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Archive for the ‘Reflections’ Category

How Can We Know Our Thoughts Or Feelings Are From God?

Many wish for God’s guidance but become discouraged when not knowing if their thoughts are random or specifically from God. Most agree God rarely speaks audibly so how can one know when specific thoughts or feelings from God?   

God has already communicated about moral decisions.

Who doesn’t know killing, stealing, or abusing is wrong. God guides us morally by moral intuitions rational humans agree on. We know terrorists are wrong because they would not accept us denying their freedom of beliefs. Actions toward others that you would not accept toward yourself are questionable.

Don’t assume God must give specific advice about decisions not moral in nature.

You pray and ask God to guide which job offer to accept. The underlying assumption is that future outcomes are knowable so one job is a better decision than the other job in the long-run. A predetermined future suggests freedom is an illusion. Even an all-powerful God can’t know an unknowable future. Wouldn’t a loving, uncontrolling parent or God in an open future simply advise to access your gifts and passions and make the wisest choice you know at that time.

What about decisions somewhat moral in nature such as whether to divorce your partner?

It is unlikely God guides us exclusively through a Book. The Bible hasn’t been available to the majority of people born into this world, and literature is subject to interpretation thus we cannot be certain of the message or meaning intended by the author. This explains why there are numerous views on divorce according to the Bible. A partner may respond with gratitude for a second change or another chance may simply enable bad behaviors to continue. God is supportive of the wisest decisions we know under current circumstances which may include the counsel of others. God can’t promise you a certain outcome and still be a respecter of freedom.

It seems unlikely a caring God wouldn’t clearly communicate if ever necessary.

Godly and human love may work the same. Human parents as children get older seldom need to be direct but hope to positively influence, not control, over time by the relationship. God guides us morally through intuitions to treat others like we want to be treated. God seeks to support and empower us to take risks in other decisions. If you believe God is nudging you, don’t wait for certainty or feel guilty deciding otherwise. I am convinced God is asking us what we want to do with the gifts and passions we have to make for a better world.

 

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What Is At Least One Action By Bible-Believers To Deter Terrorism?

Terrorism is a universal plague. We can only hope current attempts to rehabilitate terrorists are successful. We can also support authorities actively combating terrorists. I don’t know anyone committed to passivism when their family is in danger. Domestic violence doesn’t stop by simply turning the other cheek. We cannot ignore but report friends and family to legal authorities whose actions or words suggest involvement in evil.

Terrorists’ only motivation isn’t because they are convinced their views of God are true.

Terrorism is also driven by human nature to be in power and control. Terrorists seldom are Gandhi-type individuals who are guided by the motto to treat all like they want to be treated. True religion doesn’t seek to be served but serve; beliefs are only genuine if freely chosen not demanded.

But, Bible-believing people can at least change the discussion by acknowledging that truth about God isn’t determined solely by a Book.

Some interrupt the Quran to teach that infidels must convert or be killed, while others deny such interpretations. Some have used the Bible to advocate for war, while others advocate for more of a peacemaking God. To claim God only communicates what is good and perfect through a Book has led to justifying immoral actions in the name of God. We often fail to acknowledge that literature is interpretation of the author’s intended meaning. The Bible or any book written in the past cannot be definitive ultimately of what is good.

We can agree God and morality can be determined according to universal moral intuitions.

Belief in evil is universal. We seem to just know if something is moral or immoral. We often feel we “ought” to have acted differently. Why do we desire to be a better friend or partner? Most accept God must be perfect without evil to claim to be God. God cannot ask us to be good unless they have communicated what is good versus evil. The presence of moral outrage hints of a personal external force communicating through our moral intuitions that lead to outrage. How else do we explain a universal desire to treat others like we want to be treated?

Moral intuition differences can lead to discussions; interpretation differences frequently lead to control because supposedly such understandings are the voice of God.

We will obviously not all perfectly agree about morality. But, discussions can lead to possible understandings of what God’s will is for our lives, then claiming our interpretations of a Book is God’s. Good from evil actions can be discerned if we accept from others our actions toward them.

Why Might People Not Have A Relationship With God Though Wanna?

I recently wrote about this subject but I wanted to expand. I will add to as I become aware of other reasons why we reject God. People often don’t believe in God or don’t want anything to do with God because they can’t make sense of a loving God and the world as it is.

First, let’s debunk the reason assumed why most people reject God. Many argue that the Bible argues that God’s is obvious in creation and to reject such intuitions is rebellion (Romans 1). Actually, biblical writers often wrote about people believing there was a God but refusing God’s moral message. Don’t rule yourself out as spiritual-minded. Rebelling against God is desiring and believing in selfishness over unselfishness in relationships. Is that really you?

We may not seek out God more because of supposed, required beliefs to be spiritual.  

Many suggest certain beliefs are necessary to be accepted by God. Which supposed, required beliefs do you accept since there are thousands of different beliefs as to what God wants? Is a loving God really going to leave to chance what beliefs we are supposed to believe? Spirituality surely is as simply as considering help from God in being more the person you deep down desire to be by treating others like you want to be treated. Is a reasonable God going to freak out if that is your core belief?

We may not seek God out more because we believe what others says about God.

We can only be as close to God as our mental images of God allow. We may not pursue God more because we assume others’ beliefs about God are true, or God is like the poor role models we have had who claim to represent God. The God often portrayed by others condemns gay people, favors men over women despite the history of men abusing power, and created Hell to throw people in after death if they don’t discover the right beliefs before death. This can’t possibly be God! 

We may not seek God out because of unanswered prayers. Does God really care? 

Pray is not easy to understand. God cannot be a lover of freedom and answer all our prayers. We may want our partner to change but that is their choice. I don’t know why so few prayers of healing aren’t answered. Some miracles may happen because of very skilled physicians but that doesn’t mean lack of physical healing is because of the Doctor and certainly not due to lack of faith. I can only speculate that some prayers can possibly be answered because freedom is not thwarted in major ways. I do know our language can be harmful when claiming God’s grace saved a life in an accident. What about other lives? Such language can understandably lead to unbelief.  

We may not seek God out because of so much evil in the world.

If God truly existed, they would surely prevent more evil. The majority of evil in the world results from the freedom to make moral choices. A world without reasonable freedom is not a world that can genuinely love. Forced love is an oxymoron. The world would surely look very different if people always treated others like they wanted to be treated, and good people did not turn a blind eye to evil they could intervene. Natural disaster cannot be explained as a result of free moral choices, but a free world does explain a lot of evil and God’s lack of interference.

We may not seek God out more because of the Bible’s rendering of God.

Many don’t read the Bible and who could blame them if they assume the writers always portrayed what God was really like. OT prophets often commanded the killing of women and children in the name of God when war may have been necessary. We do not have to assume God somehow unexplainably controlled impressions recorded by the writers, even if their views of God were more influence by culture than reality. It does seem that as biblical history unfolded God had breakthroughs in persuading writers to a more correct view of God. We can also determine what God is like and good from evil from common universal moral intuitions. Such intuitions can be how a Creator communicates to us. God didn’t intend the Bible to be the only source of truth about God. God inspiring the writing of the Bible can mean God encourage the recording of God’s beginnings with humans so we can get to know God better.

We may not seek God out more because of false expectations of what God requires.

No loving parent tells their child they must act or be certain ways to earn their love. Parents love their children regardless. Perfect parents only advise their children to act in ways in their best interest in the long-run. You don’t have to stop drinking to be loved by God. You don’t have to stop fornicating to be loved by God. Consider what actions are in your best interest and those you have relationships with. That is God’s guidance but not for acceptance.

You may not seek God out because of rituals that supposedly have to be followed.

God doesn’t demand you seek to convert others to your beliefs. Having more of a connection with God doesn’t mean you have a hidden agenda with others in your interactions. God certainly isn’t in the business of telling people they are going to Hell if they don’t believe certain things. God doesn’t command you go to religious meetings regularly or pray a certain way or time. Go to a church, synagogue, or mosque if that is where you are encouraged and able to encourage others in making for a better world or find encouragement in other settings.   

God only desires that we love ourselves and others to the fullest, but God is not going to coerce you into such actions.

God’s expectations aren’t that you must believe certain events in the Bible that you may have difficulty believing. Just seek out relationships that encourage spiritually striving to be a better partner, parent, friend, and neighbor. If you are inclined to believe a caring Creator exist, trust God for faith and encouragement in loving others to the fullest in becoming more the person you deep down desire to be.

What Is God’s Main Way Of Communicating To Us?

God gets a bad rap for not communicating more or at least directly. I have written about this topic recently but I wanted to ask a different question in addressing this topic. Many hesitate to take a leap of faith because they question why a loving God would be so hidden. Many of faith are frustrated or don’t feel connected to God because of feeling clueless about God’s direction for their life. But, God’s direct communication through miracles in biblical times didn’t obtain the relationship results one would think if only God would stop hiding.

It is doubtful a Book is God’s main communication because the majority of those born into this world never had a copy of the Bible.

Even if one believes the Bible is God’s main communication to us, we can still feel that God fails to communicate directly to us. It is not uncommon for different meanings to be expressed of the same passage and different applications suggested for personal circumstances. Accepting certain abuses from your enemies may lead to changes of hearts. Jesus’ did. Others could rightly determine being passive in certain circumstances enables harmful behavior to create more victims.

God has communicated morally. 

The presence of moral anger hints of a personal external force communicating through our moral intuitions that lead to outrage. How else do we explain a universal desire to treat others like we want to be treated? Nations can establish laws because there is almost universal agreement on stealing, lying, or murdering. Extremists claiming to know God’s voice through a Book don’t acknowledge interpretations can be wrong. Interpretations shouldn’t contradict moral intuitions.    

God’s uncontrolling but supportive nature guides us in non-moral decisions.

What career, job, or partner to pursue in marriage are not moral in nature. Rights are not being violated so there is not just one moral option. Many assume God’s knows the future, but an already determined future makes freedom an illusion. Secondly, a predetermined future implies there is only one “right” choice to make that God should communicate to us.  God is like any good parent when it comes to future, amoral decisions – we are free to make the wisest decision at that time based on our gifts, past experiences, current circumstances, and future aspirations.

But, how can we know if our impressions or thoughts are from God?  

God’s impressions aren’t necessarily specific, dictatorial thoughts. In difficult situations such as whether to divorce or not, God isn’t controlling one’s freedom or the future as if predetermined. Not even God can advise future outcomes. A partner may respond with gratitude for a second change or another chance may simply enable bad behaviors to continue. God is supportive of the wisest decisions we know under current circumstances which may include the counsel of others. God like loving parents seeks through positive influence to inspire making a difference with the gifts and passions we possess.

How does God mainly communicate?

God gives us a sense of morality for our own good, but then sets us free to follow our desires. We are asking what God wants us to do; God is asking what we want to do. God’s will for our life is for all to feel God’s empowerment to do all the good we can, for the all the people we can. During challenging times or when failing, God seeks to encourage us to keep on striving.

What To Do When Our Morality Clashes With Others?

I have suggested in previous posts that we cannot know God’s views solely through a Book such as the Bible. Literature is always subject to interpretation, thus why those who revere the Bible disagree on the same passages. No one can claim with certainty their interpretation is God’s. A Creator may also communicate through our moral intuitions which may explain a universal desire to treat others like we want to be treated.

We can avoid moral clashes by not insisting any Book determines morals for all of society.

Extremists typically forms their beliefs according to their interpretations of a Book. They claim their interpretations are God’s but such dogmatism is not justifiable. Terrorists claim a loving God demands belief along with required rituals or be killed. Intuitively, we know admiration is only genuine if freely chosen. Moral intuitions can lead to discussions; interpretations justify control in God’s name.

We must accept that relationships much less nations cannot survive or thrive unless we respective one another rights to have opposing views.

The attitude of “I am right and you are wrong” destroys possibilities of peace and solutions. A democratic society affords us the privilege to vote and accept the majority view. We must protest our view peacefully in hopes of future change. Leadership of opposing views must strongly condemn violence from their followers and encourage lawful means for change.

We can better accept other opinions when distinguishing between personal and moral beliefs.

Nations can establish moral laws because stealing, abusing, or murdering obviously violates one’s personal rights and safety. Beliefs that do not endanger others can be considered personal than moral in nature. Personal relationship decisions do not violate the rights of others. Some condemn gay relationships not because of moral common sense but because they assume a Book condemns such relationships. Passages in the Bible used to condemn homosexuality are highly debatable.

Clashes begin when we insist our beliefs are those supposedly of a Supreme Being.  Christians have no business moralizing to others according to their understanding of a Book. This was hardly the example set by Jesus who represented God. Many beliefs declared moral in nature can be viewed and accepted as personal beliefs when one’s right are not endangered.

Imagine a world where we respected one another’s right to disagree concerning personal beliefs without the fear of violence.

Taxes, health care, etc. are matters to be discussed respectfully and voted upon. Convincing one of the merits of your beliefs are not accomplished through name-calling or belittling. Beliefs that are moral in nature, as opposed to personal, should be obvious to most. Immoral actions in the name of God are often justified despite interpretations of a Book are always debatable.

Were All Old Testament Laws, Including The Crazy Ones, God’s Idea?

One may assume when reading the OT laws that all the laws had God’s stamp of approval. Ancient near eastern cultures assumed it was sacrilegious to not always appease an all-powerful, all-controlling God, which many of the OT laws seem geared toward. Does God really desire self-glorification for egotistical reasons, or does God seek to influence all for their own good?

How would it work that God controlled all the OT laws established?

All OT laws were not audibly dictated by God but often originated from the minds of Moses and leadership in getting to understand God. It is not God’s nature to somehow magically control writers’ views of God, even if views were influenced more by culture than reality.  God doesn’t abandon us when we are wrong but seeks to persuade us over time what a loving God is truly like. God accepts us where we are at while encouraging us closer to the ideal for our own good.

If OT laws were God’s ideal, they would still be applicable today or at least during NT era.

If it was good to execute adulterers or those who cursed their parents back then (Lev. 20:9, 10), why wouldn’t it still be good law? Jesus instead encouraged a woman to change her lifestyle for her own good and any who have done no wrong can throw the first stone (Jn. 8:1-11). OT laws advise to retaliate eye for an eye when wronged (Deut. 19:21), possibly as a way to control the less fortunate being taken advantage of, but Jesus implies not retaliating and forgiving may be possible in certain situations (Mt. 5:38-42).

God’s gradual influence may begin to show in writings such as OT views on animal sacrifice.

Writers after the OT laws wrote that God doesn’t like animal sacrifices but contrite hearts (Ps. 51:16-17, i.e. Jer. 7:22, Amos 5:21, Micah 6:6). These passages seem to directly contradict the need for elaborate animal sacrifices in the OT laws, so God was making headway. God surely hated the idea of animal sacrifice rather than one simply taking responsibility for their actions. Confession, contriteness, and amends are what lead to healing in relationships.

One could speculate the Ten Commandments reveal God more direct involvement, than the others laws, in guiding a nation initially. The Commandments are said to be written by the “finger of God,” but this is likely a figure of speech than a physical act by God (Ex. 31:18). Worship against idols was cultural, but few disagree that idols such as materialism destroy relationships which God considers paramount. No one argues against the wisdom of “you shall no murder, steal, lie about your neighbor.” But, many of the other OT laws weren’t necessarily God’s ideal.

God is a lover of freedom. Not even God can force genuine, heart-felt change.

God used the nation of Israel, the Bible, and Jesus to come into our world in hopes to influence and persuade us, not control or coerce, toward a life without regrets. The OT laws were God beginning a relationship with a nation and bringing them along. Many of the Laws were at least a step up from surrounding cultures. Jesus’ teachings surely are more God’s ideal. The wisdom of Jesus relationally is undeniable, even to those that don’t believe in God.

 

 

Did God Really Desire Animal Sacrifices?

For good reason it is harder for many to respect a God who thinks killing animals is a good thing, just so people can feel better about wronging others. Would a loving God actually desire killing of animals in the Old Testament to supposedly atone for sins one has committed?

God must accept less than ideal practices if seeking to persuade than control.

It was not God’s desire for Israel to have Kings as rulers but God accepted their wish. God never considered divorce for frivolous reasons ideal but Moses apparently permitted divorce in God’s name to give vulnerable women protection (Mt. 19, Deut. 24). God didn’t constantly condemn concubines because it may have been a more suitable option for vulnerable women in OT cultures.

God may have accepted animal sacrifices as the lesser of two evils to at least guard against the use of child sacrifices common in OT cultures. God knew the Israelites would continue to participate in sacrifices to please gods, so God set out to eventually influence what is truly important. Animals were never tortured but carefully prepared. Since people were set on animal sacrifice, God may have used extreme animal cleanliness to point toward the importance of heart cleanliness. 

Later OT writers begin to recognize animal sacrifice was not God’s idea.

Writers after the OT laws wrote that God doesn’t like animal sacrifices but contrite hearts (Ps. 51:16-17, i.e. Jer. 7:22, Amos 5:21, Micah 6:6). OT writers were surely influenced by surrounding cultures where it was sacrilegious to not think an all-powerful and controlling God needed to be appeased through sacrifices. The writer of Hebrews says God did not desire or was pleased with sacrifice and offerings though offered in accordance with the law (10:8). OT laws often originated from assumptions that God was like all the other gods in OT cultures.

But, wasn’t Jesus’ blood to satisfy God’s need for sacrifice?

Jesus didn’t die to placate a blood-thirsty God who needed their child murdered before forgiving others and have their honor restored. Jesus overpowering His enemies was expected. Miracles grab attention but then things just go back to the way they were. Jesus accepted death rather than deny His message. God sought to influence all to not just respond to evil with evil. God is not an enabler but a motive to simply retaliate than hope to influence for good continues the cycle. The Cross wasn’t meant to change God’s attitude toward us. God sought to influence and empower us to change our unloving attitudes toward others.

It is not always wrong to participate in less than ideal situations when seeking to influence.

Most are not as offended as I am of the excepted practice of coaches yelling at their players, whether children or adults, for motivational reasons. Love and calmness rather than fear and loudness is the ideal way to inspire others. Anger is short-lived and relationally destructive. I wouldn’t necessarily ban sports or coaches who yell if I had the power to do so. One reason that I coached young people was in hopes to demonstrate a better way. Long-lasting changes don’t really happen if forced rather than through health-felt choices. 

God surely hated the idea of animal sacrifice rather than one simply taking responsibility for their actions. Confession, contriteness, and amends are what lead to healing in relationships.

 

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