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Archive for April, 2016

Is God A Homophobe?

I haven’t written on this topic because I believe one’s sexual orientation is personal and their own business. But, I feel compelled to address this subject because many parents and friends feel obligated to not accept their loved ones for concerns of being disloyal to God. The Bible is a complex book. It was not meant to be a book to turn to a chapter and verse, which were only added centuries later, but a story about God and determining what God is like. Even if a writer was inspired by God, interpretations and applications can be fallible centuries later.

Jesus when leaving this earth advised He was leaving His Spirit with us to guide us in our walk with God (Jn.14:16). Do we have enough faith in God to allow a homosexual who wishes to know what God thinks about their relationship to begin a relationship and God will guide. The following is how I have determined God speaks to me. We need to stop telling people what God thinks about them and let God speak to them. If God doesn’t give others the answer you want, are you going to accept them? Before discussing what the Bible may say on homosexuality, I want to mention issues that I will not be addressing.

I am not capable of discussing if one’s sexual orientation is chosen, born into, or something that develops. The matter is so complex that I think that is for each individual to discern. One theory does not fit all individual situations. One may argue it doesn’t seem natural because the world could not have populated in the beginning. We are no longer in that situation and the world will continue to populate because not all couples are gay. We have unwanted children who need loving couples. Is adoption by a same sex or different sex couple not a better situation that groups homes or orphanages? Loving couples are committed to not making a child gay or straight. Lastly, some homosexuals deny it is impossible to change to being straight. If an individual has such desires, we must respect one’s freedom in such endeavors.

Though the Bible is not a book we can simply turn to for answers in our individual situation, the Bible is still very important to many. It claims to be inspired by God. Some of the biblical passages that speak against homosexuality are in the context of gang rape (Sodom and Gomorrah in Gen 19; Judges 19:22). Who doesn’t condemn that! Other passages are not as specific as to the type of sexual activities involved (Rom 1:26-32, I Cor. 6:9, I Tim. 1:10). There certainly wasn’t a lot of fidelity going on (i.e. Rom 1:27, 31), and who doesn’t know about the Corinthians’ standards in the ancient world. They even approved of sex with one’s mother or step-mother (I Cor. 5). Can you say addiction city! Do we really want to compare consensual, monogamous sex to killing of parents, murder, and slave trading (I Tim. 1:10).

Two verses in the Bible are not as clear about the type of sexual relationships involved when involving the same sex: “If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them are done what is detestable…”(Lev. 20:13; i.e. Lev. 18:22). Having sex with a woman during her period is also condemned in the same breathe (Lev. 20:18). Whoops! The Bible does seem to suggest that committed, life-long, mutual-consenting, monogamous sexual relationships are always in our best interest. It can wreak havoc on one’s soul when sexual activity has been involved and the relationship doesn’t last. If your hearts tells you your loved one isn’t condemned by God, you can follow your heart and not deny God of the Bible.

We must stop comparing committed, monogamous homosexual relationships to anything else. It doesn’t compare to premarital sex or pedophilia or bestiality as it has been compared to. Those obviously aren’t mutual, consensual, committed relationships. If you insist the Bible clearly condemns homosexuality, then do you accept it condemns polygamy? It seems God did not think polygamy was ideal or part of God’s original creation, but clearly God seemed to accept such relationships calling King David a man after His own heart. Most can agree stealing, being greedy, slandering, gossiping, lying, or murder is wrong. If Corinthians condemns monogamous homosexual relationships it condemns all the above sins to the same degree. Many in the church condemn gay relationships but get divorced over half the time. Commitment is a problem in the church. How can we even begin to suggest to gay couples who are committed that they are sinners.

The Bible doesn’t seem to speak specifically about monogamous, long-term gay relationships. If one wishes to know personally what God thinks about their personal situation, it seems the first step is to get to know God and seek God’s discernment on such issues. Some pastors avoid the subject not because they are cowards but because they want people to experience God’s love and not condemnation as they seek God’s wisdom on a personal level. I understand serious Bible students can come to two different conclusions. If the matter is debatable at all in our mind, I would suggest taking the less judgmental stance in relationships. Jesus never spoke about homosexuality and said when gone He would leave His Spirit to guide our hearts.

 

Is God A Child Killer In The Story Of Abraham And Isaac?

One may read Genesis 22, where God orders Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac, and question whether to respect God or trust any of the Old Testament guidance. Who doesn’t know in their heart no loving God would order such an act. There may be plausible interpretations of this passage to suggest that the writers accurately recorded God testing Abraham in this manner but in fact would never approved of child sacrifice like the others gods during these times.

  • Scholars consider the first five books of the OT as a literary unit. The writers surely knew it had been written that God condemned child sacrifice (Lev. 18:21, Lev. 20:2-5, Deut. 12:31, 18:10). If the story were true the temptation would have been to not include this version of the story to protect God’s reputation. The writers weren’t mindless but may have understood the purpose and moral of the story was that God did not approve of this kind of sacrifice.
  • The story begins that God was testing Abraham (22:1). The rest of the story suggests Abraham either expected that they would not have to carry out this act at the last minute or that Abraham had faith that God could bring Isaac back from the dead (i.e. Heb. 11:17-19), unlike the other gods who required child sacrifice. Abraham told the servants he and Isaac would be back (5). Abraham fully expected God to provide a lamb instead for the altar and did so (8, 13). The story ended by the angel stopping Abraham before harming Isaac (11-12).
  • Why did God test Abraham with such a revolting temptation? Other gods demanded child sacrifices to quench their thirst for power. God may have used this extreme example to differentiate Himself. These were unique historical times. God was using Israel as a means to usher in the Messiah as a blessing to all nations. This event took place on Mount Moriah where the temple was to be built (2 Chron. 3:1), culminating in the arrival of the Messiah.
  • Abraham’s extraordinary faith in God was critical. This is the only time in history God would use a man and a nation to influence all nations of the world. A one-time test may be appropriate in such circumstances. Isaac’s sacrifice being carried out wasn’t mandatory as Abraham’s lack of obedience would have been a valuable lesson. Maybe Abraham wished to prove his God didn’t demand infant sacrifices and certainly not for self-gratification. Many translators advise “Now, take your son” (Gen. 22:2) in the Hebrew language suggests God is making more of a plea than demand. Freedom is at the very core of God’s character.
  • Isaac was not a child and most likely was an adult. The term boy or lad used for Isaac could refer to one of military age (I Chron. 12: 28). Kaiser suggests the term could mean that Isaac was easily in his twenties and possibly thirties (Hard Sayings Of The OT, p. 123). Isaac had a choice in this matter unlike the babies sacrificed by other cultures to their supposed gods.
  • No one can justify that God is commanding them to kill their child. God clearly spoke to Abraham as was God’s practice in the beginning of history with the Israelites. Abraham had experience in recognizing God’s voice. This wasn’t a hunch. Besides, it cannot be proven beyond a shadow of doubt that God indeed would have required the sacrifice.

Is it fair to say that this event between Abraham and God did not mirror other ancient sacrifices to gods as they would not have stopped the sacrifice for their own pleasures? Since Abraham knew his older son would either not die or come back from the dead right away, does this make God’s request not the wrong we may have felt initially? The editors weren’t necessarily letting their story-telling devices creep into the story. There are reasonable explanations that God was not approving of child sacrifice in this extreme test for Abraham and Isaac.

Can Words Such As “By The Grace Of God” Be Offensive?

Current dangers in the world suggest we are in desperate need of more spirituality. I define spirituality as loving your neighbor as you wished to be love. My definition may offend many followers of Jesus who think of spirituality in terms of what and if we believe in God. But, would Jesus defend one who believed in Him but misrepresented His teachings or someone who didn’t believe in God but lived out more His message.

Many people may turn away from God or discussions about spirituality because of how God is characterized by our actions and words. Let’s don’t provoke others into un-spirituality by our words which may suggest to them God plays favorites or is thoughtless. I don’t wish to offend those who have said things that may misrepresent God because I have said them. I just am hoping to un-offend those open to spirituality. It isn’t enough to be spiritual yourself. We must inspire other appropriately. God followers must be able to defend if their God is worth following.

When we say “by the grace of God” when spared from a terrorist attack killing many, we are implying God didn’t give a dam about others. Was God good to you because you are a better person! If God interfered you going to work that morning on 911, than God failed to intervene with others who died. If by the “grace of God” God allowed you or a family member to miraculously recover, God failed to save others from illness. Did God really give us the parking space when others needed the space more? Did God give us the job when others praying for the same job were more financially desperate? Did God really give victory in the game while intended others to lose?

Why kind of God is God? The truth is many prayers are not answered for safety or cures. God isn’t as arbitrary as our words suggest; God doesn’t love those spared more than those not spared. Those who claim divine intervention are not wishing to offend others but it can. God followers – are you as close to God if not cured or are your prayers more about manipulation for gain than requests for support whatever happens? God doesn’t cause terrorist attacks or car accidents. Terrorists and drunk drivers end life and not God. Our words must convey this truth.

Many are simply seeking to honor God when spared, but our words impact others. The truth is God placed a higher priority on freedom than control. A loving God, unlike humans, will not allow their love to be controlling. Even humans know “controlling love” is an oxymoron and not love at all. What can we say to be less offensive? We might say in times of appreciation to God: “I am grateful God was by my side in this tragedy that God did not desire. I was fortunate to recover but I knew I would be made whole someday regardless.” This may more accurately describe who God really is – God never wished suffering or death in the first place on anyone.

 

 

Why Might It Be A Good Idea To Conceal Our Good Deeds?

I was moving a suitcase out of the house and a neighbor asked me if I was going on a trip. Because I have been hanging with Jesus for a while and had a few things rub off on me, I knew not to say that actually it was stuff I had been keeping for a homeless person until they found a place to stay. If you will indulge me, I had to tell you that so I could write this to make a point – God has our backs. It is often best that we conceal our good deeds (Mt. 6:1-4).  

I wasn’t tempted to tell my neighbor whose stuff I was keeping other than a friend. God advises “lay low” for our good. I was helping a homeless person but how hard has it been to store stuff in my heated house while they live under a bridge. Sometimes, it is wise to provide shelter because it empowers and sometimes it isn’t because it enables. It is complicated. It is really embarrassing to be honest with how few I have helped with all I have been blessed with. God is just trying to spare me of puffing myself up more than I really am to avoid embarrassment.  

Pride for whatever reason can lead to some pretty crazy behaviors. Pharisees loved to brag about what great God-worshippers they were. They loved to brag how spiritual they were but they were the ones that killed Jesus. Whoops! What in God’s name did Jesus do all that wrong to be killed. People today claim to be someone they aren’t and we don’t crucify them. People who brag about rather than be discovered for helping others are the only one who can’t see how sickening it is. 

I don’t think we have to go totally underground with our good deeds. It feels good and inspires others to action when one acknowledges us or even mentions our generosity in front of others. But, it is just different coming from others. I think that is why God wants us to know how much God loves us. Sometimes, others will not acknowledge us but its going to be alright when we feel a high-five from the Creator of the Universe.  

Jesus always advised us with our best interest in mind. When our motives for good deeds are to be known it just gets all screwed up. We start being more concerned how we look and end up helping others less. It is great we help people but isn’t it usually the case we can do so much more unless you are Mother Teresa. Mother Teresa never bragged for some reason. God understands human nature and advises us to inspire to do good deeds without the acknowledgment of others.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Does The Most Popular Verse In Bible Really Mean?

A relationship with God is negatively impacted by certain beliefs about God assumed to be true. The Bible is a story to learn about God. Writers never intend a reader to parse a sentence without being mindful of the context and whole story. Chapters and verses were not a part of the biblical writings until after the 12th century. We are better off not reading the Bible if we assume interpretations are infallible and we can be positive of the writer’s thoughts 2000 years later. If an interpretation doesn’t make sense of a loving God, it is probably wrong.

John 3:16 says: “For God so love the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” This verse has been used to defend that the reason for the Cross was to satisfy the wrath of God. One could also argue that the reason for the Cross was to convey God’s love and desire to win us over because in the same breathe the writer says: “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (Jn. 3:17). God‘s love is surely motivated to serve not be served.

John couldn’t mean by perish burning in a lake of fire. Jesus didn’t come to save us from burning forever after death for not believing in God. The traditional understanding of the word Hell is a myth. Jesus simply said life can lead down a path of destruction without God’s guidance. A loving God wouldn’t torture people forever for sins while on earth a few short years. The Greek translation of the word perish is “lost.” Jesus warned ignoring His message lead to a soul gone astray. Don’t love your neighbor like you want to be loved, don’t forgive you partner, seek to rule than serve, and in old age as you reflect back on your legacy expect overwhelming regrets.

John’s readers did not think of eternal life as we do today in terms of living in Heaven and avoiding Hell. John used life and eternal life interchangeably (i.e. 5:39 with 5:40, 6:53 with 6:54). John believed that eternal life began not in the future but here on earth when seeking good and shunning evil (Jn. 3:20). John 3:15 refers to eternal life as being in Christ, thus referring to a quality of live than future destiny. When Jesus was asked directly how to have eternal life He simply said to love God and love others as yourself (Lk.10:25-27). A self-centered life leads to a death without hope, whereas following God leads to a fulfilling life.

Taking a verse of the Bible and running with it can lead to false characterizations of God. Keep in mind John’s readers didn’t have the New Testament writings that we have today. People who lived during Jesus’ life had Jesus. Jesus when He left this world didn’t promise to leave an eventual Bible but His spirit (Jn. 14:17). Don’t go to the Bible looking for a set of rules to live by. Each situation is different. God desires a personal relationship with each and every one and will guide and inspire. A loving God can’t possibly encourage one to blow up people for simply having different personal beliefs. God allowed His Son to be crucified though innocent of charges to convince us of God’s unimaginable love and to inspire us to live a life worth living.

 

 

 

What Are Some Ways To Combat Terrorism And Extremism?

I wanted to title this how to combat religious extremism. But, those who hold to extreme views of God according to their interpretation of the Bible are not typically beheading people. True spiritual leaders don’t advocate blowing up others but sacrifice their own life to influence others. We all want to do our part in making this a better world. God bless the men and women who take the fight to ISIS. Certain evils just require guns than words. I doubt there are any pacifists when their child is being attacked. Terrorists don’t believe in isolationism but seek to kill those in other lands who don’t hold to their same personal beliefs.

We desperately need our brave soldiers to combat their warriors. We can do our best to prevent others from becoming warriors. We must combat radicalization. First, we must inform authorities even on our own family members when we notice beliefs that can lead to killing innocent people. Also, we must examine our own personal beliefs of a loving God to discern if they can negatively influence or be construed as extreme. We must err on the side of debatable interpretations that are less likely to violate the rights of others. A loving God surely respects the freedom of beliefs in this life and after death, encourages men and women to be equally vulnerable to one another, seeks only to convert others from evil actions, and guides through a relationship and not a book written thousands of years ago.

The Law must insist on certain beliefs to avoid the violation of rights of others. We can’t yell fire in a movie theatre if there is no fire because lives can be endangered trying to escape. We can’t murder or steal. But, we have a right to form our own personal beliefs as long as they don’t violate the rights of others. It is so critical to understand the God of the Bible has determined love is the freedom to believe in God or not. God understands controlling decisions doesn’t results in true love. Freedom is necessary for authenticity, the highest good in relationships. Any religion that is based on control than service is not truly religious.

It is important to defend not only does God respect the right to choose your own personal beliefs in this life, but God does not torture people after death for such decisions. God doesn’t control decisions in this lifetime or the life to come. The traditional understanding of Hell, where you will burn forever after death for not believing in God while on earth, is highly debatable and morally indefensible. Jesus used the word Gehenna, wrongly translated as Hell in the New Testament, to illustrate how spiritual death is as horrible as physical death. Gehenna was a real valley near Jerusalem that was used as a dump where fires were kept burning that enemies disposed of those slaughtered. God is a respecter of freedom in this life and the life to come.

Terrorists and other religious extremists always have views that proscribe gender roles more oppressive for women than men. Women do not need male leadership; women need unselfish men who have the heart of a servant. Even loving leadership invites men in impasses to solve conflicts differently than through normal conflict resolution means between two friends. God did not create a male-controlled relationship in the beginning. The God of the Bible does not suggest women are under the authority of men as if half the world needs a mediator with God. This encourages dominance on the man’s part and dependence on the woman’s part. Couples are free to agree on their own roles in marriage, but we must not insist the Bible teaches women are to be submissive to men in a way men are not similarly submissive to women.

The primary goal of terrorists and religious extremists is conversion. I believe Christianity or any religion must differentiate enough by avoiding conversion as its main thrust. It is unavoidable to attempt to convince others of moral beliefs that encourage treating others like you want to be treated, but we must avoid attempts to convert other to a set of beliefs associated with our religion. Jesus had no evangelical spiel and other sought to encourage people to shun evil and do good. Jesus encouraged spirituality for self-interest and the interests of others. Jesus did want us to know God was the kind of Creator or Parent who desired a friendship to encourage such a journey. The desire to convert suggests a hidden or not so hidden agenda that isn’t friendly. We simply must love others as they want to be loved and can share in natural ways we are convinced our Creator has our back. Since Hell doesn’t exist and billions have lived who have never heard of Jesus or the Bible, a loving God would not require certain beliefs for a relationship.

Lastly, we must not insist a Book is more important than one’s personal relationship with God. Interpretations of writings written thousands of years ago are fallible. Discuss opinions gracefully as you embark upon a journey with your God. Jesus when leaving this earth didn’t promise to leave us with a Bible but His Spirit so we might be able to discern evil from good (Jn. 14:16). The Bible was never meant to be used as a rule book. Jesus would advise a woman to turn the other cheek for an abusive husband. Read the Bible as a story about God. Develop a relationship with God and others. As you get to know God, God will guide you on your journey.

How Can One Read The Bible Without Being Totally Frustrated?

It is understandable why many avoid reading the Bible. It isn’t easy to relate to cultures thousands of years ago vastly different than ours. Some passages seem to suggest God commanded the killing of women and children in times of war even if preventable. Many scholars, who are not chauvinists, interpret certain passages to teach men are the leaders of women. God help women! God may respect the right to choose your own personal beliefs in this life, but does God really after death torture people for such decisions?

Many agree that the Bible is chocked full of wisdom. It is not natural to forgive others of certain sins but many partners are glad they had another voice speaking to them. Who thinks to talk in parables to go through the backdoor of a resistant soul? Parables enable us to continually think on a subject to try to understand and eventually accept positive applications in one’s life. The Bible is not a book you read once. You can read the Bible over and over and come away with fresh insights that help in relationships.

We may forget that the New Testament had not been written during Jesus’ lifetime. Today, most only read the New Testament because the older testament is so confusing. Yet, without the newer testament shortly after Jesus’ death, Jesus’ message exploded and led to billions of followers. The Bible can be a two-edge sword and often the pointed end is use to discourage and divide. My point is Jesus when leaving this earth didn’t promise to leave us with a Bible. He instead left us with His Spirit so we might be able to discern evil from good (Jn. 14:16).

The Bible was never meant to be used as a rule book. We all chuckle at the story when someone was looking for guidance, they opened the Bible and happened upon the verse “then he went and hung himself.” The Bible is not a book to definitely tell others what to do in their circumstances. When Jesus said turn the other cheek, He wouldn’t advise a woman to allow an abusive husband to continue to beat her. Develop a relationship with God, consult people you respect, and God will guide you in making a wise decision in your situation.

Interpretations aren’t infallible as most know. Don’t argue over interpretations. Consider one another’s opinion gracefully, if they don’t violate the freedom of others, to work out your own convictions with as much consistency as possible. The Bible was not written to be divisive to those willing to read it. Much of the Bible is clear that we can agree to disagree on the more difficult passages.

Read the Bible as a story so God can relate to you. The Bible wasn’t initially written as a bunch of chapters and verses but a story about God’s desire for a relationship with those God created. You may be one that likes to read the Bible with a commentary at hand. Just understand interpretations are fallible unless talking about murder. I have some good news. God gave us brains. Enjoy the Bible as a story about your Creator. As you get to know God, God will join and guide you in your journey of life.

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