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Archive for August, 2016

Why Getting Into Heaven Doesn’t Depend on Certain Beliefs?

God’s reputation is on the line when we say what a loving God requires to be accepted into heaven after death. Just ask those who have loved ones that may have been less of a sinner against God than those who said the sinner’s prayer before dying. It is often said that one must pray the sinner’s pray in order to get into heaven. The sinner’s prayer goes something like: “God, I confess my sins, I ask for your forgiveness, I believe Jesus died for my sins, and I put my trust in you.”

There are many, many reasons why a loving God doesn’t determine one’s eternal destination based on a set of beliefs supposedly found in a Book (Bible). 

The majority of people born into this world never had a Bible? But, how is it wrong for God to communicate though human means available to as many people as possible what God is really like through Jesus, which can be freeing to those who read it but uncondemning of those who can’t read it? The truth is the majority of people accept or rebel against a certain religion based on the family born into whether it be Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, etc. Suggesting a loving God insists one can only come to God through Jesus is to ignore the realities of our world.

A loving God would never base one’s destiny on accepting certain beliefs a short time while on earth even if everyone had a Bible. 

Those trained in the original languages that the Bible was written in teach different interpretations of the same words and sentences. The Bible was never meant to replace one’s personal relationship with God. We are not dependent on one’s interpretation or even if a biblical writer misrepresented God when writing. You decide if God would crush the spirits of gay people because they can’t stop being who they are. You decide if God would crush the dreams of millions of girls by denying them the privilege of exercising their spiritual gifts because the Bible supposedly teaches women can’t teach men but only women and children as if they are less important than men! God may be what you imagined a loving God would be like.

Jesus, who represented God here on earth, didn’t act as if certain truths were more important than love. Jesus didn’t pray the sinner’s prayer with those He encounter though surely aware they were last chance encounters because of His future destination on the Cross. Jesus’ closest friends doubted His resurrection, despite all the miracles He performed. 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. Besides, when Jesus was asked how to obtain eternal life, His words sounded nothing like the sinner’s prayer (Lk. 10:25-28).

A loving God would never determine one’s destiny on chance encounters.

Do we really think salvation depends on a prayer prayed? Did the thief on the cross get lucky while others he knew were out of luck because they didn’t sin enough to get a Cross next to Jesus. If so, you may want to plan on not dying before being able to have one last thought. Jesus never spoke of salvation as finding a “get out of hell” free pass. Jesus spoke of eternal life as a quality of life beginning on earth that leads to fewer regrets now and forever. Believing our destiny depends on a set of beliefs or totally on our circumstances has led to some wacky baptizing practices or hoping your skeptical child hasn’t reached that age of accountability before being thrown into Hell.

There are so many rational reasons why one may or may not believe or put their total trust in a Reality greater than themselves, must less call that Reality God. A loving parent much less a loving God doesn’t stop desiring a relationship because one doesn’t accept them. Now, if one thinks they can treat everyone in their life like Hell, but expect to be treated by others how they want to be treated, good Lord! Salvation, heaven, life after death isn’t dependent on a set of beliefs but on a loving God that we can hope exist.

Do you really think God is going to judge all based on their beliefs during a short time here on earth influenced by so many random factors? 

A loving God isn’t going to judge one when they didn’t truly understand God or God was misrepresented by others. A loving God can’t all of a sudden stop being forgiving at the moment of one’s last breath. Do you really think a God of a thousand chances here on earth isn’t a God of second changes after death? God surely seeks our love because loving God can empower us to love others to the fullest, unless you want your legacy to be about toys accumulated. When meeting our Creator all causes that led to erroneous thinking will be removed, but Jesus wanted Heaven to begin here on earth through loving relationships.

 

What Can Beginnings In Genesis Teach Us Whether Literal Or Not?

There is much debate about whether Genesis was meant to be taken literally in terms of a historical account by the writers. A belief in evolution suggests Genesis is not a literal account. Others point to grammatical indicators to suggest Genesis was intended to be a historical account of the beginning of the world. Since neither view can be proven over two thousand years after the fact when written, it is unwise to insist on either belief. Many who disagree if literal or not would say though that Genesis was written to at least convey spiritual food for thought.

What spiritual truths might God wish to convey through the writings of the first few chapters in Genesis?

  • The writers of Genesis believe in there being a Creator in the beginning. God didn’t have to create, but apparently God desired relationships with humans. There are some advantages in believing in a Creator or taking a leap of faith if on the fence. A creator knows what is best for their creation or design. A car designer can advise what is best for the car 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.
  • It is written we were created in God’s image (1:27), which suggests we are God’s representatives here on earth. The majority of people born on this earth never had a copy of the Bible. We might assume God has given us intuitively a sense of how to represent or act like God toward others. God’s love is surely the same as perfect human love which we all strive more. God’s morals are the same as the highest of human morals.
  • God felt Adam needed a companion to not be alone (2:18). Some translations said “a helper suitable for him.” This is an example of where it is critical to not insist on one’s interpretation as the truth. The English implication of the word “helper” translated from the Hebrew word ezer is nowhere to be found in the Bible (2:18). Ezer is used of God and implies or often is translated as “strength” (Deut. 33:29). Since interpretations are fallible, it is best to error on the side less prone to abuse. Men often interpret Genesis to suggest leadership is making final decisions when there is a stalemate. Jesus suggested we lead by serving, so perhaps the man should always submit to the woman’s final decision. Truly, in any dyad relationship, there are many creative ways to resolve impasses. Each couple must decide in their relationships how decisions are best made.
  • Things obviously went wrong in the garden when the first couple didn’t take God’s advice to trust God’s guidance. I know one could see this as a deliberate attempt on God’s part to tempt humans (3:5). I am convinced God only wanted to warn Adam and Eve that decisions exist that may be harmful in a free world. Freedom was clearly important to God. God obviously knew what human parents know. Love can’t be forced. Freedom is the only path to authentic relationships. There is no greater feeling than your partner, child, or friend loving you because of choice than obligation. “Controlling love” is a contradiction in terms.

I know many may suggest it is inappropriate to not consider the Genesis story as an historical account. Maybe the writer intended it to be or not. But, at least one purpose for recording this story was to teach certain truths about God. Don’t read the Bible as a book of rules or act dogmatic toward others in what you believe the Bible is teaching. Allow each if they are convinced there is a Creator to discern for themselves what might be valuable lessons and applications in their own lives as a result of the stories about our beginnings with a Creator.

Is The Bible Useless If Has Errors?

One must believe, to say the Bible is without error, that God inspired certain authors to write without any possibilities of misunderstanding God for their own reasons and then God inspired others to know over time which Books should only be recognized as Scriptures. One doesn’t need to be a skeptic to accept that God’s uncontrolling love certainly can allow a writer’s misinformed scientific or moral view to creep into the Bible. Is it worth the damage to insist the Bible doesn’t have errors, when God surely aspires to unite not divide people?

But, if the Bible has errors does that mean we are unable to discern truth from fiction in the Bible?  

The reality is much of the Bible is subject to interpretations which obviously are not infallible. Jesus wasn’t recommending domestic violence when saying to turn the other cheek. Scholars who believe in the trustworthiness of the Bible differ if the Bible teaches equalitarian or hierarchical relationships in marriage. Scholars disagree if Genesis was a literal historical account or allegory to convey important spiritual truths. The reality is much of reading the Bible is discerning spiritual truths applicable to our circumstances. Claiming the Bible is inerrant doesn’t do away with that process.

Dogmatism only divides when differences exist in interpretations with others.

Many problems with the Bible could be solved if we would only consider one another’s opinion gracefully, so to work out our own convictions. I am convinced we should err on the side of the interpretation that seems plausible based on what a loving God would be like humanly speaking. Human reasoning is not the enemy. We cannot prove God exists scientifically or otherwise. But there is something very real in the hearts of millions who have a hope deep down inside them that suggest the possibility of a loving God. The hope for a tyrannical God is non-existent. God said be perfect like me (Mt. 5:48). This statement is meaningless unless God’s love is the same as perfect human love.

But, the main message of the Bible is crystal clear.

Love others like you want to be loved for a better world. We could focus on commonalities and not differences. Just because we say the Bible may have errors and must be read with discernment doesn’t lead to all views of God being equal or valid. Our hearts tell us a loving God would never advocate the violation of the rights of others. We all have an internal moral compass to discern good from evil. We know religious extremists and terrorists are wrong because a loving God would not demand certain personal beliefs or be ostracized or beheaded. God created freedom because true love cannot be forced.

One must admit to assume the Bible is without error requires some faith since not provable. But, in the Bible’s defense we don’t question the reliability of Julius Caesar’s exploits in the Gallic Wars though the manuscript reliability of all ancient literature is far less than the New Testament. “Thus says the Lord” was used thousands of time by the prophets in the OT, which was similar to writing “Thus says King…”  Such edicts were expected to be obeyed and not questioned. Death was a consequence for falsely claiming to speak for God (Deut. 18:20-22).

The Bible at first reading may seem to justify genocide, misogyny, slavery, or other atrocities. There are plausible interpretations often which don’t portray God in such a negative light. But, we don’t have to insist the writers of the Bible didn’t at times misunderstand or misrepresent God at time for selfish reasons. The writers could have been working out their relationship with God as we are. Read the Bible with an open mind. Giving the Bible almost supernatural qualities can lead to worshipping a Book and not who the Book is about.

The Bible was never to replace one’s relationship with God for comfort and guidance.

 

What Beliefs Killing God’s Reputation Might Change Your View Of God?

I confess that I write about the same convictions about God over and over in different ways so others might discover misbeliefs that hinder being more spiritual-minded and pursuing a relationship with God. Our understandings of God determine our attitudes about God. I believe God’s character must convey true love for meaningful relationships. Use the search box on my website for further elaboration of the below views of God: 

  • God isn’t an angry, egomaniac. God is a lover who stands against immorality harmful to oneself and those around them
  • God isn’t a sexist. God created equal relationships and doesn’t appoints go-betweens between God and us such as husbands for wives or priests or pastors for parishioners
  • God isn’t a sadistic torturer. Who doesn’t know unending suffering serves no good! The traditional meaning of Hell is nowhere to be found in Bible
  • God isn’t a homophobe. The Bible speaks out against non-monogamous relationships which lead to lovers getting hurt
  • God isn’t a doomsayer. God is not coming down to destroy the world someday. The world will go on forever and all will die someday with the hope of Heaven
  • God isn’t a rejecter because you don’t accept others’ understandings of the Bible. God’s only sacred belief is the Law of Love
  • God isn’t a moral hypocrite. God’s love and perfect human love are one in the same. God’s ways are always moral humanly speaking. God’s love is the love we strive to show others
  • God isn’t a blood-thirsty child killer. Jesus didn’t die for God’s sake but to convince us of God’s incredible love in hopes we would let God empower us to reflect such love back to others. The Cross was not meant to change God’s attitude but our attitude toward God
  • God isn’t a religious extremist or terrorist. God doesn’t demand certain personal beliefs or be ostracized or beheaded. Religion is wrong if demanding to be served than serve
  • God isn’t a Controller but a Creator of freedom which accounts for so much evil and suffering in the world.

What other views of God may keep you from becoming more spiritually focused in your daily living. They may not be true!

What Is God Like And How Can We Know?

God’s reputation matters. If we don’t understand or respect God or anyone for that matter, we are not going to pay much attention to much less want a relationship with God or that person. People aren’t always just being apathetic toward God; instead, the God represented by others doesn’t always inspire wanting to get to know God. An employer can encourage all they want the sacrifices necessary for the survival of the business, but employees are not going to follow unless the boss makes sacrifices? We follow those who we have genuine respect for.

Theologians often will play the mystery card when their biblical interpretations suggest God’s morals are not the same as perfect, human morals. They understand some explanation is required when their views of God are incompatible with most people’s idea of a loving God. John Calvin taught that God elects some for eternal life after death while excluded others. Any parent who showed such arbitrary love toward their children would be declared immoral. God cannot claim to be moral if God doesn’t obey actions God claims are moral.

We know what God is like because God’s love and perfect human love are one in the same.

God is just like us on our perfect days. How can we know though to forgive others who truly regret their actions, since forgiveness is not as obvious a moral as murdering, stealing, or lying? It is as if our Creator has impressed upon our souls that the right thing is to always treat others like we would want to be treated by them if we were in their circumstances. One day you may be in need of forgiveness. But, how can we know God lives by perfect human morals?

Jesus, who represented God here on earth, made statements like: “Be perfect, therefore as your heavenly Parent is perfect” (Mt. 5:48). We are encouraged to “Be holy because I (God) am holy” (I Pet. 1:16).

God clearly think we know what perfection or holiness is or these statements are meaningless. Our striving to love others perfectly suggests such love exists. God is saying watch me and you will know how to act perfect or holy. God can’t act partial but declare favoritism wrong (Jam. 2:1). God isn’t a hypocrite who tells us to act morally but then acts immorally. We know what God is like because God’s morals are perfect humanly speaking.

Acting morally is usually clear but for example acting justly isn’t always exact. Should we sentence a person to two or four year for their crime? We know God’s sense of justice always has in mind the hopes of restoration. At least if we try to be like and demonstrate God’s attitudes in all decisions the world surely will be better off. Many decisions are not moral such as which career or job to pursue. We are free to make our own decisions. The beauty of a relationship with God is that with God alongside we can make wiser decisions based on what a loving God would desire for a better world.

God is the ideal lover and desires to inspire and empower us to be the same kind of lover in our relationships.  

God’s ways are not mysterious according to the Bible; God’s ways are higher (more moral) than our ways (Is. 55:8). God isn’t a hypocrite who tells us to act morally but then acts immorally. Biblical interpretations that imply God’s ways are less moral than our ways are unconceivable. God’s love is the love you always imagine would be true of a loving God. God is the perfection of the human parents we have always desired.

God’s love is the love we deep down desire to show others consistently. That is what God is really like!

 

 

What Might God’s Justice Look Like After Death?

The supposed reason for Jesus’ death has shaped our view of God’s justice. It is assumed God’s purpose for justice is to pay a price rather than in hopes to restore.

Jesus didn’t die to placate a blood-thirsty God who needed their child murdered to save face or have their honor restored. 

Soldiers die for one another for causes they believe deeply in. Jesus died to convince us of God’s incredible love in hopes we would let God empower us to reflect such love for us back to others. The Cross was not meant to change God’s attitude but our attitude toward God.

The traditional understanding of Hell may shape one’s view of God’s justice. 

Unending suffering doesn’t produce any good. It turns out no such place as Hell exists according to the Bible. Hell was invented over the centuries to scare people into obedience. The threat of Hell or prison doesn’t lead to relationships desired by God or parents. The threat of punishment is only initially to deter and steer one from destruction. God in the afterlife doesn’t have to heap on more punishment than the consequences of destroyed lives and relationships. God’s continual encouragement and mercy, not fear, is our necessary nourishment for true changes of the heart.

But, the Old Testament laws talk about an “eye for an eye” for justice. Obviously, the law was not saying to gouge out one another’s eyes. The law was meant to keep the privileged from taking advantage of the weaker by seeking unfair compensation. Jesus did not contradict this law but encouraged going the extra mile (Mt. 5:38-42). In NT times often clothing was allowed to serve as collateral – give them your shirt and coat as well. Justice seeks more than just righting wrong by seeking or giving payment. It seeks the possibility of restoring relationships.

How justice takes place in the afterlife may provide insights in what we can strive for in this life.

Obviously, standing up to enemies before a perfect Judge is very different than standing before human judges. Deep down all I want from others that have hurt to me is to experience true regrets, to admit their wrongs, and to make amends when possible. I can’t speak for those who have experience tremendous suffering from others such as sexual abuse, rape, or torture. Does unending punishment or torture truly satisfy? No punishment can return one’s robbed memories because of sexual abuse or murder of a loved one. Justice only for the purpose of payback is misleading for that which has been taken can never be returned.

True justice is being forced to understand your victim’s pain and accepting the harmfulness of your actions. After death God may bring to memory every action of betrayal and how it felt to their victims. 

Will some still refuse to admit and truly regret? The cleansing and educative effect may take longer for some than others. Believers and unbelievers may go through the same process of justice, some having more regrets than others.

Punishment can never make things totally right for a victim. Is the only justice for a child beater is to be beaten? A child beater may actually have to experience emotionally the terror they gave others, to bring them to their knees. Victims will have their revenge one day. God’s punishment has always been in hopes of redeeming the guilty. We like God may forgive our tormenters if our enemies truly regret their actions and seek forgiveness. True confession from the guilty and forgiveness from the victim is the greatest hope for restoration.

Justice from a fair, merciful God is entirely possible despite people being given a second chance after death.

 

Is Your View Of God Working For You?

The problem of evil is a main reason people don’t believe in God. How we answer how suffering and God co-exist can determine if we believe in the midst of suffering that God truly exists. God obviously seldom controls evil which brings so much suffering, but we know freedom is necessary for authentic relationships. True love must be chosen not forced. One consideration may be that God’s love, like a parent’s, may actually be greater when uncontrolling. It may be the best hope for as many children as possible to eventually freely choose good that last.

Other reasons one may not pursue a relationship with God isn’t because of apathy but because of misunderstandings of what God is really like. 

God of course is opposed to lying or stealing, but this isn’t why many are uninspired to pursue spirituality in their life. God suggested two laws would make all other laws unnecessary. Love God which is reasonable if loving God is loving others, and love others like you want to be loved. Few argue the second law wouldn’t lead to better relationships in the world. You may even have to forgive one who truly regrets their behavior unless when guilty, you wouldn’t hope for the same.

But, God is said to oppose certain things that discourage some from pursuing a relationship with their Creator.

God never said not being a churchgoer is the same thing as being a devil worshipper. Just seek environments that encourage and challenge you to pursue being the person you deep down desire to be. There are no traditions you must follow to be accepted by God. God doesn’t reject us because of our friends, who we marry, or what career we pursue. God cares how you treat others because that is what you will care about on your deathbed.

God not only respects the right to choose your own personal beliefs in this life, but God does not torture people after death for such decisions.

God never said believe or burn in Hell. Who thinks God doesn’t know unending suffering is pointless as it doesn’t produce any good. No such place as Hell exists according to the Bible. Hell was invented over the centuries to scare people into obedience. Religious extremists and terrorists are enemies of God. True love, where authentic relationships can develop, cannot be forced. The God of the Bible doesn’t control or destroy free decisions as if that resulted in true love.

God and the Bible don’t condemn same sex monogamous relationships.

I am biased toward monogamy because I think souls get hurt otherwise. Jesus, who represented God on earth, never spoke about homosexuality and said when gone He would leave His Spirit to guide individual hearts. God and the Bible don’t undisputable advocate hierarchical as opposed to equalitarian relationship between the sexes, or biblical scholars who respect the Bible as God’s guidance would all agree. No one needs a man or priest as a go between with God.

God doesn’t demand you forgive those who betray you when they accuse you of lying about their actions. We can stop being victims by not letting bitterness control our lives, but for many it is nonsensical to forgive one for actions that they deny happened. Is God really angry all the time or is God’s anger another side of God’s true personality – love. God’s personality is no different than when a loving parent shows tough love in hopes that their child will choose to stop acting in harmful ways toward others and themselves.

What beliefs about God keep you from pursuing God or spirituality more purposefully in your life?

Consider making spiritual-mindedness, which is loving others as you want to be loved, 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.

You may discover that God’s love is the love you always imagined and hoped would be true of a loving God.

 

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