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Archive for February, 2017

What Is The Ideal Parent? Is God?

I try to paint an attractive view of God because I believe in such views and most people who believe in a Creator desire to feel connected to their Creator. Understandings of God determine attitudes toward God. Parents can clamor all they want about loving us, but I feel the most connected with those I can respect and relate to. The best example we have to compare God to is the relationship with our earthly parents.

Jesus, who represented God here on earth, made statements like: “Be perfect, therefore as your heavenly Parent is perfect” (Mt. 5:48). Such statements are meaningless unless we can know what perfection is. Our desire to be loved and striving to love others suggests we know what perfect love is and that it exists. God’s love as a Parent is the love we deep down desire to show our children or experience from our parents. See if you agree that the following ways characterize perfect, desired love from a parent and a God.

The one word I think of when describing what I desperately desired the most from my parents was for their love to be uncontrolling.

Real love is not taking advantage of any authority or power one may possess. It doesn’t matter if parents know what for best for their child. Controlling love” is a contradiction in terms; besides, true love can’t be forced. Freedom is the only path to authentic relationships. Evidence that God is a God of freedom is how chaotic our world is because of decisions we make contrary to God’s wishes.

A perfect God or parent never advises only because of self-interest reasons as opposed to what is best for others.

It is wrong to ask a child to pursue a certain career opposed to their gifts. Parents must be careful that advice is never about how it makes them look or because of their own personal desires. Parents must listen respectfully and respond carefully. God may warn immoral actions have consequences, but God may not interfere with evil because God knows a superior world results because of personal moral development due to choices freely made.

A perfect God or parent is quick to forgive despite their initial warnings.

Parents’ constant or subtle disfavor because of mistakes robs us of the encouragement we need. Why then would gloomy uncertainty as to God’s favor help us to conquer battles against self-centeredness or long-standing habitual sins in our life? Parents who truly forgive avoid the temptation to remind their children of their failures, as if they need reminding. All parents know what “piling on” means. Actions have consequences but a perfect God is always willing to begin anew.

A perfect God or parent is obviously morally perfect, never hiding behind “do as I say, not as I do.”

Who doesn’t know advice is cheap unless you follow your own words. A perfect God cannot declare partiality to be a sin but show favoritism toward others. The most likely interpretation of Scriptures, when disputable, is that which portrays God as the most moral to the human mind. God cannot participant in any behaviors that are declared evil for humans.

A perfect God or parent establishes rules not to glorify their authority but because such rules are always in our best interest.

A perfect parent doesn’t utter the words “because I said so” as they can’t explain the rationale for certain actions. God is fully aware a list of does and don’t is not the pathway to a friendship. Many of the OT laws are quite confusing. Some of the laws may have been because God doesn’t interfere in our freedom to determine our own laws. God may one day be able to explain the appropriateness of certain laws because of the circumstances.

A perfect God or parent never gives gifts with hidden agendas.

God didn’t create us so they could control every decision we made. God encourages us to avoid immoral paths for our own interest but supports us in being free to make decisions based on gifts and aspirations. God’s voice and ways are always loud and clear – I love you; I forgive you; I want what you want deep down. We are free without strings attached that we often feel from parents who claim support in whatever we decide. Parents may struggle with teenagers by continuing to control when more appropriate to begin letting go for a child’s own good. I am the first to take action if my child hurts others. But, their pursuit of their interests may not be what I had in mind but I am on board.

You don’t have to check your feelings or brain at the door when with God.

God is the same as parents or friends that are fun to hang with. No pretending, total openness, and complete support. Are your views of God working for you? What views of God claimed by others are keeping you from desiring more of a connection with your Creator? The God I know always has my best interests in mind but accepts my failures so I don’t give up. Some are fortunate to have such parents or even Bosses that inspire, despite it being a job, because you know they got your back.

 

 

What Is A Relationship With God On A Feeling Level?

It is not always easy to explain what a relationship is like with an invisible God. We often debate what God is like but that is more on an intellectual level. Does God allow chances to live forever in heaven even after death, or would a good, perfect God require a place like Hell for choices made here on earth? But, these discussions don’t always speak to us on a relationship level. A recent experience with a friend helped me appreciate even more the relationship I have with God.

I have a friend that I so badly wanted to help. They weren’t necessarily asking for my help, because we don’t always ask for favors to not impose. I had some ideas how I might help just in case they wanted such help. I love the profession my friend is in. We all have to make money to eat, but even better when you have a job that fits with the gifts you have. Whether the job is completely enjoyable depends on factors such as the relationship with boss, whether the environment is adaptable to change in ways you think best for the customer, etc.

My friend was born to be in the occupation they are in. They get great feedback not only from me but from those who manage them, so this isn’t just a friend telling them only want they want to hear. They need to prepare for some exams to be more competent in their role. I was pumped not only because I wanted to make them happy but because they were in an occupation I knew something about. I guess what is different is that God is competent in all jobs. My son had to take the CPA exams and even if I wanted to help him prepare to do well, his eyes would rightly roll because I can be pretty clueless about business and accounting.

My friend hadn’t asked for this help. What if what I had gathered to prepare wasn’t what they wanted. If I asked them ahead of time, they might have declined out of not wanting to put me out. What if I am more exciting about what I have prepared than they are? What if they don’t want the help right now? Sometimes I only want help when I am ready to receive the help. One knows that feeling if you have ever dated or been married.

I love this friend so much that it doesn’t matter how they respond. I wish I could say that was true in all my relationships. I truly felt that my gift had no strings attached, which is what I accuse others of sometimes. If I showed this friend what I had prepared and their response was “no thanks,” I would not have sulked. My joy was in trying and didn’t depend on if they liked the gift or not. It was all about them!

I am convinced that is how God loves us. Now, God doesn’t have intellectual or aptitude challenges like I do in accounting or whatever. God spends their day dreaming and hoping the gifts they have for us will help and be received. But, God experiences plenty of rejection. That can’t be easy for God as many of God’s gifts most would agree that is best for that person. God doesn’t get their panties in a wad if our response isn’t what they hoped, God doesn’t say but this is going to help you idiot, God is only seeking to connect in ways that are mutually meaningful. God must love taking risks to see if they can bring a smile to one’s face.

Do you wish you had more of a relationship with God?

We don’t have to change all our bad habits to be accepted by God. God will take us as we are. We may have the right attitudes about some of our actions but struggle to make lasting changes. That is good enough for God. God can simply give us gifts that humans can’t at times, whether it might be encouragement or acceptance. God’s love for you is perfect. God’s love is the love you wish you could always show consistently to others.

My friend was very appreciative. Even better!

The Biggest Angsts Being A God-Follower – No More!

I get those who may doubt there is a God. I also know many sense there is a God or Creator of the universe. Yet, such people may hesitate to pursue spiritual health with God’s help in ways they may pursue physical or emotional health. Keep in mind I don’t associate God with religion or at least bad religion. I am in good company with Jesus. A God-follower simply cares about being more the person they deep down desire to be deep down. It turns out certain practices associated with being a God-follower, which feel unloving, are not necessary.

God-followers can say Hell No! Jesus didn’t come to save you from going to Hell!

God only wants to save you from discouragements when failing to live up to even your own standards. I have defended that the traditional understanding of Hell, as a torture chamber, can’t possibly be true of a loving God. The God of the Bible never gives up hope, even after death. God-followers can assure others they can be reunited with their deceased loved one after death, even if they weren’t God-followers in their life on earth. All is absolutely hopeful with God.

God-followers don’t try to manipulate their friends into conversations so they can convert them to their beliefs or save them from Hell.

God-followers engage in friendships and conversations for love and to give love. God-followers seek to help the less fortunate because one day they may be in that person’s shoes. God may come up in our conversations but not in manipulative ways but as how friends naturally share their passions in life with one another.

God-followers don’t have to worry about joining some church if not meeting their needs.  

Now, church can be great for meeting God-followers to encourage one another and help others as a community. Some who grew up in church may find other ways to be encouraged and give back to others. Those who never grew up in church may join or may find friendships in different places than on Sunday mornings in a building with formalized music and teaching.

God-followers don’t have to proclaim being the only religion or path to God.

The truth is that 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. God-followers look to share commonalities and discuss differences openly so each can decide their own convictions in pursuing spirituality.

There is so much more positive than negative about being a God-follower.

We love our families though there may be pains at times standing by your family. Being a God-follower sometimes may mean we stand up when family, friends, or others treat act immorally toward others. But, being a God-follower mainly seeks to be motivated and encouraged to achieve the standards they have for themselves internally in relationships. I am convinced God seeks to be an encourager and friend in such a pursuit.

 

 

 

How Can We Know What Is “Truth”?

Definitive truth is important as it guides us how to act and treat one another. We may not think much about what is truth, but how we act toward others suggest we all are guided internally by certain absolutes or morals. Whether we believe in a God or not, we all impose upon others by simply being in relationships. It is important to discern how we determine truth in our lives because it impacts how we treat one another.

  

Truth can’t always be according to one’s heart.

  

People disagree and since we don’t live alone, we must come to decisions how to live in peace with one another. We have to agree on certain lawful absolutes to avoid chaos. Only extremists refuse to agree that we all have certain rights. You don’t have to be a saint to know that murder and stealing are wrong. The majority may even agree on heart matters such as coveting or lust as the mistreatment of others.  

 

Truth can’t always be according to the Bible. 

 

Even if we believe the Bible is the Creator’s inspired thoughts to the writers, we still must discern what the writer meant. “That shalt not murder” is not subject to interpretation. But, some who believe in the trustworthiness of the Bible advocate for just wars while others defend non-violence. We often fail to acknowledge the truth we stand for is really our interpretation which may not be inspired. Also, what a biblical writer advises their audience in certain situations may not apply to our particular circumstances. Turning the other cheek doesn’t translate into women tolerating physical abuse by men.  

 

We can begin in discerning truth by starting with what seems to be our inalienable right. 

 

Only evildoers oppose freedom of personal beliefs and actions if not violating the rights of others. If a Creator with creative intentions is how this world came about, they must value such rights for clearly their wishes are frequently opposed. Genuine relationships are obviously impossible without freedom. Without freedom even God could be accused of not creating the “best” world. 

 

We cannot always know what truth all should be held accountable for, but there are freedom-honoring ways to seek truth.  

 

We first must admit uncertainty and have an attitude of openness when it comes to what is right for all. Abortion is not a matter that we can claim absolute certainty. It is complicated when rights conflict – the rights of a woman versus the rights of an unborn child who obviously cannot speak for themselves. A starting place may be determining when an unborn child feels pain. Ultimately, nations must agree with laws voted by the majority. 

 

Certain truths are obvious to the human heart and the stability of a society; otherwise, we must consider one’s freedom to determine personal beliefs that are not harmful to others. Of course, our beliefs regularly impact others so opinions must be considered gracefully. Some are not convinced a loving God would only oppose non-monogamous relationships for the sake of all lovers. I am not sure why a gay couple would want to do business with those who oppose their lifestyle, but as with abortion rights we must abide by the majority determination peacefully.

 

 

 

How Can A Good God Command The Flood And Other Atrocities?

One surely can understand why some question how God can claim to be good when practically killing all of humankind in a Flood. How can a good God possible ask Abraham to sacrifice his own son on an altar (Gen. 22) or kill the firstborns of the Egyptians (Ex. 12)? It can be challenging to have a close connection with one’s Creator when they question the morality of their God or struggle to possibly explain their God to others.

I won’t take the easy way out by only suggesting that the Flood is not a literal story.

It is possible that the Flood did not literally happen. Scholars who believe in the trustworthiness of the Bible disagree whether this Genesis story was meant to be taken literally or figuratively. Common ground is best sought since proof of one’s view cannot be proven if depending upon historical writings thousands of years ago without eye witnesses. Most can agree at least that OT stories were written for spiritual food for thought.

The story of the Flood, similar to Jonah and the whale if not literal, can lead to spiritual discussions.

Does God oppose evil so forcefully at times for our own good as opposed to selfish or power reasons? Can evil be so progressive that the horrendous impact on future generations is inevitable unless drastic measures are taken? Evil in the beginning of history may have progressed to the level of sacrificing children to gods as it was with the Canaanites. Evil today has progressed where those in power satisfy sick pleasures by raping, torturing, or enslaving.

But, if the Flood is literal does this make God immoral?

My answers may not satisfy but are certain explanations plausible where God latter may be able to answer all our concerns? Story writers don’t include all the details for they assume their readers know what they know. If a Flood was necessary to begin anew for future generations, the writers assumed God always changes their mind if people change. God’s desire to always show mercy is splattered all over the OT. God didn’t empower Noah to preach in hopes no one would respond (I Peter 3:18-20). Did God perform miracles during Noah’s day, which are not included in the story, similar to when God turned the Nile into blood with the Egyptians? Sometimes, we are just “preaching to the choir.”

Terrorists in the 21th Century may give us a glimmer of what evil out of control can look like.

Extremists are planning to come to your country and kill because you don’t worship their God. These same extremists threaten their own with atrocities such as beheadings and sex slavery. They teach their men that God promises after death a lustful paradise at the expense of women. Is it always wrong for a nation to wage war against evil leadership of other nations for the protection of human lives, despite the loss of innocent lives?

The rest of the story may include that there is a better place after death more merciful than abandonment or starvation when adult evildoers are annihilated. Death today is not always a horrible consequence of life here on earth as it allows being reunited with our loved ones. Is it possible there are explanations for OT stories, even if taken literally, which allows understanding and explanations of a good God? I am convinced if a good God exists, such a God would love your challenges if seeking a relationship with God for help being the person you desire to be.

 

Is God A Pacifist?

It is not always easy to relate to or defend God in the Old Testament who constantly seems to sanction wars and encourage warlike behaviors. On the other hand those who hear it said that God in the New Testament is more of a pacifist, as supposedly evidenced by the life of Jesus, question how a God can ask one to not protect their family or their country. I don’t understand how anyone can be a true pacifist when their children are being attacked. We will look at a few biblical passages since the Bible is often used in answering this question.

Israel, chosen to reveal God to other nations, participated in numerous wars which involved hundreds of thousands of deaths including innocent women and children. I don’t think the Bible suggests God approved of wars simply because other nations refused to believe in the God of Israel. Many biblical texts suggest God wished for Israel to live in peace with surrounding nations, but not all nations are willing to respect and abide by certain inalienable rights of their own people much less the people of other nations.

Terrorist activities today may give us some perspective on OT times.

War may sometimes be necessary. Terrorists threaten even their own with beheadings, rape, and other atrocities. Is it always wrong for a nation to wage war against evil leadership of other nations for the sake of those under the dictatorship? Despite the loss of innocent lives, future generations may look back on the 21st century and accept nations invading lands inhabited by evildoers who seek power only to destroy their own and people of other countries. War isn’t always avoidable and innocent lives cannot always be spared.

Jesus did not teach or live out pacifism always.

Jesus wasn’t implying that we should never respond to physical violence toward us when he said “turn the other cheek” (Mt 5:39). Jesus was illustrating how we might respond to insult. Jesus’ didn’t turn the other check when throwing the moneychangers out of the temple (Jn. 2:15). Jesus questioned an official’s right to slap Him rather than turning the other cheek (Jn. 18:22-23). A wife shouldn’t keep turning the other check if being abused. We mustn’t turn the other way when a father is sexually abusing his daughter.

The New Testament doesn’t encourage violence but sometimes self or government protection is necessary.

The disciples were told to buy a sword than cloak for protection (Lk. 22:36). God-followers are encouraged to submit to government’s authority to either protect or bring justice to the wrongdoer (Rm. 13:1-5). Jesus didn’t condemn a Roman solider for serving his nation but praised him for this faith (Lk.7:1-9). The Apostle Paul who wrote much of the NT, when in danger of being killed, appropriately appealed for government protection (Acts 23).

The OT is no different than the NT in encouraging us to love our enemies (Prov. 25:21-22).

One can still love their enemies while also loving the innocent by protecting them from harm. Non-violence is sometimes the best way to respond to violence in hopes of deterring further violence. Sometimes, individuals must protect themselves or their families. Governments must often act to protect and bring justice for victims.

What If God In The Bible Condones Immorality?

The Bible may seem at times to suggest God justifies genocide, slavery, or other atrocities. Sometimes, interpretative solutions that don’t portray God in such a negative light are plausible while others times may not be as convincing. We don’t have to throw the Bible out simply because it is possible the writers represented their own opinions as God’s.

I will mention some biblical examples and then suggest a solution when interpretative explanations aren’t convincing.

Some theologians interpret certain biblical passages to suggest God elects certain people for heaven while others have no choice in their destination. When an interpretation suggests a teaching contrary to moral logic, it is suggested God’s ways are not always comprehensible to the human mind. Our interpretations are not infallible, regardless of what we believe about the Bible. When two debatable interpretations in Scriptures exist according to moral logic, it seems best to err on the side that portrays God as the most rational to the human mind. 

The Bible may seem to attribute certain immoral actions to God.

We know prejudice is wrong, yet the Bible says about God: “Jacob I love but Esau I hated (Rm. 9:13).” The context though suggests love and hate are being contrasted in choosing one over another for a task. When Jesus said we must hate our family to follow Him (Lk. 14:26), Jesus was only illustrating families may put their members in a position that they will have to choose God or them. Jesus had to leave His family without their full support. God doesn’t literally hate or encourage hatred.

God’s participation in some of the OT laws suggests God is inhumane.

Deuteronomy 21:18-21 lists stoning for rebellious teenagers. But, it seems there was always a substitution that could be offered for any crime except murder (Num. 35:31). The intent may have been to stress the criticalness of family and obedience during those times. But, explanations for some of the laws may not suffice. Some laws may not have originated from God. But, God works with people rather than abandoning or simply overriding their freedom to determine their own laws.

Then, there are violent passages in the Bible that are much harder to explain.

Did God command genocide: “Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them: put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys” (I Sam. 15:3)? A U.S. leader may say “ISIS and all associated will be destroyed.” Women and children will still be spared when possible. Many statements in literature don’t always mention exceptions. Jesus said turn the other cheek, but Jesus didn’t always follow those words with religious leaders. Jesus wasn’t suggesting women accept abuse from their husbands.

God always prefers peaceful alternatives than violence though not always mentioned in passages involving war. God didn’t intend for women and children fleeing to be hunted down and killed. We also know women often stand by their man despite their evil actions while endangering their children. Despite the loss of innocent lives, future generations may look back on the 21st century and accept nations invading lands inhabited by evildoers who seek power only to destroy their own and people of other countries. God never initiated war simply because other nations refused to believe in God. War isn’t always avoidable and innocent lives cannot always be spared.

How do we proceed when convinced biblical writers contribute immoral actions to God? 

Certain explanations about genocide or other difficult passages may not be acceptable. A moral God cannot declare evil is wrong but act evil themselves. This plain and simple makes a supposedly loving God evil. What do we do with passages that seem to declare God participating in genocide? It is possible human authors of the Bible, because God doesn’t override freedom, misunderstood God at times and wrote more their perspective on God. God didn’t promise us an inspired Book but God’s spirit to guide and discern what God is really like (Jn. 14:16).

The reality is some 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. But, we don’t have to insist the writers of the Bible at times didn’t misunderstand or misrepresent God at time for their own reasons. Giving the Bible almost supernatural qualities can lead to worshipping a Book and not who the Book is about. 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.

One may argue everyone’s interpretation is right since we can’t discern right from wrong in the Bible.

Trusting our hearts doesn’t mean everyone’s opinion is correct. We know certain interpretations are wrong, such as a terrorist’s, when opinions violate the rights of others to believe as they choose. Many suggest we can know God best through the eyes of Jesus. Jesus and His sayings are not as complicated to interpret as some OT readings. If any OT teachings seem to contradict Jesus’ teachings, Jesus’ guidance would aid in discerning what God is like.

I know suggesting the Bible has errors can be disconcerting to many.

At least we must recognize that often it is our interpretations that we are proclaiming are not in error. On the other hand I hope the above suggestions about how we view the Bible is freeing to many. There may be plausible interpretations, even on the genocide passages, that don’t declare God is immoral. Others may not be convinced. We don’t have to get bogged down in rationalizations about God because the Bible supposedly says so. All are free to understand God on their own, without assuming the Bible is without error or without truth about God.

 

 

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