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Archive for December, 2016

Do You Believe God Is Really Relevant?

I typically write to defend God’s reputation. God may be different than portrayed in religious circles. Don’t allow others’ views of God be the reason to not pursue more of a relationship with God. By defending God all I am saying is that God may be more relevant in your life than you think. 

God became more relevant when God became more the loving God I imagined.

Talking about Jesus’ crucifixion in terms of appeasing a blood, thirsty God doesn’t make sense morally or relationally. What Jesus did was obviously a tremendous sacrifice, but Jesus was nailed to the Cross because He believed His message was worth dying more. Jesus sought moral credibility for His claims about God as opposed to the views of the religites.

God doesn’t reject people because of their sexual orientation.

You simply cannot tell others you love them but not who they are. That is only rejection! Many cannot remember a day they didn’t want to be in a committed relationship with one of the same gender, yet they are condemned by religions folks in the name of God who don’t keep their own partnership vows. Would gay people really choose a lifestyle of scorn if they could choose otherwise?

God doesn’t reject people because they aren’t a Christian.

The truth is one is likely to be Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, or Jewish because of where or the family they are born into. God came in the flesh one time in history to convey God’s love for all people. It is the message of who God is and what God’s guidance for relationships that is important. We don’t have to convert others to our religion but discuss God’s relevancy in our lives.

God believes all people are equal.

I don’t wish for my daughters to think God wants them under the authority of any man. This encourages dominance on the man’s part and dependence on the woman’s part. I do think putting ourselves under the authority of our Creator is worth considering. If a woman has a desire to represent God through the priesthood or pastorate, God is honored. How can we expect God to be relevant if proscribed gender roles smack of inequality?

God doesn’t reject others because of beliefs due to circumstances.

God doesn’t judge those who have been abuse by their father and struggle to accept a God betrayed as our Father in Heaven. God doesn’t judge those who can’t get their head around why a loving God doesn’t intervene more with so much evil in the world. Our loved ones often didn’t have a relationship with God because of erroneous views of who God is, not because they reject God’s ways. A loving God can’t all of a sudden stop loving one at the moment of one’s last breath. God provides second changes after death for those who meet and see what their Creator is really like.

Do you have any beliefs about God that make God less relevant or appealing to have a relationship with?

Have you ever hesitated to discuss spirituality with others when appropriate because of who you think God must be portrayed as? We don’t have to necessarily accept what others proclaim about God. Consider possible erroneous views of God that hinder such a pursuing a deeper connection with your Creator.

 

Jesus – Real Or Myth?

Faith or science cannot prove things which are not observable such as God’s existence or evolution. Millions are not crazy to trust inclinations of the heart that a loving Supreme Being exists. Neither should we judge millions of others who aren’t sure such a God exists. The Bible reports of a man Jesus who claimed to speak for God, backing it up with miracles and rising from the dead. If Jesus was a real historical person and the Bible reports accurately what He said and did, we can know more what God is like. Please see Gregory Boyd & Paul Eddy, Lord Or Legend, for further discussion.

    • How reliable is our Bible according to what the writers originally penned, who lived during Jesus’ day and wrote down what He said? Nearly 25,000 manuscripts of the New Testament exist today, the earliest dating back to within 50 years when penned. The most reliable secular text, Homer’s Iliad, has 643 manuscript copies in existence today with a 400-year time gap between time penned and copies available. If claimed the NT isn’t historically reliable, all ancient literature must be questioned.
    • If Jesus was more myth than reality, why was Jesus written to be the leader He was? The Jews were hoping for and expecting a leader to crush there oppressors, yet Jesus died at the hands of the Romans. Fictional, character descriptions usually exceed your expectations.
    • If you are going to make up a movement, why are the leaders described in such flawed terms? One of the twelve disciples betrayed Jesus for a few bucks. Other disciples constantly doubted Jesus while Peter (aka “Upon This Rock…) denied knowing Jesus during tough times. Legends, rather than historical characters, aren’t weak but strong, invincible, heroes.
    • Why was Jesus based on actual current history events as contrived legends are based on events once upon a time, long ago to avoid verification? It was written Jesus was born when Augustus was emperor and crucified when Pilate was governor. Jesus was referred to as James’ brother which could be confirmed at the time of writing (Gal. 1:19). Good Lord, if you are going to claim Jesus came back from the dead you don’t write being seen by 500 witnesses (I Cor. 15:6). Maybe Jesus did resurrect as confirmable by living, talking eyewitnesses.
    • If Jesus didn’t actually live in the first century as a human being, why did the writer record that his readers were being persecuted from the same people that crucified Jesus (I Thess. 2:13-15)? Maybe Jesus lived during the same first century as the readers.
    • Aren’t legends created to reinforce current beliefs? The Jews were very much a one-god people since Old Testaments days, unlike surrounding cultures who worshiped many gods. You don’t make up a person claiming to be God since they don’t reinforce current beliefs. Maybe Jesus was real and the writers wished to pen accurately Jesus’ words.
    • Why would writers talked about Jesus’ disdain for rituals, unless Jesus truly spoke how certain practices made a mockery of the message of love? The Jews had many sacred traditions revered for centuries, claiming such rituals were necessary to be accepted by God.
    • When making up stuff you don’t report your leader was crucified, that your hero was rejected by their family, and followers doubted Jesus’ claims including being God in flesh, unless you are reporting the facts. Jesus simply was not the stuff legends were made up.

The Bible is subject to interpretation, but much of Jesus’ message is agreed upon. Jesus encouraged forgiveness of others because our Creator forgives us. Jesus encouraged us to go extra miles in relationships because God would never think of loving us any differently. If you base many of your beliefs about God by what Jesus claimed about God, you can be reasonable confident you got the real story.

 

 

What If God Doesn’t Know The Future?

I understand many may not think about or find all that relevant whether God knows the future or not. Assuming God knows the future though can lead to questions for example as to why God didn’t warn us about a partner who turned out to be abusive. What we believe about God and the future can make God seem less relatable or more distance during difficult times.

Thousands of biblical passages could be cited to defend either God does or doesn’t know the future. Some may be inclined to believe an all-powerful Supreme Being must know the future. I am convinced God doesn’t know the future, which helps with certain problems encountered below. Most agree true love must be freely chosen, or we are simply robots than humans. God not being able to do the impossible such as changing the past, forcing true love, or not knowing the future until it happens doesn’t make God less powerful.

The Bible speaks about God sometimes regretting certain decisions (i.e. Gen. 6:6).

If God knew the outcome of certain decisions by knowing the future, why would God make such regrettable decisions? If one does a google search they will see many biblical passages that refer to God changing their mind depending on what choices humans freely make. God doesn’t know what decisions are made ahead of time but pretending otherwise. Writers of the Bible often write as if God thought the future was open, thus undetermined and unknown.

One major problem when believing God knows the future arises during times of suffering.

A young woman may ask God for wisdom in marrying their partner. All think it is a match made in heaven, but the husband becomes abusive and the children suffer. What kind of God doesn’t warn if God knew this was going to happen? 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. That is not how a loving God acts.

A second problem with thinking God knows the future is understanding how I am truly free to make decisions other than what is already supposed to happen. 

A known or set future suggests one is not truly free to choose otherwise. A determined future contradicts that God created us with the freedom to make our own choices. We don’t have to play mental gymnastics with God by assuming we have freedom but future decisions are predetermined. God is not aloof as if simply gazing into situations God already was aware of. God grieves with us in our suffering. A God who doesn’t know the future can be more relatable.

But, doesn’t prophecy confirm God knows the future ahead of time?

The most talked about prophecy in the Old Testament is the forthcoming of the Messiah and their subsequent death. Jesus prayed to God that if possible He be spared of dying on the Cross (Mt. 26:39). Such a prayer seems meaningless unless Jesus’ life could have been spared. It is likely many prophesies in the OT are conditional. God changes their mind if people change. God also realized it was highly unlikely religious people would accept Jesus confronting their erroneous, sacred beliefs about God. Jesus died for His message to influence people of God’s radical love for them.

But, if God can’t know or control the future can God make any guarantees of the future?

God didn’t necessarily promise to come back and destroy the world and make it anew. I am convinced God came in the flesh through Jesus to change the world. If all took Jesus’ message to heart, the world would surely be a lot better off and many wouldn’t be hoping God bring to an end all this madness. A God though who can create can surely guarantee the ending after death. God after death hopes all choose to be with God forever reunited with their loved ones. The journey of freedom here on earth may have been necessary to make such a decision.

God may not know the future.

God can certainly predict what God intends to achieve if circumstances remain the same. Many prophecies are simply declarations of what God will do, such as coming in the flesh through Jesus, and that doesn’t impact anyone’s freedom. But, if you have issues with believing God can foreknow the future but then doubt freedom, you are in good company. Maybe God didn’t warn you of something because it wasn’t known or predetermined. Maybe God isn’t trying to teach you some unknown lesson because of suffering. God simply wants to stand by your side in making a difference in a troubled world.

The Crucifixion Isn’t Just About Blood And Anger!

Jesus’ death on the Cross is one of the most talked about events in history though happening two thousand years ago. It doesn’t make sense morally or relationally when suggesting the Cross was to appease God’s sense of justice or protect God’s reputation. In crude terms did Jesus really die to placate a blood-thirsty God who needed their child murdered to have their honor restored?

  • Is God no different than the other gods in past history who demanded human sacrifice to appease their own desires for power and control? God is not like terrorists or religious extremists. Terrorists blow others up because of their personal beliefs about God. God doesn’t threaten us with death or Hell because of our beliefs. God only seeks to warn us of paths that lead to personal and relational destruction.
  • Is God really that repulsed by sinners? Can God not love or look at sinners except through the lens of Jesus? Jesus, who claimed to be God in the flesh, loved hanging around the supposed dregs of society, and I am sure in those gatherings not all regretted their behaviors.
  • Did Jesus die for God or us? Many discuss the Bible teaching Jesus died to save us, but their legal explanation implies Jesus died to save God from us. God doesn’t have to be appeased and their honor restored through Jesus’ death before God can love us.
  • Does God believe violence or revenge – killing someone – really solve problems? Death may protect the innocent from further harm, but death does nothing for the guilty. Death doesn’t either resurrect the murdered or erase childhood memories of the innocent. True confession from the guilty and forgiveness by the victim is what truly heals and restores.
  • Does God seek to forgive or payback? Suggesting one must die in our place for our sins sounds like revenge. God doesn’t delight the most in sacrifice or burnt offerings but a broken and contrite heart (Ps. 51:16-17). Jesus didn’t have to die before God would forgive us.
  • Is God more of a rageaholic than loving Parent? God is not like some parents who go off on fits of anger before they will even look at their child without disgust. Besides, such vents don’t really pave the path for forgiveness.
  • Is guilt really transferable? Demanding the blood of an innocent party doesn’t legally resolve another’s person guilt. My going to jail for a friend’s wrongdoing doesn’t somehow clear my friend of their crime. Guilt is not somehow magically removed by someone else’s confession of a sin they didn’t commit.
  • Is God’s purpose for justice to pay a price or lead to a change in heart? God’s anger in the Bible isn’t to change hearts but to hopefully deter others from evil that destroys lives.
  • Does a legal view truly inspire what God intended? Jesus dying for our sins claims to do something externally – spare us from God’s wrath. Such a view does nothing though to inspire us internally in how we treat others. God created freedom for true love must be chosen not forced. Jesus wished to influence us to freely consider ways in our best interests.

I am convinced Jesus’ death was meant to be influential in changing our attitude about God, not changing God’s attitude toward us.

God sought to prove that our Creator loves us more then we can ever imagine and desperately seeks a relationship with us for our own good. God sees us as Christ as our sins nailed to the Cross, so we can be empowered to be comfortable with God despite our guilty feelings.

Soldiers die for one another because they believe deeply in the cause and importance of freedom. Jesus thought His message was worth dying for. Jesus wanted to convince us of what He knew about God rather than what others said about God. Jesus believed in God incredible love for us, and that God desires to empower us to reflect such love back to others. I love my children the way I do because I just do, and I hope they will make for a better world. What kind of God sees how the world has turned out and doesn’t just say the Hell with it, but instead enters such a world to experience underserved suffering via the Cross to inspire and relate?

Please see Gregory Boyd’s website and article for further insights:

http://reknew.org/2015/12/10-problems-with-the-penal-substitution-view-of-the-atonement/

 

Trust Our Heart Or Others When Reading The Bible?

The Bible can be used to defend almost any point of view. When we are attempting to discern a writer’s meaning or guidance when written long ago, we have to take into account context and often what a writer doesn’t say. One may say to their audience “don’t judge others.” The reader later must understand what the audience knew – what was not spoken. All know legal authorities must make judgments of right and wrong and individuals in relationships when in harm’s way.

Some stories hardly inspire due to violent actions credited to God. It is possible that God did not interfere with the freedom of a writer to misrepresent God’s views in some of the stories. It is also possible that the Israelites understood God’s unspoken word was to spare lives if possible when war was necessary to protect oneself against attack. God always preferred the Israelites live in peace with other nations. Also, many OT nations sacrificed their children to appease their gods. If our next door neighbor believes in child sacrifice, should we do nothing? Should nations always stand by when tyrants and terrorists commit horrible monstrosities against their citizens?

The Bible was never meant to be an idol for worship. 

Besides, there are no certainties in interpretations. Some suggest women are always to be silent in the church (I Cor. 14:34). Many rightly interpret in my opinion that the writer suggests silence sometimes is necessary to maintain peace. Peace is sometimes more important than defending one’s rights in certain situations. This doesn’t mean we can’t strive for eventual equality in appropriate ways.

Trusting our hearts doesn’t mean everyone’s opinion is correct.

We know certain interpretations are wrong when opinions violate the rights of others to believe as they choose. The main message of the Bible is clear. Consider one another’s opinion gracefully if they don’t violate the freedom of others. The Bible can confirm characteristics of a Creator that might not always be intuitive. Religious leaders of Jesus’ day taught obeying certain rules were necessary to be accepted by God. Jesus protested by teaching God’s love is a given just as any loving parent. 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.

If we choose to believe that there is a God, God will guide you in your journey in discovering who God is. 

The Bible was intended as a story, not a rules book, expressing God’s desire for a relationship with those God created. We mustn’t pick and choose certain sentences out of context to prove a point. 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. Faith in something that cannot be seen always involves intuitions of the heart.

 

 

Is There Really Any Excuse For Not Being Spiritual?

I understand why people are turned off about God or religion. You may have friends that mean well but seem to have a hidden agenda to convince you of their beliefs or else. You may think of God based on what others claim to be true of God. Does God really condemn committed, homosexual love? I still believe there are many good reasons why others are turned off by religion. But, honestly there is really no good reason to not pursue spirituality.

Being spiritual isn’t necessarily being religious.

Almost all religions, except extremists who don’t believe in freedom of personal beliefs, agree on what spirituality is. All the great religious leaders would surely agree the main message is to love others like you want to be loved. Just sometimes the message gets muted because of all the other expectations. Christians may be surprised that this was Jesus’ main message when interacting with individuals. Jesus’ concern wasn’t about avoiding future consequences after death. Jesus’ interactions reveal encouragements and help to act in one’s own interest and the interests of others.

I don’t know anyone that excuses deep down that they shouldn’t treat others like they themselves want to be treated. 

Even in difficult times, I just want others to try to understand, accept, and wait and be open for me to advise how I need help. This is the one expectation that isn’t met with defensiveness. Watch a child lack for words when told they must treat others like they expect to be treated.

It isn’t easy to act spiritual toward one another on a daily basis.

I am convinced this is one main reason God came in person through Jesus to reveal how God seeks to help. When one feels extraordinarily loved they simply want to return that love to others. Businesses transform when the Boss is a true sense of inspiration because of how they treat their employees. Imagine God’s love being the perfect parental love we have always desired from our parents. Some need forgiveness to begin anew. Some need hope that they are important enough to make a difference. What is the most important need you have in your life that God may only be able to fulfill?

The world is only going to change when we strive not to be good enough but to meet our own expectations toward others.

That is all God wants. Consider what a loving God can do for you. What kind of God sees how the world has turned out and doesn’t just say the Hell with it, but instead enters such a world to experience underserved suffering via the Cross to inspire and relate. God’s love is the love we deep down desire to show others consistently. Honestly, we have no right to expect such love from others unless we demonstrate such love toward others.

 

 

Why Would God Bring About The Bible Due To Misuse?

There surely has been a great deal of good from many reading a Bible. “Parents, don’t provoke your children” (Eph. 6:4) aka “Mike, don’t piss your children off unnecessarily” has spared me many conflicts with my kids. They actually visit now that grown. But, there is no denying that misinterpretations have done a lot of damage. For example, many men have interpreted some verses to justify claiming authority over their wives in decision-making.

Why would a loving God possibly bring about the Bible, which reportedly conveys God’s thoughts, knowing literature read by future generations is subject to abuse? 

The reality is all writings are subject to misinterpretation by future readers. Not even God can control that. Am I wrong to ever write about what I think God is like? The problem isn’t God or the writer but those who claim their interpretations are right. If we would only consider one another’s opinion gracefully, as long as they don’t violate the freedom of others, so all can freely work out their own convictions with God.

If the Bible is so important, why didn’t God see that everyone had a copy?

The reality is that the majority of those who have been born into this world have never had a copy of the Bible to read. A loving God would never insist on information about God, undiscerning except through the written word, since all don’t have access to a Bible. God has always worked in cooperation with humans than imposing their will. 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.

Actually, the fact that the stories in the Bible have only been told once may reveal there is only one story to tell.

Why didn’t God at least have Jesus or God in flesh come in as many cultures as possible as many times as possible to get out the message? Maybe the fact God came in the flesh one time in history suggest Jesus was who He claimed to be. Real people can only die and come back from the grave once. Maybe there is only one story because there is only one Jesus.

It may be argued that if only God would write guidance in the sky each morning this would remove any confusion. 

How did that type of communication work for the Israelites in the OT? Besides, such communications are still subject to misinterpretation. God may have surmised that God’s overpowering presence in our lives could cause consuming guilt or obligation to obey. Obligatory choices don’t always lead to lasting change. God’s lack of interference and visibility may allow the independence need to become more the lasting person we want to be.

The Bible was never meant to be the only means to God but one way to communicate what God is really like. 

I suppose we are better off without the Bible when one does not consider their interpretations possibly fallible. We are better off without the Bible when it becomes a rules book and an idol rather than a consideration for wisdom and reflection depending on one’s individual situation. We are better off without the Bible when any belief is considered sacred other than self-discovery about God to become a better person so to make a difference in the world. The Bible can be used to communicate to as many people as possible what God may really be like through Jesus.

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