesus simply said to love God and your neighbor. Loving God is to love ourselves and others like we want to be loved. Jesus implied immortality begins in this world by running from selfishness. Obviously, changing directions not perfection was Jesus’ message or heaven will have no citizens. Jesus didn’t talk so much about life after death; Jesus talked about how true living begins here on earth by knowing how much your Creator loves you. Such knowledge empowers one to shun evil and be the unselfish person we all desire to be deep down.

Jesus wasn’t being exclusive and passing out get-out-of-hell-free cards when quoted: 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 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.

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 by forcing them to look in the mirror, 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 when preparing to enter Jerusalem and face death (Mt. 19:1-10) told Zacchaeus how one can be saved. Zacchaeus was a tax collector and had cheated many people out of their money. Zacchaeus reflected on his actions and told Jesus he intended to payback four times stolen money. Jesus responded: “Today salvation has come to this house.” There was no formal confession or baptism though believers were being baptized. Jesus simply praised Zacchaeus for recognizing a journey necessary to avoid personal destruction. Salvation is not a future destination but a currently reality.

Was the thief simply lucky being at the right place at the right time? Will the thief, only sorry when hanging on a Cross with Jesus, go to paradise and others who lived conscientiously be out of luck? If you don’t care how the hell you treat others, you might worry! We often reject God because of poor role models or bad information about God. Those who believe in God on earth are not simply more enlightened or moral. God never thought fear lead to authentic relationships. God knew true love could not be forced or manipulated. God’s continual encouragement and mercy is our necessary nourishment for life transformations. Obedience to God, which is always in our best interest, is caught not taught when we understand God is not a representation of our earthly parents but the perfection of the human parents we have always desired.

What Are Nonsensical Explanations When Defending God’s Actions?

If God desires a loving friendship with all, God surely understands authentic relationships are gained through mutual respect. I have pursed a lifelong friendship with my children from the day they were born. God knows far better than I that such a relationship is not obtained out of fear but a child understanding how much I love them. God doesn’t use superiority to not defend any actions that confuse us. God doesn’t seek justifications that are not understandable to the human heart or logical to the human mind. God and parents desire to walk the talk in relationships.

It may be argued we have no right to question God’s morality when biblical interpretations seemingly suggest God’s standards are not the same as humans. Some theologians suggest the Bible teaches God elects only certain individuals for eternal life, thus logically sending the unelected to eternal damnation. It is said that God is not unjust because all are depraved and none would choose God without God’s help. We would accuse earthly parents of immorality if they showed similar favoritism toward their children. A loving God wouldn’t arbitrarily choose who to love and that our choices don’t truly matter. We have every right to question such theology.

It may be argued that we have no right to question God’s purposes when trying to understand how God’s goodness and evil can co-exist. One could ask why God even bothered to communicate through the Bible if God’s ways are so mysterious. It is difficult to fully explain why God doesn’t interfere more with natural evil not directly caused by human freedom, but this doesn’t mean there aren’t intelligent explanations as to why a loving God allows such freedom. If God did not create and allow freedom, God could be accused of not creating the very best world where only authentic relationships can develop. The Book of Job does not actually advise to shut our pie hole because we can’t possibly comprehend God. God simply rejected Job’s assumption that justice is only present if the wicked are judged or the righteous rewarded immediately.

It may be argued that we have no right to question God’s rationality from a human perspective. Some attempt to explain God’s favor with Israel over other nations in illogical ways. God tell us favoritism is a sin (James 2:1), but it is suggested God cannot be held to the same ethic. Can you imagine a parent having any influence by saying “do as I say, not as I do.” Parents can choose a child over another child for a certain role if only one can be chosen. It is not favoritism if both win as Israel was chosen as a vessel to bless all nations with God’s message. Humans have a concept of perfect love because we are made in our Creator’s image. God’s love and perfect human love are one in the same. God’s ways must be worthy of human, rational belief.

Some attempt to explain God in nonsensical ways when explaining a certain aspect of God. Since interpretations of Scriptures are fallible, I believe the most likely characterization portrays God in relational ways according to the human spirit. We can expect understandings of God to be plausible based on what a loving God should be like, or we might continue to question God. For example we have every right to reject traditional explanations of Hell, if there is a defensible alternative, as even humans know sadistic punishment serves absolutely no purpose. My children and friends have every right to challenge when my thoughts or ways appear immoral or irrational. God desire such questions for only then can a relationship begin or have any depth.

 

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