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Archive for May, 2016

Does God Accept Those Who Doubt The Resurrection Or Even God’s Existence?

Religious folks communicate to others certain beliefs necessary to be accepted by God or have a relationship with God. We know it doesn’t matter whether you are baptized much less how you are baptized. A loving God wouldn’t love people based on if they have been dunked or sprinkled? Such beliefs may make sense to church folks but others rightly have a difficult time believing such a thing of a loving God. Whether you think God has a litmus test for acceptance impacts discussing God with others.

Does one have to believe in God to be accepted by God? The first chapter of Romans in the Bible has been used to suggest all who don’t believe in God are suppressing what they know to be true. Actually, the writer refers to those who don’t doubt but ignore God and morality to justify their wicked ways. Let’s not accuse those who believe in a God as needing a crutch and those who question the reality of an invisible God of being wicked and not knowing their feelings. If it is a sin to doubt God exists, then Christians sin if they doubt God in troubled times.

Jesus spoke out more against the religious than the non-religious. Religious leaders during biblical times distorted and make religion self-serving rather than self-sacrificing. The Pharisees insisted on certain sacred beliefs which Jesus wanted no part of. I suppose the Pharisees besides liking to be in control assumed God had certain requirements before God would accept you. Jesus wasn’t killed by atheists or those who didn’t go to church. Religious leaders who prayed daily and went to church a lot begged Roman authorities to put Jesus in the grave.

One doesn’t even have to believe in the resurrection to be accepted or have a relationship with God if so desired. Jesus chose twelve men to be His closest friends for support. They saw Jesus perform miracles included raising people from the dead. Jesus even told them He would come back from the grave on the third day after crucifixion. His disciples still weren’t convinced even after seeing Jesus (Mt. 28:17). If Jesus’ disciples, who made personal sacrifices to follow Jesus around, saw Jesus and doubted then people 2000 years later can question whether the resurrection actually took place. I believe the historical evidence is very credible but we each have our own reasons whether to believe in such an event or not.

Some can’t logically wrap their heads around Jesus being both man and God. Exactly how does one do that chromosomally? Isn’t it logically impossible to be God and not God? Some may simply believe Jesus was an extraordinary man who represented God well. I am not convinced there are any sacred beliefs that God demands. God’s only plea is what most of us want for ourselves and loved one – to love others as we want to be love, to go the extra mile in relationships for the possibility of healing.

I am convinced there is Creator of the Universe; others may not be convinced. If such a Power exists, they don’t need my help convincing others there is such a God. We don’t have to convert others to Christianity or to believe everything in the Bible. John Hick suggest in a pluralistic world we might: “Consider the belief that there is an ultimate transcendent Reality which is the source and ground of everything…that the universal presence of this Reality is humanly reflected (‘incarnated’) in the lives of the world’s great spiritual leaders; and that among these we have found Jesus to be our principal revelation of the Real and our principal guide for living (The Metaphor of God incarnate, 187).

Does God “Love And Cherish” More For Richer Or Poorer?

One’s view of God can be impacted by what they have heard God thinks about money. I can quote a lot of bible verses to discuss what God thinks about money, whether God wishes all to be rich or have just enough, but honestly the Bible can be used to prove about anything. The Bible was never meant to be a Book of rules for our personal circumstances but stories about God to reflect on positive changes in our life. What do you think a loving God thinks about money?

Let’s dispel the myth that God wants you rich and if you aren’t, than you don’t have enough faith in God. A person who believes that all their troubles will be swept away through a relationship with God is left with the logical explanation that God has failed them. The Scriptures speak not of God as a genie in a bottle who controls the world but as a Presence in our lives whatever our circumstances. I am not sure what Bible false teachers are smoking who imply lack of faith is the reason for economic hardships.

Let’s dispel the myth that money is the root of all evil. The Bible actually says “for the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil (I Tim. 6:10). The context suggests contentment whatever one’s situation is true freedom. If money truly led to happiness all the rich people we know and read about would be the happiest people alive. How is it evil when one who has a lot of money leads to giving money to those less fortunate in hopes that one day they don’t have to worry about having food on the table or clothes on their back?

I am not convinced God hates or loves money. Lack of money can rob one of their dignity and having too much money can turn a amiable person into an unpleasant individual by thinking of themselves more highly than they should. It is what you do with money that God cares the most about. Maybe God wishes richer those who can handle prosperity to help others and thinks poorer is best for those when money results in problems because of attitudes of never having enough.

I don’t want to make a mountain out of a molehill but Jesus once said to pray to God: “Give us today our daily bread” (Mt. 6:11). Jesus didn’t say God thinks it is wrong for one to have more than they really need for daily sustenance. But, Jesus surely understood not having enough to survive is unbearable. I have no doubt God has a special place in their heart for the poor. It isn’t favoritism when you want all to not have the worries of survival.

For those who are fortunate enough to have more than they need, God does seem to encourage a cheerful giver (2 Cor. 9:7). Our motive for giving matters. Giving can puff us up and make us despicable people. So, for some just keep your money! Even poor people don’t want your money if strings are attached for selfish reasons not in the interest of those you are helping. God will guide you as to whether to give nothing, 10%, 50% or whatever of your abundance.

It isn’t what you have; it is what you do with what you have. There are advantageous to having just enough money. Believe it or not there are burdens when you have a lot of money. Those who live day to day can often have a greater impact in helping others because they walk in that person’s shoes. Those who suffer often get the most help from others who have suffered their same situation. Those who have lots of money can seek to make changes where people don’t have to spend their time worrying about how to keep food on the table or clothes on their back.

 

 

Can We Only Think Of Spirituality in God-Terms And Why It Matters?

We have a problem. Many would agree spirituality is important as defined below, but such conversations are rare or taboo. One reason I think people are less inclined to discuss spiritual issues openly is because God-folks don’t have conversations without agendas and their view of the God of the Bible is standoffish and may not be what God is really like. I am convinced becoming more spiritual brings peace of mind and is essential for a better world.

Most religious leaders define spirituality as loving others like you want to be loved. Christians may be even surprised this was Jesus’ message along with how God could help us in such a journey. Also, in a broken world we must consider how to love others who have hurt us. Relationships may never heal if we never go the extra mile. Such a definition can allow people to encourage one another in this endeavor. Some seek to justify their self-centeredness or immorality, but most friends would agree with the importance of living a more selfless life.

Many who have grown up in the church will not agree with my definition of spirituality, but I have grown weary of barriers that prevent such discussions. I don’t wish to discourage anyone in their beliefs about God, but more may be open to living a more focused, spiritual life without all the baggage added. Places of worship that aren’t extreme in their beliefs tend to have a positive influence on those who attend, but one doesn’t always notice great differences in relationships such as marriage of those who do and don’t attend a formal setting for worship.

I am convinced the following are important changes we must make in our thinking if we are to encourage others to become more spiritual. The main challenge is to not necessarily define spirituality in “God” terms and certainly not in “God of the Bible” terms. Often, we never get to “so how should we live” because of debates about such beliefs. It is true actions can flow from beliefs but I don’t believe there are any excuses for lack of spirituality or selfishness. If there is a Creator, such a Creator is capable of making themselves known to individuals. If you can’t buy into the whole Jesus and Bible thing, don’t throw Jesus’ message out as well. 

  • It is suspect that the Christian God insists on belief of the God of the Bible when the majority of people who have been born and died on this earth had no written knowledge of such a God. Suggesting a loving God insists one can only come to God through Jesus is to ignore the realities of our world. The truth is one’s religion, or rebellion against a certain religion, is based on the family born into whether be Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, etc.
  • It is suspect that a loving God judges people based on decisions and beliefs in the short time here on earth. Do we really think a thief is 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? If it is a sin to doubt God exists, then Christians sin if they doubt God in troubled times. One may be able to believe either in a God, a wiser Reality greater than them, or that living less self-centered lives than more self-centered lives is the higher priority.
  • Spiritual minded people who wish to encourage others in their spirituality must get out of the conversion business. People don’t need to be converted to a certain religion or set of beliefs; people need to be encouraged to have conversations how to love in their relationships. If God truly exist God can draw anyone to themselves if so desired. Jesus’ only agenda was to convince people to listen to their heart. God-folks especially must be open to considering other opinions gracefully, so one can work out their own convictions. It is manipulative when spiritual folks engage in relationships other than for friendship or desires to help one how they wished to be helped.
  • It may surprise many of the Christian faith that when Jesus was asked how to obtain eternal life, He simply said to love God and love others as yourself (Lk.10:25-27). Jesus didn’t attach certain sacred beliefs as clear in His interactions with individuals, and Jesus didn’t have in mind perfection or God is going to be mighty lonely. Jesus didn’t insist the woman caught in adultery believe He was God but simply to do what she knew was right in her heart and leave her life of sin (Jn. 8:1-11). Jesus wasn’t 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.
  • Jesus main message was to encourage unselfishness for our own best interest, but Jesus too wanted us to know about God. Jesus including loving God when asked about eternal life because Jesus believed that loving God is being empowered to love others to the fullest. Jesus wanted others to know their Creator will never give up loving us and forgiving us in doing good and shunning evil. Jesus believed there was nothing in one’s past that God could not love and forgive us. Jesus believed a relationship with God helped one to love others while also making amends with others when needed.
  • The manuscript reliability of all ancient literature is far less than the Old and New Testament, but we don’t question Julius Caesar’s recorded exploits in the Gallic Wars. The Bible though was never meant to be a Book of rules but stories about God to reflect on what God is really like. 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). God never intended a Book to replace our relationship with God. The Bible’s main message is crystal clear, but interpretations of writings thousands of years ago are fallible and we can’t ask the writer for clarification.
  • Spirituality should not be confused with debatable views of God or being religious and attending religious services. Being spiritual isn’t being Catholic, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Mormon, etc. Find people who encourage one another in striving continually to love others as well as going the extra mile in relationships. Change only happens sometimes when spiritual minded folks take the first step. Look for people who can help in handling personal disappointments along your journey.

Do you agree that the world needs a lot more people who discuss and become more spiritual by loving others as they want to be loved? Make being spiritual a constant endeavor and know how to get back on track when discouraged. My view of God’s love for me does this for me. Identify any problems, such as certain views of God that may be erroneous, in making spirituality more of a focus in your life. Honestly, I don’t think there are any legitimate excuses for being self-centered. I am convinced becoming more spiritual bring peace of mind and is essential for a better world.

 

Why Isn’t God More Obvious And Less Invisible?

If God believes trusting in God is in our best interest, why doesn’t God sign each sunset in the bottom right corner? It seems God could be a lot more obvious by intervening more than God seems to. I will never been satisfied with explanations that suggest God is to dignified to have to show or explain themselves. I would die to be asked by my children to make my beliefs clearer. How much more a perfect, loving God! I have a hard time believing a loving God cares more about their reputation than helping us to rely on our Creator.

It is more difficult for God than one may think. Damn if God does; damn if God doesn’t. One could view God signing each sunset as being egotistical. Since this is not a loving behavior, one could suggest God really doesn’t exist. But, I don’t believe all are being rebellious who hesitate to believe in a God or can’t wrap their head around having a relationship with an invisible God. Spiritual rebellion is denying the possibility of a God so to justify living a self-centered life.

Keep in mind God did show up in history in very tangible ways. God dropped manna from the sky to help a nation survive in the wilderness and separated the Red Sea to escape one’s enemy, but people still did not believe or at least put their total trust in God. God even came in person but Jesus’ miracles did not obtain the results some may suggest if God would stop hiding.

God wanted us to come to them on our own terms rather than out of feelings of obligation or awe. God wanted it to be all about us and not God. Loving parents desire their children freely reciprocate their love as opposed to feeling manipulated. Do the below seem reasonable as to why a loving God may be less obvious?

  • God may not be able to intervene in evil and suffering because true love must never be dictatorial. We ask why God didn’t take Hitler out of this world, but Hitler was enabled and chosen by many who could have stopped him. God’s constant interference and presence may prevent a superior world from emerging as a result of the moral development and improvement of free creatures. Interference can prevent growth and self-satisfaction resulting from making wise, independent choices. God instead can at least provide a life after death with God for those who desire it.
  • God may know that a majority of people will reject God now if more “in your face” as opposed to a time in the future under different circumstances. Timing in relationships is crucial. People may also come to believe in God for the wrong reasons in “shock and awe” times which are not conducive for a long-lasting relationship. Also, God revealing themselves in perceived very real ways isn’t always comforting. Many are vulnerable to extreme guilt and discouragement when seemingly having fewer excuses for failing. God always watches out for the most vulnerable, so those of us who can readily except forgiveness might show more compassion.

Faith may be unavoidable in trusting God knows the right balance. Being in the presence of others we offend isn’t always initially conducive for lasting change. God wanted us to come to God on our own terms rather than out of feelings of obligation or awe. God wanted it to be all about us and not God. Uncontrolling, loving parents always desire their children freely reciprocate their love as opposed to feeling manipulated, even if it can be proven a mutual relationship is in their best interest.

Why Aren’t People More Spiritually Focused?

I don’t think there is a definitive answer to the question posed but I can suggest some possible reasons why people are less inclined to discuss their spirituality as they might their physical health. Most religious leaders define spirituality as loving others like you want to be loved. Jesus, who sparked Christianity, made this His central message. The majority of people believe in a God and the value of loving their neighbor like they want to be loved. Few friends, whether they believe in a Creator or not, defend self-centered living that violates the rights of others.

The first challenge in getting more to think about and discuss their spirituality is not insisting on defining spirituality based on certain beliefs about God or a God. Often, we never get to “so how should we live” because of debates about beliefs. It is true actions flow from beliefs but beliefs should not excuse lack of spirituality or selfishness. If there is a Creator, such a Creator is capable of making themselves known to individuals. It is easier for some to believe in an invisible God than others. It is suspect that the Christian God insists on belief of the God of the Bible when the majority of people born had no written knowledge of such a God.

Spiritual minded people must avoid hidden agendas such as converting others to their religion or beliefs. People don’t need to be converted; people need to be encouraged to have conversations how to love in their relationships. Again, God if they exist can draw anyone to themselves if so desired. People will let you know if they are interested in what inspires you. Jesus’ only agenda was to convince people to listen to their heart. God-folks especially must be open to considering other opinions gracefully, so one can work out their own convictions. People feel manipulated rather than loved when spiritual folks engage other than for friendship or desires to help one how they wished to be helped.

People may be less spiritually inclined because they have heard the God of the Bible is gender bias or homophobic. God never approved of patriarchalism. God never approved of women being dependent on men in a way men shouldn’t be dependent on women. The Bible doesn’t speak about same sex relationships that are exclusively committed to loving one another. The Bible does speak to different sex couples who take the marriage commitment lightly and think partners can be traded in for supposed better versions. Please don’t use others’ view of God as an excuse to not determine who you think God really is. Views of God of the Bible are subject to interpretation and the writers aren’t available for further clarification.

Do not confuse being spiritual as being the same as religious. Religion has been high jacked and has become more about being served than serving. Do not associate spirituality with certain debatable view of God and certainly not with going to religious services. Being spiritual isn’t being Catholic, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Mormon, etc. Find people who encourage one another in striving continually to love others as well as going the extra mile in relationships. Change only happens sometimes when spiritual minded folks take the first step. Look for people who can help in handling personal disappointments along your journey.

Do you agree that the world needs a lot more people who discuss and become more spiritual by loving others as they want to be loved? Make being spiritual a constant endeavor and know how to get back on track when discouraged. My view of God’s love for me does this for me. Identify any problems, such as certain views of God that may be erroneous, in making spirituality more of a focus in your life. Honestly, I don’t think there are any legitimate excuses for being self-centered. I am convinced becoming more spiritual bring peace of mind and is essential for a better world.

What Is Being Spiritual And Are You?

My refusal to define spirituality in “God” terms will upset some. I don’t know why it is easier for me to believe in an invisible God than others. I know it isn’t because of moral superiority because others who don’t spend as much time thinking about God treat others a hell of a lot better than I do at times. Maybe you believe in God but have heard God is gender bias or homophobic and use this as an excuse to not be as introspective about your spiritual life as much as your physical or emotional health. Keep in mind though views of God of the Bible are subject to interpretation and the writer is not available for further clarification. 

Jesus and most of the great religious leaders define spirituality as treating others like you want to be treated, which the world is in desperate need of. Reality also insists we must consider when we or others don’t act lovable. Change only happens sometimes when we take the first step or go the extra mile. Relationships thrive more when we have a focus to love others like we want to be loved and a plan for how we will handle disappointments.

It may surprise many of the Christian faith that when Jesus was asked how to obtain eternal life, He simply said to love God and love others as yourself (Lk.10:25-27). Jesus didn’t attach any other necessary requirements, and Jesus didn’t have in mind perfection or God is going to be mighty lonely. Jesus said love God because loving God is being empowered to love others to the fullest. Few object to the notion of treating others like you want to be treated, so we must have discussions without all the trappings of supposed sacred beliefs. It is suspect that a loving God insists all believe in the Christian God when the majority of people born have lived and died without any knowledge of the Bible or who Jesus was.

Being spiritual and being a law-abiding citizen aren’t the same. Laws can’t legislate matters of the heart to address the realities of our world. The Law can tell us amends are necessary when wronged, but the Law can’t tell you to forgive that which can never be returned such as one’s reputation. The Law can require we not speed excessively by a car, but the law can’t tell us what to do when one is stranded in their car. We need friends to sometimes not respond in like-manner because we are reacting to the pain we are in. Striving to be just good enough isn’t enough in a broken world.

I will put in a plug for God if you think it is possible God was here in the beginning and created. I have messed up in my relationships, but God has influenced me on the importance of confessing, taking responsibility and making amends as best I could. I am not quite sure how to explain but a relationship with God, who loves and forgives us, can inspire us to act the same toward others, to not give up being an encourager than discourager, to not give up doing good and shunning evil. Some may feel there is no way a God could love and forgive what you have done in your past. I believe God never gives up on people. 

You don’t think you are spiritual? Why the heck are you reading this! Develop your focus on striving to be more spiritual. Define it, strive for it, and know how to get back on track when discouraged. My view of God’s love for me does this for me. You may need to remove the problems that keep you from making spirituality more of a focus in your life. Spirituality is not whether you go to church or not, whether you believe what other people believe about God, it is loving others. Honestly, I don’t think there are any legitimate excuses for being self-centered. I am convinced becoming more spiritually focused is essential for a better world.

Did God Command Genocide In The Old Testament?

Deuteronomy 7:1-4 (NIV)

1 When the Lord your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess and drives out before you many nations—the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites, seven nations larger and stronger than you— and when the Lord your God has delivered them over to you and you have defeated them, then you must destroy them totally. Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy. Do not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons.

Deuteronomy 20:16-17   (NIV)

16 However, in the cities of the nations the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes. 17 Completely destroy them—the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites—as the Lord your God has commanded you.

Joshua 10:39 (NIV)

39 They took the city, its king and its villages, and put them to the sword. Everyone in it they totally destroyed. They left no survivors. They did to Debir and its king as they had done to Libnah and its king and to Hebron.

Some biblical passages either state that God commanded the destroying of women and children or imply God’s approval of such actions by the Israelites at war with other nations. See a list of OT passages here. Are there plausible explanations for how a good God could make such statements without claiming that God doesn’t have to live by the same morals as human beings? Who doesn’t know intentionally killing children even in times of war is immoral, though war is often “kill or be killed” and innocent lives cannot always be spared.

Also, we don’t have to necessarily suggest that imperfect biblical writers put words in God’s mouth at times. God’s love has never been controlling to disallow such views to creep in Scriptures, but Jesus when leaving this earth didn’t promise to leave a Bible but His spirit to discern what God is really like (Jn. 14:16). Only terrorists rationalize that a loving God actually commands killing others for personal beliefs held.

  • Deuteronomy 7:1 speaks of driving out the enemy if war is necessary, but verse two speaks of destroying the enemy totally. If total destruction is the only option, you don’t write about driving out the enemy or advising not to make treaties or intermarry with a dead enemy (v.3). Deuteronomy 7:1-3 illustrates how extermination passages (i.e. Deut. 20:16-17) are to be understood within the context of initially driving out the enemy.
  • Joshua speaks of utter destruction in Debir and returning to camp (10:39-43), yet the writer practically in the same breathe speaks of survivors from Debir being destroyed (11: 21). The writers weren’t mindless enough to contradict themselves as they sought to protect God’s integrity. The writers didn’t intend certain passages to be taken literally or unconditionally.
  • It was common in non-biblical literatures in OT times to use warfare rhetoric. Exaggerated language is often used to induce fear and inspire victory. A US leader may say they will utterly destroy ISIS and anything having to do with ISIS. This doesn’t mean women and children will not be spared when possible. Exaggerated language is even used for God. God is said to have completely destroyed Judah at the hands of the Babylonians, yet this didn’t happen (Jer. 25:9).
  • Moses ordered the Canaanites to be annihilated (Deut. 13:14-15), yet Joshua reports of many survivors. Deuteronomy and Joshua are clearly a literary unit as the last and first chapters speak of the transition of leadership from Moses to Joshua. Joshua is said to have obeyed Moses’ commands (11:15), but many survivors were left. Moses didn’t mean literally to destroy all living beings if certain conditions existed.
  • Many statements in literature are meant to be elliptical in nature. We write and speak all the time about certain subjects without also stating exceptions. God told Jonah to tell the Ninevites they will be overthrown in 40 days. Does Jonah not really speak for God or is God a liar because in fact Nineveh was spared? It is not stated but assumed if Nineveh changes from their evil ways God will forgive them. I may write to parents about the importance of always disciplining without mentioning in the same paragraph that sometimes discipline isn’t necessary when a child expresses extreme remorse.

It is reasonable to assume the Bible doesn’t suggest God approved of genocide or other moral atrocities. God always prefers peaceful alternatives than violence. God never intended for women and children fleeing to be hunted down and killed. There are times when certain nations cannot live together in peace. Many terrorists and those they have radicalized are not willing to live together with differences. Despite the loss of innocent lives, future generations may look back on the 21st century and accept nations invading lands inhabited by evildoers who seek power only to eventually destroy their own and people of other countries. God never condoned torture, rape, and beheading of the enemy. God never initiated war simply because other nations held different beliefs or refused to believe in the God of Israel. God will never promise a lustful afterlife at the expense of women.

References:

Paul Copan and Mathew Flannagan in Did God Really Command Genocide?

Heath A Thomas, Jeremy Evans, Paul Copan in Holy War In The Bible

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