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Archive for January, 2019

by Jim Gordon

Kindness is something you do not find much in our world today.

The Bible speaks about kindness many times. Kindness is one of the fruit of the Spirit mentioned in Galatians 5:22.

The dictionary says kindness is being considerate or helpful. I think the world would be a better place if everyone treated each other with kindness.

It usually does not take much to be kind. Sometimes I think we make it harder than it should be. Something as simple and easy as a genuine smile can brighten the day of a person who is not expecting it.

bekindtooneanother

Being polite and kind to others can sometimes be just what they need to make their day. Holding the door for someone, letting them go ahead of you in line, smiling and saying hello, treating them with respect, things like that can go a long way to lift someone up.

In his book ‘It Worked for Me In Life and Leadership‘, Colin Powell said “Kindness connects you with other human beings in a bond of mutual respect. If you care for your followers and show them kindness, they will reciprocate and care for you”. Showing kindness can be beneficial not only to those you show kindness to, but to yourself as well.

We also need to remember that truly showing kindness goes beyond just the basic acts of being nice. Here is another quote from Colin Powell’s book “Don’t just show kindness in passing or to be courteous. Show it in depth, show in with passion, and expect nothing in return. Kindness is not just about being nice; it’s about recognizing another human being who deserves care and respect”. I personally think that when the love of God flows from within us, we can show kindness out of general concern and interest for others.

It is sad that so often it seems that even Christians have a hard time treating each other with kindness. There is so much disagreement, fighting and arguing over views and interpretations. We seem to forget that as Christians we all have the common ground of faith in Christ and we are all children of God. Even when we do not agree there is no reason why we cannot be kind and respectful to one another.

Be ready to show acts of kindness each day. See others as just as important as yourself. Let the love of God flow from you to genuinely touch the lives of others. You never know who it may affect and where it may lead.

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By Mike Edwards

     It is more difficult to discuss why God doesn’t intervene more with natural disasters since nature doesn’t have a human soul. Why doesn’t God like any good parent intervene more in such evils, since human freedom isn’t involved? We can at least suggest human evil that accounts for a great deal of human suffering is because of bad choice made by cruel and lawless people.  Evil resulting from nature is much more complicated. It is important to at least begin the discussion.

     Freedom is necessary for authentic relationships. “Controlling love” is an oxymoron and not love at all. God, like parents, had a choice – to not create or to create knowing suffering was a possibility in the pursuit of intimacy. It is impossible for God to lovingly create and control. What God’s love can do is influence in all the appropriate ways, but divine love limits divine power. Yet, natural disasters don’t involve living beings where freedom is necessary for authentic love.

     I do not wish to suggest physical evils such as disasters of nature, diseases, or accidents can always be traced directly to a human’s freedom to inflict pain upon themselves or others. It does seem human accumulated mismanagement of the earth over thousands of years has brought some destruction through hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, droughts, and earthquakes. I read that the earth is constructed of tectonic plates and when they collide, what is atop them can be destroyed.  I doubt the shifting of these plates underground is related to the changing mood of God! When tectonic plates under the earth collide, atop them may be a particularly densely populated, poorly constructed city where authorities only sought to make money out of greed. Could money have been spent otherwise to put a better warning system in place?

     Human mismanagement hardly explains all the causes of natural disasters. Claiming natural disasters are always God’s judgment is nonsense. Furthermore, if God can but doesn’t intervene sometimes doesn’t that suggests God’s love is arbitrary and lead to guessing which disasters are God’s judgment. It is possible that it was necessary for God to set up freedom when creating humans and nature. Love requires freedom. The “butterfly effect” suggests that the flap of a butterfly wing in one part of the world can influence weather in another part of the world at some time in the future. Can God no more control butterfly wings than humans to be loving? Freedom may be necessary for a creation act to be loving. If God cannot take away your freedom, maybe it is not a stretch to say God can’t control cells, organisms, etc. (Please see: God Can’t: How to Believe in God and Love after Tragedy, Abuse, and Other Evils by Thomas Jay Oord)

     What we do know is that God never wants us to suffer undeservingly, but God has constraints because of freedom. When God doesn’t perform a miracle or when God’s doesn’t answer our prayers, we can’t know all the factors involved why God acts the way God does.  What I am convinced of is that God feels our pain and hurts as much as humans when they suffer. God is committed to bringing as much good as possible out of evil. Our demands for an all-powerful, invulnerable God comes at the expense of trusting God know best how to create a free universe and influence as many lives as possible through their own volition.

See HERE my Book God, Evil, And Suffering – Does God Really Care for further discussion.

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A Nicer Person

by Rocky Glenn

In several discussions over the last week, the idea of being a nicer person since leaving religion behind has resurfaced. Although I fully intended to continue the Churchboy Soundtrack series this week, I can’t ignore what I believe to be the prompting of the Holy Spirit to repost this post from last September. My life as a churchboy was truly a life filled with gritted teeth, clenched fists, red-faced anger fueled by feelings of never being good enough. I cannot thank Jesus enough for setting me free from those lies and revealing to me the real love of the Father.

I pray today you live a life knowing how loved you truly are.

 

A Secret No Longer  (originally published September 3, 2018)

Although I have never been much of a comic book reader, from an early age I have had an affinity for the Incredible Hulk.  I suppose the credit for this would belong to the TV series that aired during my younger years starring Bill Bixby as Dr. Banner and Lou Ferrigno as his rage-fueled alter ego green monster.   I can remember the incredibly durable stretch Hulk action figure I carried with me and destroyed for much of my childhood as well.  With the most recent incarnations of the Hulk coming from the Marvel Cinematic Universe over the last ten years, my love for the big green guy has resurfaced and he is undoubtedly my favorite character of all created within the superhero realm.  In 2012, after six solo films introducing the world to several characters, we finally got to see all our heroes unite on one screen as Marvel released the first Avengers film.  It is in this film as the Avengers prepare for the final battle Dr. Banner utters not only one of his most famous lines of the entire filmography, but arguably one of the most famous lines of any character throughout the twenty film universe as his transformation to big, mean, green and ugly takes place, “That’s my secret, Cap.  I’m always angry.”

Something about the nature of a man who loses all sense of control and becomes a different creature when angered and provoked has proved rather appealing to me throughout my life and at times I have found myself to have more in common with the normally mild mannered Dr. Banner than I would care to admit.  Throughout the television series and film universe, Dr. Banner takes many precautions and makes effort to avoid anger and being provoked.  Bill Bixby’s oft quoted line from the late seventies/early eighties series is simply, “Don’t make me angry.  You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.”  We sense in both depictions of the gnarly green giant as the Big Guy begins to calm and Dr. Banner reappears that he is filled with both shame and remorse for the actions that are seemingly beyond his control.

My life as a churchboy mirrored the life of Dr. Banner.  Just as he shared his secret of always being angry with Captain America as they set off into battle, I “shared” my secret with those closest to me.  Only my sharing was done behind closed doors with yelling while red-faced and normally with tight-clenched fists and cursing.  I was not an easy man to live with but I could never let anyone know that and destroy my churchboy facade.  I was always angry.  It didn’t have to be anything in particular that made me that way, but 99.9% of the time it was simply because things were happening that I either disapproved of, did not want to be involved, did not think should happen, or things weren’t happening in the way I wanted quick enough.  Churchboys are convinced there is a correct way to do everything and everything must be done in the correct way.  When things aren’t done in that manner, anger erupts (in private, of course!) and there is collateral damage all around.

The only flaw with Dr. Banner’s secret is the same flaw I had . . . it’s not really a secret, at least not as much as I thought.  His reputation for angry, raging transformation pales in comparison to the disapproving, unhappy, frustrated, and controlling person this churchboy was.  As much as it pains me to admit and remember, I was a miserable person because I was always unhappy, I was always angry, and it was more obvious than I realized.  My life at that time can be described from the opening words of Christ in Matthew 11:28 from The Message: I was tired, worn out, and burned out on religion.

I am so glad that Eugene Peterson did not stop there when he was writing The Message.  He went on to expound on the words of Christ as follows in the verses 28-30:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Churchboys know nothing about living life in an unforced manner freely and lightly.  They burden themselves with ill-fitting, heavy lists of do’s and don’ts to ensure they keep their image of holiness and godliness intact and making sure their secrets remain just that.  Life without those rules and lists has proven both free and light.  In fact, as I shared in What Is A Churchboy?, I’ve learned I’ve become I’m a nicer person and not near as angry without them.

Living life in this manner is a secret I refuse to keep.

Rocky

 

 

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by Jim Gordon

Have you ever passed a church building and saw a sign out front that says ‘Everyone is Welcome’? When I see one, I always wonder if they really mean what they say. I have seen so many congregations over the years get set in their ways and enjoy the people who are regulars, but what would happen if ‘everyone’ did come to their church?

What would the thoughts and feelings be if a gay couple walked in, or if a group of homeless people came to hear the Sunday morning sermon? What if an atheist or muslim group decided to stop by and join the service? Would everyone be truly welcome?

We know that Jesus literally welcomed everyone and mostly those who the religious world did not want to have any association. Jesus met with and cared for the people who probably would not go to a church, either because they would not be truly welcome or because they just did not think they would fit in.

everyoneiswelcome

Maybe that says something about our organized church of today. Maybe we have become so involved with religion, being exclusive and following the denominations way of doing things that we have lost our first love. Could we be so caught up in the trends of modern religion that we forget our relationship with God?

Maybe we need to concentrate more on living in fellowship with Christ on a daily basis. More of loving Him and loving others and less about what building we go to on Sunday morning, if we go at all. The true Church is not a building and it does not matter which day we meet or where we meet. The Church is a community of believers. Those who live for Him each and every day. We are the temple of the Holy Spirit. We should not be focused on a building but on a daily walk with Him.

To love God with all our heart, soul, strength and mind, and to love others as ourselves fulfills the law. We no longer need to worry about obeying the old covenant law. Jesus has fulfilled the law and we now live under a new covenant of grace. This covenant went into effect at the death and resurrection of Jesus. We now have the Living Word within us through the Holy Spirit. We no longer need any man to teach us the ways of God because the Spirit lives within us as our guide.

It is time to put our focus back on our first love, Jesus. It is time to live out our relationship with God on a daily basis, not just on one day we call the sabbath. As followers of Christ we walk with him daily, loving God, loving others and being prepared to give an answer of the hope that is within us to those who ask us. I pray we all let the love of God show through us so that others will know they are loved and accepted by Him.

Share your thoughts in the comments below

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By Mike Edwards

A God whose focus is saving people from the threat of burning forever after death is about fear not a relationship. Fear often leads to hiding stuff; a loving relationship leads to life changes. Adult children don’t respect and devout themselves to their parents’ guidance because they fear them. It may surprise many that the traditional understanding of Hell isn’t in the Bible. The Bible also doesn’t talk a lot either about Heaven as an escape from earth. What is God’s good news?

The Bible says nothing about the traditional understanding of the word Hell.

Humans wouldn’t even create a place to torture their enemies after death. The only place we would get such an irrational idea of a supposedly loving God is from a Book. Gehenna, the Greek word translated as Hell in the New Testament, was the name of a real valley nearby Jerusalem with a history of terrible slaughter.  Gehenna is best translated Gehenna. There is no word in Hebrew or Greek for “hell.” Jesus used Gehenna to illustrate that spiritual death is as tragic as physical death. The Apostle Paul who wrote most of the NT never refers to Hell. Noah, or any prophet in the OT, never warned of Hell as a consequence for behaviors here on earth.

If there is no Hell, was Jesus main message to get the hell away from earth to enter Heaven?

The word “heaven” appears the most in the Gospel of Matthew. The Kingdom of Heaven isn’t talking about going to a place after death. Jesus speaks of bringing heavenly love to earth – “on earth as in heaven.” Jesus said nothing about dropping to your knees to avoid Hell to go to Heaven after death. But, didn’t the Apostle Paul say “the wages of sin is death” (Rm. 6:23)? Paul is speaking of spiritual death because Paul is still alive though sin has put him to death (Rm. 7:11). Romans is Paul’s longest and most theological letter and when Paul mentions Heaven twice, he says nothing about Jesus dying so we can go to Heaven (Rm. 1:18, 10:6).

What does the Bible say God is saving us from?

When Jesus was asked by a religious expert how to have eternal life, He simply said to love God and your neighbor (Lk.10:25-37). Jesus’ focus wasn’t on quantity of life after death but about a life worth living here on earth. Jeremy Myers says it best that the Bible isn’t about escaping Hell but being delivered from consequences of sin: “When Scripture teaches about being saved from sin, it is not referring to escaping hell and going to heaven when we die, but to the deliverance from the devastating and destructive consequences of sin in this life.”

https://redeeminggod.com/confess-jesus-romans-10-9-10/

God has a dream! 

God hurts because we are hurting ourselves and those around us. On this day as we celebrate Martin Luther King’s life and message, God too seeks to convince us of the evil of bigotry. Jesus came to earth to convey God seeks to empower us to constantly shun evil and do good. Seek and experience God’s help in being more the person you know deep down is in your and others’ interest. Consider misbeliefs about God that hinder that pursuit. Share with others such a God when they inquire.

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by Rocky Glenn

When Jim Gordon invited Mike Edwards and I to join him as coauthors at Done With Religion, I don’t think any of us anticipated the bond and brotherhood that lie ahead of us.  The three of us have spent the last six months getting to know each other discussing what we believe and why we believe it as well as what we used to believe and why we believed it at the time.  The conversation below is an excerpt of one of those discussions as we speculate why it took so long to arrive at our current beliefs if we truly believe we have become more Christlike as we grow more open-minded and less dogmatic.  Our hopes in sharing this discussion is to encourage those who may be wondering the same and perhaps feeling the same regrets expressed.

Mike:  We believe the way we do now. But we use to believe another way a while back.

I know there aren’t answers but how do we explain to ourselves and others if asked – why doesn’t God show us the light sooner. I know I am assuming we are more enlightened now than years ago. I am assuming it is more Christlike, unless clearly moral like bullying, to come off open-minded than dogmatic.

I think so many more may be open to God if there was so much less dogmatism. I know God isn’t controlling but so many well-meaning leaders and laypeople seem misguided (or perhaps we are the ones wrong) and all of us are simply trying to be faithful to God. I truly think so many are intending to be faithful to God. I dread to think how I would have responded 30 years ago if social media was around.

I’m not convinced it’s because some of us are more moral than others. If we are more enlightened, why weren’t we more enlightened years ago? I must admit watching all this on Facebook, etc. is discouraging, especially when it is Christians. So many of them seem hopeless.

Rocky:  I think your thoughts capture what is possibly my greatest regret . . . the amount of time and number of years I spent not only misbelieving but also misteaching others.  To me the best analogy would be Jesus’s parable of the tares and wheat.  If you remove the tares before it’s time you will remove the wheat also.  Although as we first come out of it our tendency is to discard anything and everything related to what we are leaving behind. The further I am away from it the more I realize there are some foundational truths planted there that remain.

Jim:  As far as why God doesn’t show us the light sooner, I surely do not have the total answer. I do believe it is the timing thing. I think God teaches us and brings us to new understanding only as we are ready for it. I feel there is a reason for the things we go through and I am thankful for the time in the church system. I guess I would not have known the difference if I had not been a part.

So many people in church today are there because they truly believe that is the right way and they truly love God. I know the many years I was a part of it I felt I was doing what God wanted and was learning about him. Really, that system is all we know. That is what we were brought up in and felt was what God intended.

I am thankful that the Spirit lives within us and does not give up on us. I know I had questions over the years but was afraid to ask or just figured there was a reasonable answer that was more than I could understand.

Fortunately, in time those questions and many more came up again and I started thinking and debating with myself about them. It still took years of this plus feeling so unsatisfied at church that caused us to come to the point of leaving. It is all a timing thing.

One thing the three of us are certain of is we are likely not alone in our questioning.  If this is a conversation you find yourself identifying with, we welcome your feedback and would love to hear from you.  What are your thoughts and experiences as you’ve walked out the journey of your faith?

If you would like to read more of each of our thoughts on the subject, here are related articles from each of us:

 

 

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by Jim Gordon

No matter what your lifestyle, what you choose to believe, how you accept things none of us will ever completely agree with anyone else. As believers, we would not expect those who do not follow the christian faith to agree with everything we think and say. Yet, we also know that other christian people will not agree with everything either. We have so many denominations in the christian world and none of them can agree completely. But this is all OK, we are all individuals who see things differently. The last thing I want is to make people feel I expect everyone to see things my way.

I think those of us trying to follow Christ should be able to accept one another, believer and non-believer alike, talk with each other about how we see things and still be respectful and kind. We are to be known by our love, but unfortunately, that just is not the case most of the time.

No matter if we are gay, straight, christian, muslim, jew, hindu, atheist, asexual, baptist, methodist, charismatic or whatever label people put on us the underlying fact is we are all human beings. We all deserve to be treated with respect and be accepted. We each should be able to live our life and make our own choices without being condemned by others. We should be able to discuss our differences respectfully, and none of us should try to force our views and choices on another.

Unfortunately, there has been a lot of name calling and disrespect among different groups of people over time. Christian people saying God hates gays, and atheists are of the devil, people being afraid of muslims, one denomination wants nothing to do with another denomination…this is all sad and wrong.

If we could look past the labels and see each other as people who overall want the same thing, to be happy, to be loved, be healthy, get our bills paid and enjoy life I think things would be better even with our differences. This is not to say we have to agree with everyone and associate with everyone and be happy together, that just is not going to happen. There are too many different thoughts, ideas, beliefs, ways of life and personalities for us to agree on everything and be totally comfortable with everyone, yet accepting each other and respecting each other in spite of our differences certainly is a possibility.

Equals2

When you read about the life of Christ in the gospels, you see someone who loved people. He did not disassociate himself from any particular group, nor did he turn away anyone or think he was better than others. Jesus showed the love of the Father by caring for people, talking with people, eating together, healing people and not condemning them. The only crowd he had a problem with was the religious leaders of the day who thought they were so much better than everyone else because, in their view, they kept the rules. Their reasoning was they did not do the ‘wrong’ things and they did the ‘right’ things. They did not associate with the type of people they thought were less religious and unworthy of God’s love. Jesus was always getting on their case for being so religious they were of no earthly good to the Kingdom of God.

Speaking of all the different views and ways of life, I can remember when I was young and growing up in the organized church how I always stayed with people of similar belief. I do not know for sure if I was actually taught this or it was just a common belief I picked up, but I felt I needed to stay away from people of different views and ways of life. I thought it would be great to work in the church system or for a christian bookstore as a job, then spend my off-time in church services and doing church work. That way I would always being around someone who saw things pretty much the same as I did.  This way I would not have to be around ‘those’ people, whoever ‘they’ were. I still see this in the church today, a separatist mindset.

Sound familiar? So much of the traditional church setting is based on separation from those who think differently. This usually brings a feeling of superiority, being separated from those who need to see God’s love in action and living a Pharisee-type lifestyle. (Pharisee: strict observance of religious ceremonies and practices, one who adheres to laws and traditions, self-righteous or hypocritical person).

Compare that to the life of Jesus we read about in the gospels, a person who loved people, was not condemning or unkind, hung out with those who the religious crowd did not want anything to do with, spent time eating and drinking with the non-religious crowd and truly cared for others.

I know we all see things differently. We will not all agree on things and we have no way of proving our point in regard to spiritual matters. Yet I think it is time the christian ‘religion’ comes to an end and Christ-like people begin to daily show the unconditional love and acceptance of God to everyone.

Jesus said to love God and love one another. He did not say love only those who live in a way you think is right or with who you completely agree. Love people the way God loves them and agree to disagree rather than judge and condemn.

Share your thoughts in the comments below

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