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Archive for June, 2016

Can We Stop Saying “Love The Sinner; Hate The Sin” To Gay People!

Only a gay person understands how incredibly hard it is sometimes to share with certain people that they are gay. Many, because of their understanding of the Bible, will respond with some version of “I love you; I hate your sin.” But, one is hard pressed to find anywhere in the Bible where this is a recommended strategy in relationships regardless if the Bible clearly condemns a behavior or not. You cannot value someone and condemn them at the same time. What is heard is I don’t love you. It is impossible to not feel personally attacked when such words are uttered.

For whatever reason we treat gay people differently than other issues that one may be personally convicted is wrong. Many refer to Paul’s list of sins to call out homosexuality but they fail to call out the greedy and slanderers (I Cor. 6: 9-10). Unless you are homeless chances are you have been greedy more than once this week. How is it not greedy to keep more than you need and make sure those struck by natural disasters or other tragedies have the rest? We seldom take risks to express our concerns to an individual; instead, we talk to someone else behind their back. So when I see you, remind me to say “I love you, but I hate your behaviors.”

I am convinced the Bible is silent on monogamous same sex relationships. When homosexuality is discussed in the Bible, it was not consensual and it was not monogamous. Such relationships were purely for self-gratification reasons. Keep in mind not everyone who shares something about themselves personally is asking what you think the Bible says. So, keep those thoughts to yourself. If one wants to know what God feels about their relationship, they can engage with God personally. We clearly don’t agree on what the Bible says about many issues in life, or there would not be so many denominations with so many differing creeds.

Please don’t insult others by comparing homosexuality to anything else such as pedophilia or bestiality. Friends are coming to us about themselves or their children and they are speaking about consensual, adult relationships. Do I think it is okay if three women marry four men? I will get back to you when I am really confronted with that. Typically, we are talking to individual human beings that are sharing something deeply personally.

Do we tell a drug abuser that we love them but hate their behaviors? First of all, you don’t tell anyone coming for help with their addiction that you love them but hate their behavior. You simply say I love you and let’s do this together. When someone is overweight, which is a lot of us, do we say I love you but I hate your behaviors. Most of us overweight will admit we make some choices in being overweight. Most gay people will tell you this is not a choice they have. This is who they are.

So, what do we stand for if we just love people? When people are involved in uncommitted sexual relationships and I am asked, I don’t say I love you but hate your behaviors. If they want I have a conversation about whether their actions will end up hurting them or others in the future. I do believe in the importance of committed, monogamous relationships. That is why adultery is wrong. That is why it is selfish to be involved in more than one sexual relationship especially if the other persons are unaware. I have no problem taking a stand against behaviors that are harming others and are basically selfish. I do though try to remember I am involved in such behaviors daily. So, if one shares and is seeking your support, just say you love them.

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Should We Really Pray For Miracles?

Praying for miracles isn’t wrong but it isn’t always helpful. When people ask God for a miracle and no miracle happens, they often question if there something wrong with them or God. Praying only for miracles often leads to expectations that such requests should be answered because one has pure motives. One may begin to question if God really cares or even loves them. Let’s be honest. Prayers for miracles are mostly unanswered so is it worth even bothering.

I wish miracles weren’t possible sometimes. I have seen many come away confused and disheartened about their relationship with their Creator since miracles are rare. Besides, God can’t answer the prayers of two people asking for the same job. God heals one from suffering but their positive influence is lost in helping others suffering similarly that are not healed. Much of suffering is people freely choosing to inflict harm on others, so God would need to snuff a lot of people out of this world without allowing time for their hearts to change. Most parents refuse to give up on any child no matter how rebellious.

It is very hard to explain miracles in the context of God loving all equally. Why does God do miracles for some but not all? Because there seem to be miracles one might question whether God is really doing all God can to make life better for every human being living in a troubled world. Is God sometimes not a giver of good gifts? If God can intervene once, why doesn’t God intervene a lot more? Loving parents are always doing all in their power to make for a better world for their child. Honestly, sometimes I often wonder if we would be better off without miracles of healing and there were only miracles such as birth or transformed lives.

I am not trying to get God off the hook but one must admit miracles aren’t as great as they always seem. You may want to reread the Old Testament if you think amazing miracles lead to inspired living. Jesus’ miracles turned heads but Jesus’ suffering turned the hearts of billions of followers. People seem impacted more by how we handle suffering in our lives than miracles. Parents struggle not to interfere but deep down realize instant fixes doesn’t always lead to individual and moral growth. Miracles often lead to seeking only physical cures and not spiritual cures. A healed soul is far better than just a healed body.

I have done a lot of complaining. It helps to understand God constant interference makes a mockery of freedom or makes God seem arbitrary. When suffering I ask for relief but I ask God to stay close to me if a miracle is not possible or best all things considered. I ask how suffering can teach me to be more the person deep down I desire to be. We can pray for others but God is already doing all they can. Are we? Jesus’ prayed to avoid the Cross but Jesus also prayed for God to stay close to Him if a miracle was not possible. I am a better person in the long-run sometimes because my prayers are not answered.

How An Undetermined Future In God’s Mind Can Be Freeing?

God can’t force true love but that doesn’t make God less powerful. If the future is open or undetermined, an all-powerful God can’t know the unknowable. But, doesn’t the Bible predict the future? God didn’t violate anyone’s freedom by stating God was coming into the world in the person of Jesus to reveal what God is really like. Prophecies aren’t peering into the future but can serve as warnings. Jesus predicted Peter would deny Him three times but Jesus also prayed Peter’s faith would not fail (Lk. 22: 32-34). Predictions by God can be conditional.

The greatest freedom in knowing God doesn’t know the unknowable future is realizing that God’s guidance is not some mystery. A known future leads to wanting God to advise what decisions to make for best outcomes. Insisting God guarantees outcomes is asking God to be a controller. God doesn’t lead through signs or whispers which lead to guess work and discouragement since we can’t be sure if our thoughts are really God’s. We already know the mind of God when it comes to moral decisions; otherwise, God seeks to support us in being free to make decisions in an open future. If the future is open, there isn’t one correct decision to make. Joy and good can be achieved by taking any number of paths and avoiding immoral paths.

We don’t have to live in fear of making “right” decisions. We are free to make decisions based on past experiences, current circumstances, and future aspirations. God isn’t hiding or leaving you wondering; God is supporting you. We dislike being told what to do or we would readily take advice and not always counter why suggestions can’t work. God wants us to have the self-satisfaction that results from making our own decisions. God supports us in making best decisions at that time. We can be confident in any choice we make if decisions aren’t immoral or violate the rights of others. God can’t guarantee certainty without making a mockery of freedom.

God doesn’t loss control by not controlling. God is everywhere in the universe at the same time so His knowledge is hard to imagine, but God doesn’t use such knowledge to control others’ decisions. Parents know the freedom to choose is what leads to growth and genuine relationships. God’s uncontrolling nature doesn’t mean God isn’t active in making for a better world. God is constantly seeking to inspire people to shun evil and do good. God seeks to encourage us to forgive, go the extra mile, to leave the world a better place than when we came.

I for one can’t wrap my head around the idea that a known future and genuine freedom are logically compatible. We could say God knows what is going to happen but still engages with us; it simply is harder to relate to. If God already knows what is going to happen one has to wonder why we even bother to pray. Saying God is allowing us to participate in an already determined plan doesn’t communicate active involvement. If God already knows what someone is going to do, are we truly free to do anything different? An open future best preserves the integrity of human freedom and responsibility.

If God supposedly knows the future one may question why God doesn’t do more to stop so much evil in the world. An open future clarifies that responsibility lies with the one making current decisions to perpetuate evil. A controlling God leads to asking “why or what is God punishing me for” or “God, do you really love me?” An uncontrolling God makes more rational and relational sense in a free world. God’s love isn’t controlling but supportive. Our suffering, which is inevitable in a free world, can help others handle similar challenges. God invites our participation for a better world.

Why Bother Since Prayer Doesn’t Really Work?

One’s relationship with God can greatly be affected because of lack of answered prayers. Many, many prayers are not answered. But, the Bible says “ask and you shall receive.” Prayer has to be more complicated than simply asking God to make something happen. God can’t just disrespect freedom but controlling the world as God wants. God can’t make one be a better parent if they have no desire to change. God can’t answer the prayer for both people asking for the same job. We may have to trust a loving God answers how we would if we knew everything God knows.

A loving God surely isn’t controlling, so the Bible may not actually reveal that we simply need to pray to get what we want. But, Mt 7:7 says: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” The passage says if we parents give good gifts despite our imperfections, will not God as our perfect Parent always give good gifts when asked. First-century readers didn’t assume this was a blank check for any request. Others passages when read in context reveal God seeks to empower but not control or overpower others against their will. Paul expects followers would face persecution for their beliefs (2 Tim. 3:12), thus many prayers today would go unanswered.

We often overlook the most important reason for praying which is relational. God already knows what we think or need. Talking simply connects us to our Creator so we may become more the people we desire to be. We tell our children to associate with the right people so to make wiser choices. If our entire prayer life was only asking God to help us love others as we want to be loved, that would be enough reason to pray. Prayer is more talking to gain support than manipulating for gain. God is always available to talk about anything on our heart but we might best leave the running of the universe up to a loving God who has the interest of all in mind.

I may communicate with my wife or friends about a decision I am making. I am not asking them to make the decision for me but it helps to talk it out loud and get their perspective. We can get God’s perspective often by listening to ourselves and others or reading the Bible. God wants us to feel free to make amoral decisions based on current desires and future aspirations. We often share with friends our circumstances as a way to lighten our burdens. Friends or God can’t magically make things better but it is better to go through things with someone than be all alone.

Prayer can be an excuse to not take actions which is the most common way that God answers prayers to not violate the freedom of others. Rather than praying your friend’s spouse stop drinking which is harming his family, you might say something to them. When you know two friends are in conflict, you might best speak to one wrongly denying any wrongdoing. Rather than praying to God to help the less fortunate, we can do something. We can pray for others but I am convinced God is already doing all they can. Are we?

Don’t allow misunderstandings of God to lead to frustrations and withdrawal from God. I view praying as simply talking to God which can be informal if you prefer. I talk to God brief times during the day when I am not preoccupied with a task at hand. I let my thoughts drift toward conversing with God as often as possible. Just like in human relationships, we can only feel more intimate with our partner when we find a way to spend more time spending time with them. When suffering I ask for relief but I ask God to stay close to me if intervening is not possible all things considered. I never pray for suffering but I ask how suffering can teach me to more be the person deep down I desire to be.

Why Is Human Reasoning (Brain) Important To Understand God And The Bible?

Some may assume about God what others have communicated based on their understanding of the Bible. Unfortunately, the Bible has been used to justify racism, gender inequality, or to suggest God wants to establish a Christian nation. God has always respected the freedom of personal beliefs, that don’t violate the rights of others, as the only path to genuine relationships. The Koran is used to justify forcing personal beliefs on others in the name of God. We must always use our brains and hearts when it comes to understanding God.

Many feel strongly that the Bible is God’s infallible inspiration. Textual criticism suggests we know over 95 percent of the words of the original manuscripts. But, it isn’t provable that God interfered with the freedom of a writer to not misrepresent God’s view on a matter, and we would have to prove God inspired others to select over time which Books should be recognized as infallible. Even if you believe the Bible is infallible, interpretations of a writer’s meaning are fallible and the writer isn’t available for clarification. Human reasoning is always necessary in getting to know God. God didn’t intend a Book to replace our relationship with God.

Since human reasoning must be used in deciding on interpretations of Scripture, we need some type of model to decide which interpretation is most likely of a loving God. When two debatable interpretations in Scriptures exist, shouldn’t we err on the side that portrays God as the most relational and rational to the human mind? Said another way God’s morals are surely the same as the highest human morals. God surely wouldn’t demand certain morals from us that God doesn’t live by.

For example some argue that the Bible teaches that God chose before creation who would or wouldn’t have eternal life. Since this doesn’t seem rational to the human mind, it is suggested God’s ways are sometimes mysterious and incomprehensible to the human mind. Earthly parents would be accused of favoritism if acting the same toward their children. Such behavior is morally indefensible and certainly not relational to the human mind concerning a loving God. Similarly, the traditional interpretation of hell is unlikely as not even humans would torture their enemies unending, knowing such suffering is pointless as it doesn’t produce any good.

This doesn’t lead to interpreting the Bible however you want. We all can agree murder, lying, or adultery is immoral. Much of the Bible is clear and we can agree to disagree on the more difficult passages. We can consider one another’s opinion gracefully if they don’t violate the freedom of others. Do we even need the Bible since it leads to so much abuse? The Bible helps to confirm certain characteristics of a Creator that might not always be intuitive. Religious leaders of Jesus’ day taught you needed to obey certain laws to gain acceptance by God. Jesus protested any teaching that suggested God’s acceptance isn’t a given as any loving parent.

If there are certain characteristics of God claimed by others that you just don’t buy, reject it! Don’t allow others’ understanding to keep you from exploring your own views. God always has our best interests in mind but doesn’t stop loving us any more than human parents stop loving us because we fail to obey. Sin effects how we feel about God, not how God feels about us. Humans may have limits as to how many times to forgive. God doesn’t and it is never too late to begin a relationship with God. I view God’s love the same as perfect, human, parenting love that we have always desired.

How Does An Invisible God Talk To Humans?

It can be very confusing how one is supposed to relate to an invisible God. Frustrations can lead to simply giving up having a meaningful relationship with one’s Creator. I understand some claim God has spoken to them directly but this is not the experience of the majority of those who are seeking a relationship with their Creator. Many may prefer that God would speak more directly but this doesn’t always leads to the results we may think.

The Bible suggests that God with the first couple spoke more directly in the garden than as history progressed. Moses described receiving the Commandments on stone inscribed by the finger of God (Ex. 31:18). We don’t know exactly what types of communication these were but most would agree that God is no longer communicating in the same way. Least you think direct ways by God led to inspired living, you may want to reread the Old Testament. Besides, God wants us to come to God on our own terms and not because of feeling overwhelmed or obligated.

Since God doesn’t speak audibly or write in the sand, how can we know that we hear the voice of God? Many of us talk out loud to God or silently and then thoughts come to mind. Are such thoughts from the mind of God? I got some good news and bad news. We can’t know if certain thoughts are inspired by God, but the good news is God’s love is supportive not controlling. God gives us freedom to make decisions in an open future. Any number of decisions can be made in our situation as a predetermined future suggests one is not truly free to do anything different.

God mainly listens which is what most of us want in a relationship. Very few of us want to be told what to do, or we would always take the advice of others rather than frequently having a comeback as to why one’s suggestion won’t work. Opinions are not always helpful or welcomed. Besides, one’s interference can prevent growth and self-satisfaction resulting from making independent choices. We want to be heard by another soul to talk out situations and share burdens that are heavy to carry alone.

If can be comforting to know God is always available to listen. We may be embarrassed to share our latest relapse with a friend. God doesn’t heap more guilt on us. God has endless mercy and forgiveness so we don’t give up no matter how demoralized we may feel. God is always available in times of loneliness. Friends can’t always be available in the middle of the night. We may feel that we are overburdening our friends by constantly going to them. God’s shoulders surely are much bigger.

But, I want to hear what God thinks! We know mostly what God thinks thus talking with God is mostly for emotional support. Most agree on moral versus immoral actions. Many decisions aren’t moral – what job to take, whether to move to a different city, etc. God doesn’t predetermine our future so we have to wonder the “right” decision. God doesn’t know if your partner is suddenly not going to honor their commitment when challenges arise. Wise or best decisions are simply taking into account past experiences, current circumstances, future aspirations, and going for it. God’s love is both freeing and uncontrolling.

Some relational decisions seem to have a touch of morality that we aren’t sure what God would do. God’s love is still freeing. Should we forgive a mom and sibling for participating in favoritism? Neither admits to any favoritism but such actions are clear to most outsiders. The Bible can be used to suggest always forgive or forgiveness if only possible when one acknowledges wrongdoing. Jesus once said to rebuke others but if they repent forgive them (Lk. 17:4). God isn’t hiding. One may forgive to best deal with personal bitterness. Others may not forgive to avoid further bitterness since the guilty denies wrongdoing.

In relationships there isn’t always a “right” thing to do. It is more complicated for leaders of nations for they are making decisions for millions, thus governments best have checks and balances. Still, a relationship with God isn’t about being told what to do. It is considering how a loving God may think on a matter and feeling free to make a decision based on your present circumstances. If you are insisting God make sure whatever decision make guarantee outcome, then you asking God to be a controller. A loving God would speak audibly if necessary; otherwise, assume you have God’s blessings if it isn’t immoral or violating the rights of others. Don’t live in fear or demand certainty which God cannot guarantee in a free world.

What If God Is A Lie Or Delusion?

Many find it reasonable to believe there is a God, a Creator, or a Supreme Being greater than them. The advantage of a belief in an invisible God is to believe there is a definitive source for wisdom in how one ought to live this life. Most who believe in a God believe in God’s inherent goodness. Many though aren’t sure that God exists but they don’t believe in doing whatever the hell they want. Most rational beings believe there are moral and immoral decisions.

There are some advantages in believing in a Creator or taking a leap of faith if on the fence. It is typically believed a creator or designer should know what is best for what they have created or designed. A designer of a car can provide the best instructions of what is best for the car to enable it to run smoothly. A Creator of human beings can be a source of wisdom in advising what decisions are in one’s best interests and those they interact with.

Some sense that there is a God but have a hard time believing in a God of others’ understandings. Why would a loving God send people for unbelief to a place where kept alive forever to burn and suffer for their decisions on earth. Not even imperfect moral beings would torture their enemies forever. Views of God suggested according to the Bible are subject to interpretation, and we can’t ask the writer for clarification of their meaning. Human reasoning is always a part of the understanding process. Many agree what a caring a rational and loving God would be like except for religious extremists. Don’t let others’ views of God keep you from wanting to get closer to God. Think for yourself.

A belief in God can lead to comfort in suffering. Many are able to accept that freedom accounts for the majority of evil and that a controlling, loving parent is an oxymoron. Some in suffering are comforted in the belief that there will be no suffering in life after death and they will be reunited with loved ones. Even if someone didn’t believe in God on earth or couldn’t wrap their heads around a relationship with such a Being, I suspect a loving God gives all a second change after death. Wouldn’t you as a parent?

But, what if there is no God, no afterlife, that it is all a lie? Do you think self-centeredness is justifiable and leads to true happiness and freedom on this earth? God simply encourages and seeks to support leading an unselfish life. What have you lost going the extra mile in relationships by forgiving those who regret their actions except healing. What have you lost leaning on a perfect God’s love except support and comfort. What have you lost by treating others like you want to be treated except regrets. I can’t prove to you that God is real though I am convinced God will reveal themselves to you if you desire such a relationship.

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