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Archive for July, 2016

What One Belief Hinders Spirituality The Most?

I am convinced we all need to be more spiritual minded if we are going to leave this world a better place than when we came with fewer regrets. Most think it is important to be more physically healthy. I can’t claim more successes than failures eating healthy, but such a focus keeps me striving for my goals. Physical health is an open conversation, but for some reason discussing our spiritual health is taboo. Why is it so difficult to discuss and encourage one another about our spirituality which is simply striving to be more the person we desire to be deep down?

Who doesn’t wish to treat their partner, friends, and co-workers better than we do sometimes or at least treat them more like we want to be treated. Avoid unnecessary guilt trips. Some people are just plain difficult people. We don’t always need to accept or look the other way from their misbehaviors. If you treat other people like dirt and I have any kind of relationship with you, I am going to tell you the truth. It is risky sometimes but “no risk, no gain.” I hope if you see that I have a blind eye toward mistreating others that you will let me know in a way you would want someone to tell you the same thing.

One of the hardest relationships to be the kind of person you want to be is in marriage which has some unique challenges. We interact more behind closed doors where others can’t see our behaviors than in most other relationships. Our partner often is more dependent on us such as rearing children that makes just walking away difficult. But, most of us didn’t marry the devil and we need to figure out how to treat our partners like we do our best friends. The one main belief that kills marriages is the same belief that kills pursuit of spirituality. 

Before I challenge you to change such a belief, let me mention certain things we discuss instead of our spiritual health. I am more familiar with the religion of Christianity and how such folks make conversations and encouragements about spirituality more difficult. We talk about religious stuff. We talk about the need to go to church. We talk about that you need to believe what the Bible says or you can’t really be a spiritual person. If you have read the Bible lately, it does have say some pretty weird stuff that is hard to reconcile with a loving God. God, like any loving parent, doesn’t require any traditions, rituals, or beliefs to have a relationship.

The one main belief that kills discussions about spirituality, for which I was and sometimes still am guilty of, is “I am right and you are wrong.” Guess what! I may be right, you may be right, we may both be wrong. Now, if you think it is right to behead and kill people because they don’t share your personal beliefs about God, you are wrong! Many good, spiritual minded people assume they need to convert their friends to their beliefs in order to be accepted by God. Stop! I do think people best become more focused on their spiritual health if they desire to be more the person they want to be. I do think there are certain views of God that can be empowering in such a journey, but there are no sacred beliefs you must sign up for to begin the journey of being more the person you want to be.

Is Your Understanding Of God Determining Your Attitude Toward God? What If…

Our attitudes about God are based on what we understand about God. My parents can tell me all they want that they love me and want the very best for me, but mutual respect is what leads to a meaningful relationship and following their guidance. Do their actions match their words? What we think God is really like can determines whether we want to have a relationship with our Creator much less enjoy a meaningful relationship. If you hear characteristics about God that you don’t buy, reject it!

Others’ views of God according to the Bible are not infallible. That is why there are so many different interpretations about what the Bible teaches. It is people’s interpretations that can influence our attitude about God. Rational people don’t question if God advocates murder based on whether one believes in their version of God or not. But, some beliefs are claimed to be immoral according to God, which can impact whether we respect God enough to want to pursue a deeper relationship. Would it make a difference if you discovered God’s love is the love you always imagined would be true of a loving God? We can’t always believe everything we hear!

  • I don’t always know what God would do when justice must be served, but I am convinced God doesn’t torture people forever after death for certain beliefs they have while living on this earth. Who doesn’t know unending suffering is pointless as it doesn’t produce any good. The traditional understanding of Hell is nowhere to be found in the Bible. God will know best how to love us or our loved ones even if they had no interest in God while on earth.
  • Good people suggest the Bible teaches wives are submissive to their husbands in a way husbands aren’t submissive to their wives. If such a model works for both partners in a marriage, that is great. If such a view of roles has you questioning God, you are in good company. Many biblical scholars aren’t convinced the Bible advocates a hierarchical as opposed to equalitarian relationship between the sexes. I believe decisions are best made according to one’s gifts not gender. No one needs a man or priest as a go between with God.
  • I am convinced God doesn’t condemn same sex relationships that are monogamous. The Bible doesn’t say anything about such relationships. I am biased toward monogamy because I think souls get hurt otherwise. Each person can seek God’s guidance in their relationships.
  • I am not convinced God has a litmus test of beliefs for acceptance from God unless you believe self-centeredness is a virtue. God is a God of freedom of beliefs, even about God. Loving parents know they can’t demand their child love them if they expect to have a meaningful relationship. The only hidden agenda a loving parent or God has is to earn their child’s belief that they truly have their best interests in mind.
  • Sometimes a parent doesn’t interfere in their child’s suffering because freedom of choices can only lead to true change. A lot of suffering is not because of one’s own moral actions. Is it wrong not to stop my child’s suffering if I knew their suffering, inevitable in a free world, would enable them to help others in similar circumstances? There may be plausible reasons a loving God doesn’t intervene in underserved suffering since God oversees a world given freedom.

What understandings about God give you a bad taste in your mouth? God’s actions and morals are the same as the highest of human morals. God’s love and perfect human love are surely one in the same. If one suggests a certain characteristic about God that I don’t believe lines up with that, I am going to question it and challenge my God until I believe I have a satisfying answer. We can expect understandings of God to be plausible based on what a loving God should be like. How else can I respect God or have a meaningful relationship?

Really Good News About God And Repentance When We Keep Failing!

God is often portrayed as standing on a podium and yelling down at us to beg for forgiveness or burn in Hell. I got some really freeing news! Repentance in the New Testament means “changing your mind.” Repentance can’t mean changing your behaviors by never committing the same sin again, or few if any of us have every truly repented. When you feel remorseful you are repenting. Repentance is being convinced that God’s ways than our own ways are in our best interests and the interest of others.

Most repeat some sins or wrongs, raising internal doubts about our relationship and sincerity with God. If we sin again, were we not truly repenting or remorseful? Repentance is an ongoing action, happening multiply times over and over if necessary. Just because we commit the same habitual sin over and over doesn’t mean we weren’t really regretful in the moment. God doesn’t say I forgive you if you never do it again.

Understanding God’s unimaginable love is the only way to conquer the ultimate problem in our life – selfishness. God thankfully does not give up hoping or forgiving, or we may never make important life changes. Sometimes we cannot stop hating ourselves for committing the same wrongs over and over. God doesn’t give up after the 10th relapse. God doesn’t heap guilt on us; our selfish actions already do that for non-evil folks. We can start off each day knowing God is in our corner.

God doesn’t worry about giving us a license to keep sinning. Who wants to keep acting in ways that further alienate our family and friends? God doesn’t keep heaping guilt on us. Repeated failures have their own consequences. Threatening others with God’s anger may discourage evil but doesn’t inspire reconciliatory actions. When we understand what God is really like and how much God loves us, we can be empowered to continually act in the best interests of others and ourselves. This is how true parental love and guidance works.

God as a Parent loves we keep regretting actions that are selfish. We often have to focus on God’s continual forgiveness to not give up. Doubting God’s favor doesn’t lead to change. Repentance is beginning to think differently, taking steps toward trusting God’s ways more than our own. Repentance isn’t guaranteeing a new lifestyle or you don’t really love God or want to change. Knowing God loves and forgives us repeatedly best leads to life transformations. God’s love is really that simply and what will lead to our being more the person we deep down desire to be.

Can We Know What God Is Really Like As Understandings Form Attitudes?

Our attitudes about someone are often based on our understandings of that person. Bosses often have to make tough decisions to remain profitable or keep the doors open. When we doubt the character of our Boss, we may think they are cutting positions so they can have more money in their pocket as opposed to having the best interest of the company and its people in mind. But, if a Boss has earned our respect we may more readily accept their decisions are really best for the Company in the long-run. We form our opinions of others by if “they walk the talk.” Does the Boss treat their employees like they expect them to treat the customer, etc.?

How though do we form out opinions and attitudes about God that is invisible? Many opinions about God are based on what others say God is like or what one thinks the Bible teaches about God’s character. The challenge with that is that the Bible was written thousands of years ago so our opinions are our own interpretations of what we think the writer meant. We have different opinions about the same biblical passages because our understandings are not infallible. We don’t have to throw away our Bibles but we must be gracious and open-minded about our understandings of the Bible. I could be right, you may be right, or we both may be wrong.

If there is a God who truly created man and woman, God must have had a reason to create as opposed to not create. If such a God exist most would argue for a loving as opposed to a hateful God. It seems pretty clear God respects freedom because so much evil exists in the world that a loving God surely doesn’t approve of. One may surmise then that an uncontrolling God created us to have a relationship. We are often referred to as God’s children. If the Bible can’t be definitive, which is the case for anything written in the past and the writer is not available for clarification, how can we know what God’s love looks like?

A loving God would not reveal themselves only in a Book that the majority of people who have been born and died never had access to. I would suggest we all can have an innate sense of what a loving God is really like. The large majority of people can agree what are selfish acts. Most agree actions such as murder and stealing are immoral. Unfortunately, terrorists prove consensus is never unanimous, but would all terrorists kill their own son if they didn’t accept certain religious beliefs? I would suggest some would hesitate suggesting a flaw in their morals.

Most readers could come pretty close to agreeing on the Ten Commandments of parental love. Most if not all readers would agree that children must be taught to treat others like they want to be treated. Parents would agree it is wrong to favor one child over another because of certain physical characteristics. But, love isn’t without complications. Some parents may guide their grown child away from a career because of financial stability concerns, despite a child’s passions, but many may steer children toward a career they personally would be more proud of. Doesn’t something inside us tells us to give a grown child emotional support in whatever career they choose? Parents who disagree – just treat your child like you would have wanted to be treated at the same age. I have a hunch we could come to an agreement of what true love is.

What is God really like? Our striving to love others perfectly suggests such love exists. We don’t always know exactly what those actions are but we can know a lot. God’s love and perfect human love are surely one in the same or how else could God convey to us what God is like. If you question what others say about God, I challenge you to question others and God until you get a satisfactory answer. Let’s be gracious in our opinions about God. No one has a right to tell others what to believe about God. The only unreasonable beliefs are beliefs that violate the rights of others. Don’t let anyone’s understanding of God keep you from determining your own attitudes about God.

Should I Read The Bible? – Depends!

Spiritual-minded folks often suggest one might read the Bible to know God better. Now, I am not so sure that is the best guidance for everyone. Without some explanations how to read the Bible, some may come away confused or discouraged. The Bible at times has become an idol that we tend to worship rather than a Book that is read with discernment. The Bible is often looked at as a book of rules, but Jesus wasn’t recommending domestic violence when saying to turn the other cheek. Unfortunately, the Bible has been used to justify racism or gender inequality.

Wisdom can be gain from reading the Bible with a few guidelines in mind, but one’s spiritual growth is not necessarily dependent on if one reads the Bible. Keep in mind a loving God wouldn’t insist on information in the Bible when the majority of people who have been born never had such written knowledge. God has always worked through human means available. The Bible was God’s attempt to communicate to as many people as possibly what God is really like while not condemning those who misunderstand it or never had a chance to read it.

One can’t assume telling one to just read their Bible to get to know God better isn’t without some challenges. One story seemingly has God encouraging Abraham to sacrifice his son on an altar. Is the story about the Cross really about a blood thirsty God who can only love and accept us by killing their child? Regardless of Pharaoh’s actions, how do you explain that God killed the first born of Egyptian families to make a point? To say the least reading the Old Testament can be confusing and leave one questioning if God is really loving after all.

There may be some plausible explanations for the above stories that don’t make God totally immoral. Maybe the story of Jesus’ death is not about a God who requires murder for their sake but about a man who is convinced his message is worth dying for in hopes to persuade others to consider what God is really like according to Jesus. Soldiers die for one another so future generations might enjoy freedom. It is only terrorists who blow others up to deny one the right to form their own personal beliefs.

The Bible was never meant to be some idol to worship. Insisting the Bible is without errors can lead to worshipping a Book and not who the Book is about. One must admit it is entirely possible that God did not interfere with the freedom of a writer to not misrepresent God’s views or actions in some of the stories. Too, our interpretations of a writer’s meaning are fallible, and the writer is not available to inquire of their intended meaning. Human reasoning was always meant to be a part of getting to know God. No Book can replace our relationship with God.

If there are certain characteristics of God claimed by others according to the Bible that you don’t buy, reject it! If reading the Bible is just too confusing or discouraging, you don’t have to keep reading it. But, just because we are confused or question a writer’s motive in some of the stories written, we don’t have to never read the Bible again. Much of the Bible is clear and can be considered in one’s relationship with their God as to how they might be more the person they deep down want to be. Read the Bible with an open and discerning mind while asking God to guide you in making this world a better place to live in.

 

 

Are Certain Supposed “Truths” More Important Than Love?

Many may not have the same spiritual beliefs as you do. I grew up going to church and the supposed “truth” was emphasized – Jesus is the Son of God, Jesus resurrected from the dead, the Bible is God’s inspired word, etc. I still believe many of the things I was taught but the only ones that have those same beliefs attend similar churches who teach similar beliefs. If you insist on certain religious beliefs being “the truth” then you can’t really have conversations without an agenda to convert others to the supposed truth.

It is suspect that a loving God insist on certain truths to have a relationship. What kind of God insists on certain information only found in the Bible when the majority of people who have been born never had written knowledge of such a God? One may ask though why God even bothered to send Jesus or support a book such as the Bible. God has always worked through human means available rather than overwhelm with power. How is it wrong for God to want to communicate to as many people as possible what God is really like through Jesus that can be freeing to those who read it but not condemning of those who don’t read it?

Jesus certainly didn’t act as if truth was more important than love. Jesus closest friends doubted Jesus’ resurrection and many things He claimed to be true. Jesus didn’t cast them off. How much easier is it to doubt events that happened 2000 years ago for which we have to trust history since we weren’t eye witnesses. Jesus had more issues with the religious of His day who insisted on certain truths to be accepted by God. Jesus confronted the most those whose actions were unloving to others and not those that were denying certain truths.

Most accept the historical records that speak of a man Jesus who was born some 2000 years ago. How do we imagine Jesus would respond to one today that questions much of typical biblical teaching but not necessarily the message of Jesus? Jesus focused on ways truly not in our best interests. The world often suggests importance is determined by one’s position. Jesus said the best leaders don’t think of themselves as more important. The world may say an eye for eye but lost childhood memories can’t be recovered. Jesus said forgive those who regret. Would Jesus really tell someone who aspired to love others that certain truths are more important? Jesus surely just wants us to see how loving others as ourselves is what leads to true freedom.

Jesus didn’t choose His disciples based on if they held to certain truths. Jesus just asked them to follow Him and see for themselves. You may not be convinced there is a God. You certainly may not believe what the writers claims about Jesus. But, are you convinced Jesus’ message of love is in your best interest which really is the same message as most of the great religious leaders of the past? If not, what do you believe is important to change the world and live a life with fewer regrets?

I am not saying truth is always in the eye of the beholder. You don’t think murder is wrong. Get a clue. You don’t think lying, stealing, or coveting is wrong. Good luck in relationships. I am saying certain truths are not more important than how we treat others. I am not denying that I believe God in the person of Jesus wanted us to know God desires a relationship with all to encourage and empower them to love. I also believe such a belief is personal and if a powerful God truly exists, they can handle their own relationships.

Why Don’t I Insist On Certain Beliefs To Pursue God Or Spirituality?

I was influenced by teachings of conservative churches I attended growing up. Some of my views changed over the years when I sensed certain teachings did not portray what I think God is really like. I don’t doubt I would have gone on the same journey if I had attended so-called liberal churches. Religions are hell-bent in telling people certain “truths” must be believed to have a relationship with God. I stopped going to church when I couldn’t fit it, but that isn’t the path for all. Each must find their own environments that encourage the pursuit of spirituality.

I can accept one who denies spirituality is important if not an excuse to lead a self-centered life at the expense of others. But, I am convinced relationships are more likely to thrive when one seeks to loves others as they want to be loved. There will be times when we act unlovable and hopefully others will go the extra mile with us without necessarily excusing our behavior. We then must do the same for others. The truth is that relationships are hard work and when one seeks only to be served, it is difficult to have hope for such a relationship.

For years my blogs assumed people might not follow God because how others portrayed God according to the Bible. It is difficult to follow a God one can’t respect. We don’t have to believe everything we hear! I now think a lot more about those who didn’t grow up in the church or the Bible is not really a part of their consideration. We mustn’t assume that one can’t be spiritual if they don’t believe in God, read the Bible, or don’t attend a church, synagogue, or mass.

Many parents believed in God and so that is why we children believe in God. Family hypocrisy can also explain one rebelling against God. Some may simply not believe in God because it just hasn’t been a part of the environments they have grown up in. Many may not believe in God because it is difficult getting their head around the idea of having a relationship with an invisible Being. Regardless if you believe in a God or not, I don’t think we can deny the importance of living a life loving others like we want to be loved to change the world for the better.

Many who may believe in a God hear views of God that deter them from pursing a deeper relationship with God. Think for yourself! Views of God according the Bible are subject to interpretation. Some believe the Bible teaches hierarchical relationship in marriage while others believe the Bible teaches egalitarianism. Some believe the Bible teaches Hell is a real place where people go after death if not believing in God. Others believe the Bible doesn’t teach such a place exists. You are free to reject any characteristics of God claimed by others and explore your own views. Consider that God’s love may compare to perfect, human, parenting love that we desire.

I am not willing to “die on a hill” and I am not convinced Jesus was either to assume certain truths must be accepted before pursing spirituality. Jesus’ closest friends didn’t believe in His resurrection, so some 2000 years later one may question such a historical event. I am unwilling to insist God inspired the entire Bible because it can’t be proved. The writers may have penned their own views of God. God respects such freedom but this doesn’t make the entire Bible corrupt. God never intended a Book to replace a relationship with our Creator. There are no sacred beliefs one must accept if interfering with the desire to love your neighbors as yourself.

Bible believers can’t help but notice what God and Jesus confronted the most. God in the Old Testament didn’t declare war on those who simply refused to believe in the Jewish God. God has always respected one’s freedom of beliefs if not violating the rights of others. No parent believes forcing their child to love them leads to acceptance and intimacy. The Israelites engaged in war with God’s approval against nations that were simply evil. You can believe in any God you want but if that God insist you sacrifice children to appease them, as OT gods did, God can’t just stand by. If your next door neighbor is sexually abusing their child, are you going to stand against evil?

I am not sure if there were many non-religious folks in biblical times but Jesus certainly didn’t seek them out. Jesus’ biggest confrontations were with those who believed in God, who attended religious meetings, and probably prayed often. Religious leaders had views of God that were not Jesus’ views. Religious leaders insisted that God had certain beliefs you must believe in to be accepted by God. Nope! Jesus did speak out against many immoralities because He sought to protect those less fortunate such as the poor. Selfishness impacts the one being selfish and those they interact with.

I don’t think it is worth dying on a hill for any belief or supposed truth except for loving others as you want to be loved. I believe that is what Jesus died for – to inspire all to be the kind of person we deep down desire to be. Jesus came to convey God only desires to encourage and support us acting in ways for our best interest in the long-run. You don’t believe in God. Okay! If I believe there is a God I should have enough confidence God can convince those who want to know. You don’t believe all the things the Bible says about God. You may be right! You don’t believe you have to be religious to be spiritual. Amen! Simply consider how to live for the sake of those you love and for a better world.

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