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Archive for October, 2016

Certain Explanations Of Jesus’ Death Don’t Impact Our Relationship With God!

You may not even know who the heck Jesus is or even care. Please don’t use that as an excuse to not be more spiritual minded in striving to become more the person you desire to be. I don’t know many people who don’t wish that were kinder and more encouraging, that they didn’t always respond to their partner negatively just because the partner did. We all though may need a source for encouragement so such behaviors become more action than talk.

We often say Jesus died for our sins on the Cross but draw blank or irrelevant looks. Jesus never said this was His purpose for living or dying. 

We are told we must accept Jesus’ resurrection, but we have to rely on 2000 year old historical evidence because we weren’t there to possibly witness a man coming back from the dead. Heck, Jesus was performing amazing miracles and claiming to come down from Heaven but even His family and closest friends had doubts. They weren’t especially moved by Jesus and they walked with Him daily.

In the disciples defense they changed over time. My point is to not defend if Jesus truly came back from the dead, but something happened. Keep in mind no other religious leader has dared claim to come back from the dead. Suddenly, Jesus’ disciples were willing to be beaten, persecuted, and suffer a martyr’s death without renouncing their conviction that they had seen Jesus’ bodily resurrection. Some people will give their life for what they believe may be true in the future, but who gives their life for what they know is a lie?

It is understandable that it is difficult to relate to a God who according to tradition is portrayed as a blood-thirsty God who needed their child murdered to save face or have their honor restored. 

If you think Jesus may have been representing God, I would encourage considering another viewpoint about the Cross. One may rightly wonder if God thought Jesus’ message was so important, why not simply seek confession which is the first step toward changing and becoming more the person Jesus spoke of.

The real story may be Jesus died not to change God’s attitude but our attitude toward God.

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 strive more to be the people our world is in desperate need of. Jesus prayed God’s will be done on earth as in heaven (Mt. 6:10). Jesus wanted to convince us that God’s ways can lead to a world worth living in. Jesus said so many things we know true. Jesus encouraged us to go the extra mile in our relationships or healing can never take place. We must care for others like we would want if in that person’s shoes.

Do you want to show others the love you so badly wished they would show to you consistently, though not always deserving?

God’s love and mercy, not gloomy uncertainty of God’s favor, can be our necessary nourishment in being the kind of person we desire to be. Jesus’ simply message was God would love to help and encourage us in such a journey. Do you every think God needs a break from you at least for a day or God can’t possibly forgive you for the 10th or 100th time? Guess again! Actions have consequences but God doesn’t pour on the hate. Jesus died to convince us what God is really like, not what we may think God is like. If there is a God surely they can give inspire us to be more the person we desire to be and that our lives matters here on earth.

 

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What Is The Bible Referring To With The Word Hell?

It is important that we defend God’s reputation when it comes to the issue of Hell. If Hell according to the Bible is an unending, suffering place where people go after death for their personal beliefs, then God is no different than the god of terrorists who are sadistic torturers. A loving God would not force anyone to live with them after the grave, but a loving God who created freedom yet tortures you for your beliefs is a contradiction.

The OT says nothing about where people go after the grave.

The word Hell is an English translation for the Hebrew and Greek words Sheol and Gehenna. We know what the Bible says about Hell when determining what these two words refer to in the Bible. The Hebrew word Sheol is seldom translated any more with the English word Hell. Sheol is referred to as a place of darkness – the grave – where all go regardless of beliefs. Job, called a very righteous man in God’s eyes, expressed a desire to go to Sheol to escape tremendous suffering (Job 10:21-22).

Gehenna is the Greek word translated as Hell in the NT.

It is used by Jesus eleven times in four conversations (Mt. 5:22, 29, 30; Mt. 10:28 (i.e. Luke 12:5); Mt. 18:9 (i.e. Mk 9:43, 45, 47); Mt. 23: 15, 33). Matthew’s Jewish audience was most familiar with the history behind Gehenna. Gehenna was the name of a real valley nearby Jerusalem with a history of terrible slaughter where Israeli children were burned as sacrifices to false gods (Jer. 7:30-31; 19:2-5). Gehenna clearly illustrated the horries of physical death.

Jesus used Gehenna to explain spiritual death is just as tragic. Matthew 5:29 best illustrates this: “If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown in Hell (Gehenna).” Jesus warns that lust can lead toward the tragedy of adultery – betrayal of one’s partner and children causing the breakup of the family. Jesus wasn’t suggesting lust or adultery dooms one never to enter Heaven after death. Spiritual death – living a self-centered life – is no less tragic than physical death.

Jesus didn’t think scaring the Hell out of people lead to authentic living. 

Jesus simply encouraged avoiding a life full of regrets by living an unselfish life. Jesus focused more on what leads to true happiness on earth than our destination after the grave. Jesus when asked about eternal life focused on the present – love God and your neighbor (Lk.10:25-28). No one is going to Heaven if such actions are required according to God’s standards. Jesus desperately tried to convince people life is too short to not focus on living a loving life.

The Bible does assures us that a faith in God will lead to Heaven where our bodies are transformed (Philip. 3:20). Jesus did promise the thief on the Cross he would enter paradise so there is hope even if full of regrets. But, the Bible focuses more on our lives here on earth that can lead to a life not full of regrets when looking back. After we die the Bible speaks of trusting God for justice for victims as well as believing in a merciful God full of a thousand chances.

The Apostle Paul who wrote most of the New Testament never refers to Hell. Noah, or any prophet in the OT, never warned of Hell as a consequence for behaviors here on earth. 

Then, only the book of Revelation can be used to suggest Hell is real. The writer is speaking of events in their lifetime (Rev 1:1; 22:6), not some future Armageddon. References to the lake of fire are surely symbolical to warn against evil behaviors. God is a consuming fire (Heb. 12:29). There is no hope for those who perpetuate evil caring only about themselves. A book clearly full of symbolic language, most understandable and applicable to the author’s immediate audience, mustn’t be used to contradict the rest of the Bible. The Bible does not say those on the wrong side of certain beliefs on earth are destined to burn forever in a place called Hell.

Hell seems to be an invention over the centuries to scare people into submission and obedience.

Does God not know what we know?  Fear only leads to concealing or doing what should be expected. Encouragement from God, parents, and friends is what leads to life transformation to obtain higher than just non-bad standards. The word Hell in the Bible is clearly a substitution not translation for certain Hebrew and Greek words. Scriptures only say after death that all are judged by our merciful God. No such place as Hell exists according to the Bible. 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 only seeks a relationship to inspire you to be the kind of person you deep down desire to be.

How Does God Guide Us In Decisions?

This is a question that can confuse and frustrate both God-followers and those open to more of a relationship with God. It is often assumed an all-powerful God can know the future. If God knows the future a loving God would surely guide us to avoid decisions that can lead to heartaches. The future is not some divine plan where God is controlling all the suffering in the world. God created us with freedom where we are truly free to make different decisions. God can’t know an open, unknowable future.

The fact that even an all-powerful God can’t know an undetermined future actually can be reassuring. 

Those who believe God has a specific, future plan for their lives naturally ask God whether to marry a certain person or take a particular job. If our marriage ends up in divorce or our job is phased out, we may feel betrayed by God. Or, since God didn’t direct us otherwise we go searching for the lesson that God is supposedly trying to teach us. But, since God doesn’t communicate directly we are clueless what the lesson is. Does that sound like a loving God?

How does God guide us since the future is open and we are free to make our own decisions?

God gives us all a sense of what is moral or immoral, wise or unwise in our decisions. If we marry someone who is a poor communicator, we should not be surprised if that pattern continues in marriage. Regardless, God cannot guarantee outcomes such as a happy marriage. If God could guarantee outcomes there would be no freedom to choose otherwise.

God wants us to feel free to follow our heart and desires.

Some parents, unlike God, selfishly push their children toward partners and jobs that “they” want for their child. There is no need to ask God what decision to make as if there is only one right decision and God can guarantee outcomes. Confidence and a sense of security flows from close human or divine relationships. God gives us a sense about moral issues involved but then loves and supports our decisions that we think are wisest.

God’s plan is not a detailed blueprint but a general one to set us free to love.

I don’t love my children less because I don’t have specific decisions in mind for them. It is actually more loving to be less controlling. What is the wisest path to choose at this time in life based on past experiences, current circumstances, and future aspirations? Let’s do all the good we can, in all the places we can, at all the times we can, to all the people we can, as long as we can. Such a plan leads to true happiness in the long-run for a better world.

Which Flawed Candidate – Trump Or Clinton?

Maybe all presidential candidates in the past have been flawed, but they really seemed flawed this election. Many of us may prefer a different candidate, who defends issues important to them, without all the scandals involved. At least both candidates admit mistakes were made. Trump said he wishes he hadn’t said what he did about women in a conversation in 2005; Clinton says she wishes she hadn’t used a private server for government communications.

Trump claims what he got caught saying on tape was locker room talk. He admitted such talk was wrong but then he takes away from the sincerity of such an apology by referring to women’s looks, etc. It makes you wonder if he still engages in such talk about women though married. I can vote for a flawed candidate but I can’t vote for a candidate who still engages in such talk. The words Clinton often uses to apologize don’t work in my relationships.

I get why both don’t always come out and admit their every wrongdoing. Can you image if everything you have said and written was made public!

If Trump admits he touched a woman against their will, he would either have to pay a lot of money or be criminally charged. If Clinton admits she took risks with government secrets, she could be criminally charged. If only each candidate could be totally open about their wrongdoings and regrets. At least then we could ask about future actions and if willing to be held accountable to new standards.

One may argue if you believe both candidates are flawed, protest by not voting at all.

That is an individual decision. Some may vote for a flawed candidate because they believe a candidate’s polices are better for society as a whole against the other candidate. In this case not voting can be seen as a vote for the least desirable candidate.

I am not an expert on which policies are beneficial to our society as a whole. I would suggest two issues that may matter for our future. 

Do you believe certain national leaders are evil-bent? Are there certain leaders who would advocate violence toward others who don’t share their personal beliefs to stay in power? If you believe people are capable of such beliefs against basic human rights, it informs how you negotiate with those who possess nuclear weapons, etc.

Secondly, we must admit that some are better able to support their family because of advantages they had growing up that others didn’t no fault of their own.

In an ideal world the fortunate would use their favorable circumstances to help those who have had less favorable circumstances. Is money better in the hands of government though taxes to help the less fortunate or in the hands of those more fortunate who may be willing to take risk creating jobs, etc.? The human element can’t be avoided. How does each candidate propose handling the deficit to not kick our debt to the curb at the detriment of future generations?

What I do know is the success of our nation never depends upon one individual.  

Thankfully, we have checks and balances in government where one individual is not in total control. What can change the world is not the President but hundreds of millions collectively caring for the less fortunate. We have millions of people with good hearts, but we need millions more who strive to constantly go the extra mile with others in a broken world. Individuals must find someone or Someone who serves as a constant example and encouragement to love and respect others like we would want to be loved and respected if in their circumstances.

 

What Is The #1 Reason People Avoid Spiritual Discussions?

We are desperate for a world where people strive to be more spiritual-minded or loving. Most religious leaders define spirituality as loving others like you want to be loved. Christians may be surprised this was Jesus’ message as well along with how God could help us in such a journey, as opposed to believing certain supposed truths. Also, in a broken world we must consider how to love others who act unlovable or relationships may never heal. Unfortunately, such conversations never happen if we act like Jesus-freaks.

Okay! Some avoid spiritual discussions because they are only interested in pursuing a self-centered life. I doubt this is many of your friends.

The Bible is used to suggest all people who don’t believe in God are simply suppressing what they know to be true (Rm. 1:18-32). Actually, this passage refers to those who didn’t deny Israel’s God existed but turned to other gods to justify self-centered harmful behaviors. We must stop assuming those who question the reality of an invisible God are wicked and don’t know their feelings. Just call behaviors that violate the rights of others for what they are – immoral and destructive.

The main reason people avoid spiritual discussions is because they can smell a hidden agenda a mile away.

It simply is wrong to engage in friendships with others for the purpose of converting them to believe as you do without advising them upfront this is your agenda. Christians often believe others must have certain beliefs to be accepted by God. Jesus focused more on what God could do for us, not what we must do to be loved by God or else. Jesus spoke of the importance of true love or how else can the world change. Certain parents or bosses inspire because of who they are. God can be just as inspirational depending on what you believe about God. Just discuss how we can be more spiritual-minded when appropriate.

People avoid those who like to discuss spiritual matters not only because their intentions are to convert them but because many of their beliefs about God are unloving.

Spiritual people often suggest the Bible condemns homosexual love. Does a loving God really condemn committed love? Some suggest the Bible teaches if you don’t believe in God in this life you will burn in Hell forever. Is a loving God really a sadistic torturer? It is no wonder people don’t engage in spiritual discussions with those who have such beliefs about a supposedly loving God.

We have portrayed God as a Parent who has certain conditions to be loved and accepted.

We are reaping what we have sowed. We portray God as wanting to save people from hell rather than being a God who respects one’s freedom to consider how they might make for a better world. God knows what human parents know. Love is necessary but can’t be forced. Freedom is the only path to authentic relationships. “Controlling love” is a contradiction in terms. Who can blame others for avoiding  a God who thinks a relationship comes out of fear than inspiration.

How can we inspire others to pursue spiritual healthiness as much they might their physical or emotional health?

It should be obvious that we need to start acting like true friends act toward one another. We engage in relationships because we are interested in having friendships with others, both to love and be loved. I can no more ignore that I am a lover of God because of who I think God is any more than others can deny their passions. I enjoy discussing what a loving God may truly be like as much as one may want to discuss a great book they read. Spirituality or God may or may not come up naturally in conversations. When it does I am convinced such discussions can lead to a better world by how we treat others.

 

Getting To Heaven Doesn’t Depend On What Others Say You Must Believe!

There are reasons to think our future destination isn’t dependent on certain beliefs while a short time on earth. Don’t reject the pursuit of spirituality because of beliefs claimed supposedly necessary for God to accept us now or after we leave this earth. Whether one chooses to live in Heaven after death will depend on the conversation one has with their Creator at that time. I can’t prove that God or Heaven exist but it also takes faith to believe that “we live and we die.” I am convinced my belief in the possibility of a loving God isn’t wasting my time on earth.

Millions who sense there is an ultimate, superior Reality beyond themselves can agree what that loving God would be like. A tyrant God isn’t worth living for. Just ask those under the rule of an evil dictator here on earth. We all have a sense of what true love is in our relationships. My hunch is you believe we should treat others like we want to be treated. Because of this universal belief, one wonders if One created us for such a purpose. Might you be empowered if your Creator’s love is the same love we deep down desire to receive and show others consistently?

Heaven can’t depend on beliefs here on earth because we aren’t more perfect lovers than God. 

A loving parent’s love is never selfish and always guides for the best interest of their child. Even if your child rebels or rejects you, you never lose hope that your child will want a relationship someday. Do you really think you are a better lover than God? A loving God can’t all of a sudden stop being merciful and forgiving at the moment of one’s last breath here on earth. A God of a thousand chances here on earth is surely a God of second changes after death.

If Heaven depends on certain beliefs, Jesus would have responded differently when asked how to have eternal life.

Jesus only encouraged loving God and your neighbor (Lk.10:25-28). No one is going to Heaven if such actions are required according to God’s standards. Good works can’t be criteria for getting into Heaven or Jesus set us up to always worry if good enough and lied to the thief on the Cross. Jesus’ answer didn’t focus on the future but how to live life here on earth to avoid regrets. Jesus died convincing people life is too short to not focus on living a loving life. Such strivings in life despite failures stir hope for a future with God.

Why did Jesus encourage loving God? Jesus knew God is no different than a selfless, uncontrolling parent who we come to trust always has our best interest in mind. Such love provides comfort and security and inspires and empowers us to want to reflect such love onto others. Jesus knew loving God lead to loving others to the fullest. We mustn’t cherry pick verses such as Romans 6:23: “the wages of sin is death…” The Apostle Paul like Jesus was only warning unspiritual living leads to a wasted life here on earth.

One may argue if certain beliefs aren’t required for Heaven, people will do whatever the hell they want on earth.

We sometimes want to tell people what they better believe to scare the Hell out of them. God didn’t use fear in this way as if that inspires life worth living. Fear is only meant to deter from evil to avoid personal destruction and the destruction of others. But, changes of the heart come from knowing you are deeply loved by a parent or God empowering you to reflect such love back to others.

Yes, there is hope that you will be reunited with your loved ones despite their disinterest or rebellious against God. What if their rebellion is due to erroneous views of who God is? Yes, if you live life that leads to regrets you will have regrets when meeting your Creator. Jesus would encourage His views of God can only empower to be the person we deep down desire to be. We will fail but God will continually encourage in being the kind of person we deep down desire to be. Such a life can provide eternal hope.

 

God, Why Not Communicate Clearly To Unite More In Understanding You?

If God communicated more clearly what God’s views were on matters that divide people, it seems there would be less suffering in the world because of differences. Sincere, loving, spiritual people can believe so differently what God is really like. Division only leads to a waste in emotional and physical resources. Those who agree with what many churches are doing for the less fortunate may turn away because of certain understandings of God. Churches don’t unite to serve more effectively. What doesn’t God do a better job of communicating for a better world?

God’s overwhelming presence and direct communication in the Old Testament didn’t lead to the Israelites always acting on advice that turned out to be in their best interests.

God may have surmised that God’s continued overpowering presence in our lives could cause consuming guilt or obligation to obey. Obligatory choices don’t always lead to lasting change. Getting in the face of disobedient older children or showering them with gifts isn’t always best. Becoming more the lasting person we want to be may only happen when God interferes less and allows greater independence. God’s invisibility may be out of love than cruelness.

God penning the Bible to make matters clearer, rather than working through humans, may not lead to the results we think. Besides, people would disagree what God meant!

Some believe the Bible teaches hierarchical relationship in marriage, though in their defense they argue for servant-like leadership, while others believe the Bible teaches egalitarianism which seemingly leads to less possible abuse by men. Unnecessary leadership, even if loving, invites men in impasses to solve conflicts differently than through normal conflict resolution means between two friends. The Apostle Paul, who wrote much of the New Testament, is accused of not being more emphatic that women are equal to men in God’s eyes. I don’t think Paul was purposefully vague, but Paul was looking to ignite change not a revolt. Do others make genuine changes by demanding rather than respecting certain freedoms?

Clarity doesn’t always lead to more loving actions.

This Post is much different than what I had written. I am convinced this topic is so important for many turn away from God because of misunderstandings. Why doesn’t God give me or others more clarity on this matter? God isn’t intentionally vague but ongoing conversations due to lack of clarity can create a healthy dependence on God. If I knew definitively why God doesn’t communicate more clearly, I am not sure I would be as gracious in my writings by encouraging others to come to their own convictions in the time right for them, as opposed to forcing my views on others.

God may be more of a communicator than believed though.

Most agree right from wrong such as lying, stealing, or murder. Most sense what true love is in relationships. Few disagree we shouldn’t treat others like we want to be treated. Because of this universal belief, one wonders if we were created for such a purpose. We many not always know what is best in relationship challenges, but more is clear than not. Hasn’t God communicated in our souls loving others is simply loving others in the same ways we deep down desire to be loved by others?

Let’s be honest! God writing on the clouds each morning may not lead to following advice clearly in our best interest. 

God communicating the way God does now, where certainty cannot be claimed, may better allow choices in our own time for genuine lasting changes. Many, many of the differences that divide because God doesn’t drop “words from heaven” are easily resolved if we respect the freedom of others as God does. When the rights of others are not being violated, attitudes that allow people to change freely for the better is “I may be right, I am be wrong, let’s do this journey together.” God isn’t hiding or why do so many know the difference from love and hate and good from evil. God has communicated enough and supposed certainty doesn’t always unite.

 

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