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Archive for October, 2018

by Jim Gordon

In the bible we are told to be at peace with all men (Romans 12:18). In our day it seems almost impossible to be at peace with all men, which includes believers and non-believers. When we think about all the different thoughts and ideas, the different denominations, interpretations and beliefs and the different religions, how could it be possible to be at peace with everyone?

The dictionary says of peace: freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions; harmony in personal relations. We can easily see that without the Spirit we certainly cannot do this.

LiveinPeace

I think this is what God is saying, that we are to live in harmony with our brothers and sisters in Christ, not allowing any oppressive thoughts or emotions to take control of our feelings towards others. In other words, we live in love. Just because someone does not interpret the Bible the same way we do, or go to the same church we do, or does not go to church at all we should remember that all believers want to please our Father. We are to accept one another in love and respect the fact that God is working differently in people. Just because it is not the way we believe does not mean it is not of God.

In regard to non-believers we are not to condemn them, force our beliefs on them or treat them like second-class citizens. We need to let them see the love of God by the way we live and treat others. They do not need someone beating them down or twisting their arms to get them to believe like us. We are to love them and let the Holy Spirit do the work that needs to be done in the lives of others.

If we believers could just understand that we are responsible for ourselves in the way we live for God. We are not responsible to live the way others think we should, and we are not responsible to make others live the way we think they should. We are to allow our Father to work in our lives the way He wants and follow Him on the path He has for us. Our responsibility is to love God and love everyone we come in contact with, accept them for who they are and pray that the Holy Spirit will work in the lives of others as he works within us. Living in this manner will accomplished much more in showing the love of Christ to a hurting world.

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By Mike Edwards

I still don’t know exactly how to describe God’s role with the Bible after I started rethinking why the Bible can’t be infallible or entirely inspired. It just seems so unlike God to control thoughts written down, rather than allowing us to grow in our understanding of God when ready. Scholars who respect Scriptures are admitting the Bible isn’t infallible. These same theologians are slow to suggest God didn’t inspire all of the Bible, which suggests God approves of everything written, but see concerns below. Many have been provoked to not even consider a relationship with God when sexist, homophobic, and genocidal behaviors attributed to God in the Bible are rationalized.

Why the Bible can’t be proven to be infallible.  

The OT records thousands of times “God said…” Writers weren’t claiming God spoke audibly; they were simply writing about their “impressions” from God. We can’t prove such impressions were always right. It is circular logic to suggest the Bible is infallible or inspired because biblical writers make such a claim. Many who accept the Bible being infallible would not accept the Quran being infallible because it claims to be. God’s freedom-giving nature doesn’t support God performing a lobotomy on OT writers’ impressions of what they thought God was telling them.

But, even if God dictated all of the Bible words are still subject to interpretation. Forget the Older Testament. Scholars don’t agree what Jesus meant when talking about Hell. The fact that we disagree about the meaning of the same passages makes the discussion of the Bible’s infallibility a moot point because interpretations aren’t infallible. The formation of the Old Testament was a long, slow development over centuries. The Catholic Bible has seven additional books in the Old Testament than the Protestant Bible. We can’t know the books of the Bible we have were the ones God intended to convey truth or that other books haven’t been excluded to convey truth about God. 

Why it is doubtful God inspired all of the Bible.   

To describe the Bible as inspired or authoritative suggest to many that God approves of everything recording in the Bible. It is hard for most to believe God inspired hundreds of OT passages like I Samuel 15:3 when God told Israel: “Now go, attack the Amalekites… put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.” Why would God inspire views that suggest God would endorse genocide? How could God inspire approving of a wife having her hand cut off when grabbing another’s man genitals protecting her husband (Deut. 25:11-12)?

There are good reasons to lean toward the Bible not being inspired because of certain morals attributed to God. An infallible or inspired view of Scriptures has led down the slippery slope of assuming interpretations are inspired. Not questioning if writers always understood God perfectly has led to justifying slavery, killing infidels, and other atrocities in the supposed name of God. Different opinions must stand side by side as we continually evaluate the most loving approach. God gave us a moral brain! 

What is the Bible if not inspired by God?

The Bible is recorded experiences of beginnings with God and Israel culminating with the life of Jesus that we don’t possess in any other documents. Writings about God can keep us talking and reflecting what God is really like. God didn’t necessarily have in mind that recordings would not be questioned. The Bible claims to be God-breathe which can literally mean God-spirited (2 Tim. 3:16). Only the Old Testament existed when these words penned. This passage could simply mean God uses writings about God to touch our spirit.

Certainty in God isn’t the Holy Grail!

An inspired Bible leads to interpretations magically becoming infallible. Believing such a Book exists has led to condemning gays in God’s name, though those who accept Scriptures as authoritative don’t agree the Bible disapproves of homosexuality. A fallible Book can’t hide behind infallible interpretations. Uncertainty doesn’t have to led to chaos as moral laws that violate the rights of others are obvious. The majority of people born in this world never read a Bible but seem to have an inborn knowledge of right and wrong, hinting a Creator not a Book communicates to all what is good.

How can we read the Bible?

Read the Bible reflectively than for solutions to specific problems. Read the Bible with an open-mind motivated by love.  Jesus didn’t always answer questions directly because circumstances vary and the issue is our heart in solving problems. Can you imagine a world where all looked out for the interests of others and not just themselves when facing difficulties? Don’t check your moral conscience at the door as you consider what a loving God is really like. As long as we read the Bible with a questioning spirit rather than blind obedience, it seems the Bible can continue to influence millions to live a more selfless life.

For related questions about the Bible go to:   

http://what-god-may-really-be-like.com/rethinking-the-bible/

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by Jim Gordon

I have watched with displeasure at times the discussions and comments on Social Media. This is a common way of communication these days and it is very easy to be much bolder and argumentative than usual. We express our thoughts and feelings in a much meaner way than we would if we were face to face.

I think most people find that sitting in front of a computer screen gives a sense of boldness and openness to express themselves in ways that are not always a good thing. I think there is something about not being in the presence of someone or seeing their face that emboldens us and allows our mean side to come out.

arguingonline

To me it is the same feeling you can get when you get behind the wheel of a car. All of a sudden we seem to be in attack mode. We blow our horn at others, yell and curse and flip people off, yet if we walked by them on the street we would smile and say hello.

There is something about face to face communication that usually changes the way we talk to and treat others. Face to face communication seems to take away the meanness we usually find with social media communication. Looking someone in the face, being in their presence seems to soften the way we talk and respond.

Why is it we cannot seem to see the human person behind the computer screen? Why is it we feel the meanness, this emboldened power to treat others with contempt? Remember Jesus said to love not only those who love you but to love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you.

There is nothing wrong with social media and communicating through it. Just keep in mind that there is another human being on the other end, and even though we are not in their physical presence the things we say and the way we react has an impact on them. Let us make it a point to have a positive, encouraging impact when we communicate with others.

The way of Christ is the way of love. Whether it be online or in person we are to love our neighbors. In our world today living in love is becoming rare. Yet by doing so in the power of the Spirit it will be noticed and it will make a difference in the lives of those who are hurting and so desperately seeking for love and acceptance.

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by Rocky Glenn

Fish out of water, bull in a china shop, square peg in a round hole . . . these idioms sum up my wife’s words in 2012 as we left our church home of ten years, “We just don’t fit.”  Although we fully believed those words applied to the church we were being called out of to find  a new place to spend our Sundays, neither of us knew the full meaning of those words would lead us down the path we’re at today best described by yet another idiom, sticking out like a sore thumb.  Refusing to buy into systems you once supported which tell you you’re required to dress a certain way, give a fixed percentage of your income, attend a certain amount of events per week, or insist you do or do not behave a certain way because “Christians don’t act that way,” is not readily accepted.  The moment you start questioning it and insisting it is all meaningless and not required, you have become the proverbial sore thumb.  How ironic a journey we chose to begin because we didn’t fit in has brought us to a place where fitting in is not as important as it once was.

Irony, by definition, is a state of affairs or an event that seems deliberately contrary to what one expects.  As I’ve shared previously (A Secret No Longer), I’ve been a fan of the Incredible Hulk as long as I can remember.  The fact a well-mannered, normally reserved, and appearance-driven churchboy is enamored by a rage-filled, uncontrollable, growling, larger than life, angry green monster who leaves destruction in his wake, yep, I would call that irony.  It may be considered not only ironic by some but also hypocritical and, yet, it is one of many confessions this recovering churchboy is relieved to admit as I am admitting who I am.  In fact, I would like to share one of my favorite Hulk scenes below. (SPOILER ALERT: If you are a fan of the MCU and have not yet seen Thor: Ragnarok, you may want to skip the few paragraphs.)

In 2017, Marvel studios released the third installment in the Thor movies series, Thor: Ragnarok.  In this film, we learned the whereabouts of Hulk during the cinematic universe’s Civil War.  As Thor is imprisoned on the planet Sakaar and forced to compete in the gladiator arena, he finds his opponent is none other than the big green guy.  The fight itself is quite a spectacle as the god of thunder is convinced he does not need to participate in a battle against his former Avenger cohort:

Thor: Yes! Hey! Hey! [referring to Hulk] We know each other. He’s a friend from work.  [to Hulk] Where have you been? Everybody thought you were dead. But so much has happened since I last saw you . . . Oh, Banner, I never thought I would say this, but I…I’m happy to see you.

Hulk: No Banner. Only Hulk.

Thor: What are you doing? It’s me. It’s Thor! Banner, we’re friends. This is crazy. I don’t want to hurt you!

Thor: All right. Screw it. I know you’re in there, Banner. I’ll get you out! What’s the matter with you? You’re embarrassing me! I told them we were friends!

The contest ends with no real winner ever fully decided, and the dialogue continues in the scenes following the battle, as Thor and Hulk both recover in the same quarters:

Thor: So how long have you been like that?

Hulk: Like what?

Thor: Like this. Big, and green, and stupid.

Hulk: Hulk always Hulk.

Thor: How’d you get here?

Hulk: Quinjet.

Thor: Yes! Yes! I’m getting us out of here. This terrible, awful place. You’re gonna love Asgard. It’s big. It’s golden. Shiny.

Hulk: Hulk stay.

Thor: No, no, no. My people need me to get back to Asgard. We must prevent Ragnarok.

Hulk: Ragnarok?

Thor: The prophesied death of my home world. The end of days, it’s the end of… If you help me get back to Asgard, I can help you get back to Earth.

Hulk: Earth hate Hulk.

Thor: Earth loves Hulk. They love you. You’re one of the Avengers. One of the team, one of our friends. This is what friends do. They support each other.

Hulk: You’re Banner’s friend.

Thor: I’m not Banner’s friend. I prefer you.

Hulk: Banner’s friend.

The Ragnarok film presented viewers with not only a talking Hulk we had not yet seen to that point, but a Hulk who is confident, competent, and fully embracing being the Hulk.  He has learned to live as he really is.  Hulk has become so comfortable in his massive, green skin he dismisses any thought of returning to his human counterpart, Bruce Banner.  Earth hates Hulk for the destruction and chaos he causes and Thor is Banner’s friend for what Banner has to offer not for who he is. Banner in his human form is much like a churchboy.  He is not comfortable being himself.  He lives in near constant fear and anxiety of his nasty, ugly side slipping out and people catching a glimpse of who he really is.  Banner goes to great lengths to maintain control.  On the planet Sakaar, Hulk has found freedom to be himself and has learned, “Hulk always Hulk.”  It is on Sakaar irony once again takes center stage as Hulk is no longer just an angry, irrational monster but has learned to live peacfully as himself.

My life as a churchboy was a life of not being who I really was.  Much like Bruce Banner is on constant guard lest the Hulk reveal himself, I lived life striving to maintain an image of who I thought I should be, who I thought others expected me to be, and, more importantly and frightening, who I thought God expected me to be.  I allowed myself to be convinced pleasing God came only through following church customs and traditions I accepted without questioning.  Condemnation is overwhelming when you fall short of reading the prescribed amount of scripture per day, if you skip a church meeting, if church members discover the television shows or movies you like to watch or realize you listen to music which is not only not played on the local Christian radio stations, but does not mention God or Jesus at all and simply describes the ups and downs, joys and heartaches of life.  Life as a churchboy, described more fully here, is a life of shame hiding who you really are believing no one would truly accept who you really are just as Hulk is convinced Thor is only Banner’s friend.  The churchboy doesn’t realize, “Hulk always Hulk.”  He isn’t aware his true self is always there and the uncontrollable beast within can only be tamed so long before it erupts.

In Psalm 139:14, David makes a statement I could never admit as a churchboy:

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.

He acknowledges he was created and made by God and based on that acknowledgement confidently admits God’s work is wonderful.  Known as a man after God’s own heart, David did not live life as a churchboy.  The Message shares David’s confession (along with verses 13 – 16) with poetic beauty:

Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
    you formed me in my mother’s womb.
I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking!
    Body and soul, I am marvelously made!
    I worship in adoration—what a creation!
You know me inside and out,
    you know every bone in my body;
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
    how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
    all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
The days of my life all prepared
    before I’d even lived one day.

David was convinced of not only God’s love for him but also God’s intimate knowledge and involvement of every detail of his life.

To stick out like a sore thumb means to be obviously different from surrounding people or things.  When you have a sore thumb, it’s not something you have to announce or proclaim.  The thumb is obvious either by the bandage it wears or simply by protruding from its normal location.  In recent conversations, my voice broke and I was shocked to hear myself say aloud, “For the first time in my life, I know who I really am and I am at peace with that.”  I am finally comfortable in my own skin and I pray it displays with a joy and peace that is so obviously different from those around me their curiosity is piqued enough to ask.

Churchboys believe God is just Banner’s friend, but, much like my beloved big, green monster, the love and grace of God is wild, ravaging, and uncontrollable.  The wake of destruction left in Hulk’s path pales in comparison to what truly remains as the tidal wave of grace destroys false traditions, thoughts, and ideas we once believed.  There may be some who, like Earth, hate Hulk and are truly only Banner’s friend seeking only what Banner has to offer but true grace is comfortable sticking out like a sore thumb and isn’t just Banner’s friend.

Rocky

 

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By Mike Edwards

The Bible because of certain views espoused from it about God may be a main reason people stay away from God. Women, gays, etc. are discriminated against or condemned because of what the Bible supposedly teaches. The truth is scholars who respect Scriptures as authoritative disagree what God thinks about gender roles, homosexuality, hell, etc. The problem is many don’t openly admit their interpretations may be wrong thus implying their interpretations are infallible.

Is the Bible inspired word-for word by God or did writers grow in understanding God?

My personal conviction is God did not inspire every word recorded in the Bible. How could God possibly approve of a wife having her hand cut off when grabbing another’s man genitals protecting her husband (Deut. 25:11-12). I’m convinced writers were influenced by surrounding cultures and grew in their understandings of a loving God over time. Others may disagree.

It is suggested that despite the hideous law above, it was a step up from other cultures that advocated even further mutilations such as gouging out eyes or breasts (See William Webb who doesn’t necessarily support the rationalization but reveals ancient near eastern practices, Corporal Punishment in the Bible: A Redemptive-Movement Hermeneutic For Troubling Texts, Chapter 4). Such a rationalization is hard for many to stomach, so those who believe all Scriptures is inspired might recognize they often go beyond/above Scriptures.

Many who believe the Bible is inspired already teach progressive revelation.

William Webb demonstrates those who advocate for corporal punishment of children according to the Bible go beyond what the Bible implies for the good of the child. Advocates typical suggest spanking be limited to young children but this isn’t found in the Bible. The two-swat method is suggested to avoid bruising, but the Bible suggests bruises serve a good purpose (Prov. 20:30). Biblical defenders of corporal punishment suggest hitting the buttocks but the Bible suggests the rod is intended for the back (Prov. 26:3). I am opposed to any kind of corporal punishment but bible-believing Christians often go beyond the Bible because it makes common moral sense.

How can Christians represent the Bible with an open-mind?

I am convinced God’s freedom-giving nature doesn’t support God controlling a biblical writer’s impression of God. But, if you believe every thought is inspired by God you can at least consider if God intended us to grow in our understanding of God, even from what is recorded in Scriptures. For example if you think the Bible teaches wives should be submissive to their husbands in a way husbands aren’t to their wives, one could still consider if mutual submission is less conducive to atrocities women face at the hands of men.

How can God guide us?

Even the Bible suggests when Jesus left this earth that we aren’t guided by a Book but by God’s Spirit in discerning Truth (Jn. 16:13). Jesus didn’t seem overly concern that Truth requires discernment. We may need one another to arrive at what is wisest or most loving. Can’t we tell others who have issues with the Bible, no matter our view of Scriptures, that it is possible God would encourage us to continue to grow in our understanding of God even beyond views of biblical writers. God may turn out to be like what you imagine a perfect, good God should be like.

 

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By Mike Edwards

The Bible may be one major reason people are done with religion or spirituality. I am not convinced most people are opposed to believing in the possibility of a God out of rebellion; instead understandings about God shape attitudes toward God. Don’t believe everything you hear about the Bible! Biblical authors were possibly encouraged by God to write about their experiences, but I have my doubts that God always controlled their thoughts/words of the Bible.

It is perfectly normal to question the Bible and God.  

I Samuel 15:3 says God told Israel: “Now go, attack the Amalekites… put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.” There are hundreds of passages like this in the Old Testament. Is there any rational reason that a good God would endorse genocide? Reading the Bible with a questioning spirit rather than blind acceptance may lead to a more accurate understanding of God. God, like any parent, rather be challenged than ignored.

We really can’t know if the Bible is infallible or our interpretations are correct.  

It is circular logic to suggest the Bible is infallible or inspired because biblical writers make such a claim. Many do not accept the Quran being infallible because it claims to be. Writers weren’t saying they always heard an audible voice when writing “God said.”  God’s freedom-giving nature doesn’t support God performing a lobotomy on biblical writers’ impressions of God. 

Besides, literature require interpretation and we can’t be sure of a writer’s meaning. Forget the Older Testament! Scholars disagree what God thinks about divorce, homosexuality, hell, etc. in the NT. The reality of disagreement makes infallibility an impossibility. Many don’t openly admit their interpretations may be wrong but give the impression their interpretations are infallible. 

Why might people insist on a perfect Bible.  

Pastors and professors may lose their job questioning the Bible being the definitively guide on what God is like. I didn’t always speak openly about my mental health profession for fear of losing my job. See my journey with the Bible here.  It is objected that if the Bible isn’t inspired, “then you can’t know God for certain.” This assumes of course interpretations are infallible. Many leaders aren’t comfortable claiming uncertainty. It is easier giving advice due to supposed certainty rather than listening and helping one make their own decisions.

It is said we can’t know God if not through the Bible. 

Did billions born into this world who never had a Bible or heard of Jesus know nothing about their Creator? Even the Bible claims we best know God through God’s spirit than the written word. Universal moral outrage toward murder, abuse, etc., hints of a common, human Creator’s influence through our moral intuitions. Why do most oppose murder, abuse, thievery, etc. whether believing in God or not? We just know we ought to treat others like we want to be treated. The reason some condemn women in the priesthood is because supposedly a Book disapproves in God’s name. 

It is said uncertainty about God leads to chaos or lawlessness.

Certainty is an illusion because even if God is Truth, we still have to discern what is Truth. Failing to read the Bible with an open-mind motivated by love and putting oneself in another’s shoes has led to condemning gays in God’s name. Uncertainty can force us to accept one another’s differences. Different opinions, expressed without physical or verbal aggression, can stand side by side as we continually evaluate the most loving approach. Differences don’t have to lead to chaos but can be resolved by remaining open-minded to new understandings and creative solutions. 

It is said the Bible is of no value if it misrepresents God. 

The Bible records beginnings with God culminating with the life of Jesus that we don’t possess in any other documents. God can draw us to do good and shun evil when talking about God or reading the Bible reflectively in striving to be more the person we desire to be. But remember, the majority born never had a Bible so God may speak to us by other means. 

Don’t read the Bible if it discourages you from loving others like you want to loved. We may be better off without the Bible if a Book replaces our relationship with God and common moral sense. Read the Bible reflectively than for solutions to specific problems as circumstances vary. The issue is our heart in solving problems. Reading the Bible with an open-mind motivated by love can continue to influence millions to live a more selfless life. 

It is said God is inhumane for not being more visible or clear. 

Direct communication isn’t always magical. God supposedly spoke audibly to Moses (Ex. 20) to keep the Sabbath as one of the Ten Commandments,  but some assumed that meant not helping an injured soul on the Sabbath. God’s overpowering presence in our lives may only lead to consuming guilt or fearful obligations to obey. There may be plausible justification for God not revealing themselves more openly. The road traveled of learning, reflecting, and freely choosing convictions over time may be the best journey. Beliefs are seldom life-changing if not through a relationship rather than being told what to do.   

It is said mortals should not question God but there are dangers assuming Bible infallible.   

Many reject God because of what an infallible Bible supposedly says about God. An infallible or inspired view of Scriptures has led down the slippery slope of assuming interpretations are inspired thus justifying slavery, killing infidels, and other atrocities in the name of God. We must use common moral sense. Even Jesus when leaving this earth said His Spirit, not some Book, would guide us in truth (Jn. 14:16-17; 16:13). Jesus didn’t seem worried that Truth always requires discernment.  

What might a world look like if Bible folks didn’t argue because the Bible says so? 

  • Imagine a world if women and gays were treated equally and not condemned according to God
  • Imagine a world where all followed the clear teachings of the Bible by looking out for the interests of others with God’s help
  • Imagine what a perfect God is like if the Bible didn’t exist
  • Imagine the Bible is worth reading but it matters how we read it
  • Imagine if religious leaders encourage a journey seeking self- understanding of God

For further elaboration see:  http://what-god-may-really-be-like.com/rethinking-the-bible/

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by Jim Gordon

Have you noticed how people like to look up toward the sky when they think of God? I recently watched several football players giving God praise by looking up and pointing toward the sky. Many of us who are Christians seem to think of God as being up in the sky somewhere looking down on us. We are taught in our churches that God is up there and someday we will go to meet him and be with him.

 

We tend to forget that the Kingdom of God is within us. We are told that we are the temple of the Holy Spirit and God makes his home within us. The fact is that we really do not act like we believe this truth.

 

If we could only get it in our head and down in our spirit that God is not somewhere up there, far away in heaven. He lives within us by his Spirit. We have the Spirit within us to teach and guide us. The bible says we have the mind of Christ. That is because his Spirit lives within us.

TempleofGodfor WordPress

 

We are living in the Kingdom right now. Yes, we are constrained by our human body but our spirit is one with his Spirit and we are spiritually living with him in his Kingdom.

 

It would be nice to begin hearing more about the presence of God within us right now rather than a God who is far away and who may show up from time to time to bless us in some special way if we attend the right meeting at the right place.

 

God is here now, living within us. He goes with us each and every day through whatever we go through in our daily life. He loves us and is concerned about us and is there for our good. It can be a hard thing to get the old teachings of the church out of our heads and accept the fact that God lives within us now. It reminds me of the old saying ‘you can take the boy out of the country but you can’t take the country out of the boy’. You can take the boy out of religion but you can’t take religion out of the boy, or it is really hard to do so.

 

Religion is man’s way of making his way to God. Yet we find out that man cannot come to God by his efforts and good works. Grace is the only way man comes to God, and it is all by the good works of the Father through Jesus.

 

Once Jesus left this earth he sent us a comforter, his Spirit who now dwells within his Church. His Church is not a religious organization and is not a building. It is his followers no matter what church they attend or if they do not attend a religious organization at all.

 

God lives within us. He makes his home within us and is with us spiritually just as much now as he will be when this earthly body passes away and we live in our glorified, spiritual bodies.

 

Start making the effort to see things as God says they are, not as we have been taught within religion. God is not up in the sky, he lives within us. We are his temple and each of us collectively form his kingdom body now.

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