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Archive for February, 2019

by Jim Gordon

When we talk about the Word of God we usually think of the Bible. If someone says the Bible is just a book we get all offended and ready to fight. We have been taught that the Bible is the inerrant word of God and he speaks to us from his word.

Actually, I disagree with that thought. Based on John 1:1 the Word of God is Jesus. He is the true, living Word of God. Jesus became flesh and dwelt among us. He is the perfect, inerrant and living Word. It is he who speaks to us by the Holy Spirit. It can be through the Bible, but it can be a number of other ways as well.

So often we Christians focus so much on the Bible that we forget we have the living Word of God inside us. The Holy Spirit, who is God in spirit form just as Jesus was God in human form, lives within us. This is a fact that is very seldom emphasized in churches today. We acknowledge that the Spirit is within us, but we would rather focus on a tangible bible and what the pastor tells us it says rather than put total dependency on the Spirit.

John1-1

There is certainly nothing wrong with reading the Bible. It is God inspired yet not written by God or dictated by God. Through it we can learn from the past, we see the story of redemption throughout, we come to know about the unconditional love of God. In it we find what God is really like through the life of Christ. We learn what pleases God and we come to know that it is by grace that we have fellowship with him.

The Bible teaches us the Law and how we humans are completely unable to live a life pleasing to God through the law. The law was our tutor to show us that we need God’s grace through Christ.

The Bible teaches us of the freedom we now have in Christ. It teaches of the unconditional love God has for each of us. I personally do not believe God gave men the exact words to write, but he did inspire them. Just as someone may inspire me to write a book, it would still be my words and my experiences.

The books that make up the Bible are writings by men and women who wrote about their idea of God, their experiences with God and their love and fear of God. It can be used for instruction, inspiration, guidance, teaching and correction. Yet without the guidance and leading of the Holy Spirit from within us the Bible is just a book of thoughts and ideas of humans about God.

Another issue with the written word is how we like to fight and argue over which version of the Bible is the true word of God. We need to remember that all versions of the Bible are only man-made interpretations of the words people wrote about God many years ago.

I feel sometimes we have made the Bible out to be part of the Godhead. It is not Father, Son and Holy Bible. We need to focus on Jesus. He said you search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life, it is these that testify about Me.

Only Jesus is the true and living Word of God. When we look to Jesus and listen for the voice and leading of the Holy Spirit within us, we will then come to understand truth from the living Word of God.

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By Mike Edwards

I admit choosing a provocative title. I could have said God is like the perfect human being. What is my point? I am not suggesting any human being is God or that an invisible, inaudible God is human. I am simply trying to find a way to write and encourage discussion of what God is like. We can’t claim to know exactly what God is like, but what ideas may be closer to the truth? 

It matters what we think God is like.

Our understandings about God shape our attitudes toward God. Our relationship with God cannot exceed our views of God. The more you respect your earthly parents, the closer you are to them. Some are atheists, not because they believe God can’t exist, but because what they imagine a loving God should be like isn’t what God-followers claim.

We can’t be positive what God is really like of course.  

I can’t even prove God really exist. I just think that millions if not billions are not insane for knowing or at least hoping there is a Creator who can provide worth, perspective, meaning, and hope of life after death.  We need a way to talk about what God is really like. It is often claimed we know what God is like – just read the Bible!

The Bible cannot be the definitive way of knowing what God is like.

The Bible is ancient literature that requires interpretation. Laypeople, much less biblical scholars who respect Scriptures as authoritative, don’t agree what the same passages mean. Some claim the Bible condemns homosexuality; other deny such claims. How do we decide which interpretation may be the best interpretation of God’s true nature? The majority born never had a Bible so a Creator may have thought of others ways to communicate what they are really like. 

Doesn’t God communicate through our moral intuitions?

A universal, inborn desire to treat others like we want to be treated could suggest how a Creator communicates what is good. When we read ancient literature such as the Bible and two plausible interpretations exist, we can’t avoid using our moral brains.  We are trying to determine what a perfect, loving God is like. An immoral God isn’t worth believing in. Even the Bible assumes we can know what perfect love is, because the Bible tells us to be perfect like God (Mt. 5:48). God’s love surely is what we imagine perfect human love is like.

Even those who play the mystery card assume perfect godly and human morality are the same.

Many claim God is a mystery sometimes because their interpretation of Scriptures suggest God appears evil from a human perspective. Such interpreters are using their moral intuitions and assuming God and human love are the same. It is certain that we don’t always know what perfect love is, but the mystery card short circuits discussions about God’s true character.

Doesn’t the Newer Testament through the eyes of Jesus give us the correct view of God?

Many theologians rightly question if Old Testament writers always had a complete understanding of God. In OT times it was sacrilegious to not speak of God as being all-powerful and controlling even through violence. This may explain violent warfare actions in God’s name. It is suggested Jesus, who claimed to be God in the flesh, had a more complete understanding of what God is like. We still though have the challenge of literature requiring interpretation. Turning the other check is interpreted to claim Jesus never advocated violence, but a possible literal translation of Mt. 5:39 is “do not resist by evil means.” Would Jesus agree violence is never desired but may be necessary sometimes? We can never claim certainty “because the Bible or Jesus says so.”

Lack of certainty about God does not mean anything goes?  

We don’t have to make laws against murder. Criminals don’t deny their actions are wrong; they deny they committed such a crime. It is almost universally accepted that it is morally wrong to kill someone out of revenge or for selfish reasons. It is universally accepted that it is morally wrong to behead people for their beliefs unless you are a terrorist. Claiming the Bible can’t be use to definitively tell us what God is like protects from those claiming their interpretation is definitive while demonizing views to the contrary.

God is like the perfect human being!

We can’t know what God is exactly like but we can imagine what God is like by discussing what human perfection is. Those who argue humans are created in the image of God usually accept that God created us to know and hate evil. If God sometimes is evil according to one’s interpretation of the Bible, should we hate God sometimes? We must question not rationalize such interpretations. A God who seeks a relationship is surely more understandable than mysterious. Don’t we get closer to understanding what Godly love is by accepting that loving others like we want to be loved is the same as how God loves us and others.

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Present Yourself

by Rocky Glenn

“You do what you do and I do what I do… you do what you do and I do what I do, I’m Alvin, and you’re Bill.”  These are the words of Dana Carvey as Alvin Firpo in the 1994 comedy Trapped in Paradise about a trio of brothers who rob a bank in Paradise, Pennsylvania on Christmas Eve.  The oldest of the three brothers, Bill, played by Nicholas Cage, is experiencing a great deal of anxiety and concern over every detail of the heist and questions his youngest brother to ensure he is prepared for his role.  In response to Bill expressing his concern, Alvin looks at him and replies, “You do what you do, and I do what I do.”  Alvin Firpo, despite being a recently paroled burglar with a bent towards kleptomania, displays a wisdom foreign to churchboys.  Alvin is confident of who he is, what he has to do, and how he plays a role in the overall plan.

Churchboys are not confident in who they are because they feel who they are will never be good enough.  It’s a life lived in fear believing one misstep or mistake, intended or unintended, will bring judgment and punishment from God.  Churchboys don’t know God as a loving father, but rather as a ruler and king who demands complete obedience and perfection in order to earn the reward of eternal security.  A churchboy’s relationship with God, although he would never use the word, is very much a relationship based in karma.  Do good and God will bless you.  Step out of line and God will get you for that!  Churchboys are unaware of who they really are, sons fully loved and accepted as they are and simply for who they are.

Once you realize who you are and stop believing the lie there is something you must do, you are free to truly live and to truly live freely.  Tullian Tchividjian says it like this:

The fear of not knowing whether I’ll get a return is replaced by the freedom of knowing we already have everything: because everything I need, in Christ I already possess, I’m now free to do everything for you without needing you to do anything for me.

I can now actively spend my life giving instead of taking, going to the back instead of getting to the front, sacrificing myself for others instead of sacrificing others for myself.

The gospel alone liberates you to live a life of scandalous generosity, unrestrained sacrifice, uncommon valor, and unbounded courage.

When you don’t have anything to lose, you discover something wonderful: you’re free to take great risks without fear or reservation.

This is the difference between approaching all of life from salvation and approaching all of life for salvation; it’s the difference between approaching life from our acceptance, and not for our acceptance; from love not for love.

How does these words of Tullian apply to everyday life?  God created you to be you and me to be me.  I cannot be you and you cannot be me.  Those last two statements may be fairly simple to understand but we often lose sight of them in our daily lives.  You must be you and I must be me.  We each have a role to play unique to us and that role is simply the life we live.  I did not get hired at my job based on someone else’s resume and skills or because someone else interviewed for the position.  I was hired based on my resume, my career, and the interview I participated in.  Around six months ago, Jim Gordon extended invitations to myself and Mike Edwards to be co-authors with him at Done With Religion.  Jim didn’t invite us to participate in hopes our writing styles would become clones of his own.  Based on Mike’s work on What God May Really Be Like and my writings at Confessions of a Recovering Churchboy, Jim reached out to each of us because, while similar, we each have a unique voice and perspective based on the lives we’ve lived and experienced.  No matter the lure, appeal, or tendency to imitate a coworker, manager, or predecessor within my company or to attempt writing in the style of Jim or Mike, I must lean and rest secure in the knowledge God created Rocky to be Rocky and I alone can be me.  The uniqueness of who we are is important as we never know the exact moment something we alone may say or do in normal everyday living will create a forever and lasting memory or impression on a family member, friend, or coworker.

Because it’s such a rarity in the churchboy world, realizing who you are, what you have to do, and accepting how it all plays out will likely not win you much applause or be a cause for celebration.  In fact, it can be a very lonely place and may cause you to stick out more than fit in as few seek to come to such understanding and are often riled up as though of us who do. In his book Messy Spirituality, Mike Yaconelli states, “The essence of messy spirituality is the refusal to pretend, to lie, or to allow others to believe we are something we are not . . . When you and I stop pretending, we expose the pretending of everyone else. The bubble of the perfect Christian life is burst, and we all must face the reality of our brokenness.”

Two weeks ago I had the honor of accompanying my wife to attend a concert by one of her favorite singer/songwriters, James Taylor.  His musical set began with a short video package chronicling his nearly 50 years in music.  I pray the words below, which were the closing statement of his opening video package, be true of both you and me as we learn to live minute by minute knowing who we are, what have to do, and how we play a part by simply being ourselves.

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Let me always present myself.

Rocky

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by Jim Gordon

Did Jesus teach from the Old Covenant? Was not the birth of Christ the beginning of the New Covenant? When does the Old Covenant end and the New Covenant begin? We tend to forget that the Old Covenant does not end with Malachi and the New Covenant does not start with Matthew.

Even though Jesus came to fulfill the old agreement through grace, the first thirty-three years that Jesus walked the earth He lived under the Old Covenant. He was required to follow all its rules and regulations. He even taught from those rules, yet those rules are no longer intended for us. ‘But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons’. Galatians 4:4,5

OldandNewCovenant

The New Covenant began when Jesus was crucified. When He said ‘It is finished’ He was talking about the Law, the Old Covenant. Upon His resurrection the New Covenant began and we are no longer required to try and live under the Law and the way of the Old Covenant. It is finished!

The old agreement was basically a tutor. A way God used to show humans that we were unable to live a perfect life on our own. It was a way to show us that we needed someone to redeem us and restore our fellowship with the Father. Jesus came and fulfilled the old agreement and upon his resurrection made a new agreement of grace. ‘Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill’. Matthew 5:17

Now that the Law has been fulfilled in Christ, we are no longer required to try to live by the ten commandments and the rules and regulations of the Old Covenant. So often we seem to forget that because of grace we now live by faith in Christ. We are no longer slaves to sin, we are no longer just a poor sinner saved by grace although we were sinners and we are saved by grace. We are now the righteousness of God through Christ. God no longer calls us slaves but He calls us Sons. We are seated in heavenly places in Christ. This is not to say that we should go out and do whatever we want, right or wrong. We do have freedom in Christ to do what we choose, but there are consequences if we choose things that God has warned us to stay away from.

Today we choose to live a life pleasing to God because of love. Godly love is the fulfillment of the Law. We love God and we love others, we have been made righteous through Christ and we are the temple of the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit who guides us, teaches us and gives us strength. We do not love or please God out of obligation. We do not love him because we are trying to fulfill a set of rules and Old Testament laws that we could not live up to anyway. We do what is pleasing to God because we choose to do so because of our love for Him.

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Mike Edwards

I have written ad nauseum lately on Rethinking the Bible. I recently wrote on objections if the Bible is fallible, but writers are always after a perfect document on a subject considered critical. Statements about God according to the Bible may be one main reason spiritually-open people don’t pursue God further. If the traditional understanding of Hell isn’t true according to the Bible, that is a big deal! When argued the writers in the Bible didn’t always understand thus portray God perfectly, questions are raised such as how can we know God if not through the Bible.

We have every right to question if God inspired all of the Bible.

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 in the Old Testament advocating violence in God’s name. Would a good God really approve of a wife having her hand cut off when grabbing another’s man genitals protecting her husband (Deut. 25:11-12)? It is only rational to ask if a good God would inspire such thoughts.

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. Biblical writers weren’t saying they always heard an audible voice when penning “God said.” God’s freedom-giving nature doesn’t suggest God performed a lobotomy on biblical writers’ impressions of God. Keep in mind literature always requires interpretation and scholars and laypeople disagree on meaning of the same passages. The reality of disagreement makes certainty an impossibility whether you consider all of the Bible inspired or not.

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 hints of a Creator’s influence through our moral intuitions. 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. We can know God if truly loving!

It is said God would not allow so much uncertainty because of the Bible?  

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. Supposed certainty in God’s name, though different interpretations exist, has been the main reason some condemn gays or oppose women entering the priesthood. Certainty has led to slavery, killing infidels, and other atrocities in God’s name. Open-minded uncertainty doesn’t have to lead to chaos but new understandings and loving solutions.

God supposedly spoke directly to Moses (Ex. 20) to keep the Sabbath as one of the Ten Commandments, but such communication was taken to mean 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 humane justifications for God not revealing themselves more openly. Learning, reflecting, and freely choosing convictions over time, as opposed to being told what to do, may more lead to life-changing choices.

It is said we are worse off with a fallible than infallible Book.

Those not growing up in church don’t understand all the fuse. Who thinks literature subject to interpretation should be read so dogmatically? When one fails to acknowledge their interpretation could be wrong, this can lead to forcing personal convictions on others in God’s name. A fallible Book can lead to listening to different opinions as we continually evaluate the most loving approach. God doesn’t get enough credit for communicating through our moral senses how we ought to treat others.

It is said we have no right to question an almighty God.

Many reject God because of what a supposed infallible Bible says about God. An infallible or inspired view of Scriptures has led down the slippery slope of assuming interpretations are inspired. The “mystery card” is often played because common moral sense can’t understand how a good God would be a part of atrocities in the Bible. God didn’t reprimand Job for questioning God. Why seek to understand God if God is declared to be unintelligible or a mystery? God  in the Book of Job seems to simply defend that God is not unjust or uncaring just because God doesn’t constantly control undeserved evil or suffering in a free world. It’s complicated!

It is said why read the Bible if the writers misunderstood God.

The Bible records beginnings with God culminating with the life of Jesus that we don’t possess in any other documents. 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 with an open-mind motivated by love. God has drawn billions to do good and shun evil when talking about God.

Keep in mind most biblical scholars accept that the Gospels – stories about Jesus – were written within 30-50 years of Jesus’ life. Legends do not develop within such a short time, as eyewitnesses can dispute claims made. Historical research can only suggest probabilities not certainties, but the Bible’s historical reliability far surpasses any other ancient literatures. When making up stuff you don’t report your leader was crucified, that your hero was rejected by their family, and followers doubted Jesus’ claims including being God in flesh – unless you are reporting the facts. Jesus simply was not the stuff legends were made up.  See here

Read the Bible with an open-mind inspired by love. 

Don’t check your moral conscience at the door as you consider what a loving God is really like. Unquestioning obedience has led to justifying slavery, killing infidels, condemning gays, and other atrocities in the name of God. God didn’t necessarily intend the Bible to be read with blind obedience. Jesus didn’t always answer questions directly but spoke about our hearts. Can you imagine a world where all looked out for the interests of others and not just themselves when dealing with difficulties?

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

 

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by Jim Gordon

I have become more inclined to follow my feeling that the church of today is way off base from what God intended. The church being the building many go to on Saturday or Sunday, the man-made denominations, the organized religious services led by a pastor.

Why do we get so caught up on being in a building each week, sitting quietly listening to one man (or woman) telling us what God is saying or what the Bible says. God’s word says we have the Holy Spirit to teach us and no longer need a middle man. God says we are all kings and priests and able to have a psalm, a teaching, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation.

churchisnotabuilding

Am I saying it is wrong to go to church? Of course not. I do believe the modern-day organized church is not in line with what God intended. I do believe we do not have to attend any organized church. Some will say the Bible says do not forsake the assembling of yourselves together. That is true, but it does not say you have to assemble together anywhere in particular or on a set day. We can meet up with other believers in a restaurant, a park or invite them to our home for a meal and time of fellowship. That is the Church I feel the Bible is talking about, the people not an organization.

In our day and age, it is time to get over man-made religion and the church building being the center of our Christian life and realize there is more. Most churches today are more of a social club or a big business than anything. We should focus on Jesus and build our relationship with him and realize that WE are the Church and the Holy Spirit lives within us making us the dwelling place of God. We are the temple of God.

We are to build our fellowship with God and with one another. This does not need to be done in a building during an organized service, but in spending time with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Living life daily under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, encouraging one another, showing love to all people, helping those who need a hand.

People should be able to know that we are Christians because of the love we have for God and for one another, not because of an organization we belong to or a denomination we follow.

Share your thoughts in the comments below

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By Mike Edwards

“The unquestioned assumption that the Bible is, and has to be inerrant, or else it cannot be the word of God, is the number one assumption/expectation that appears in deconversion narratives.”

John Marriott – A Recipe for Disaster: Four Ways Churches and Parents Prepare Individuals to Lose Their Faith and How They Can Instill a Faith That Endures

Most people I know don’t tune out God or leave from faith in God as an excuse to lead a hell-bent life. I am not sure why some are more or less inclined to believe and seek a relationship with a Creator. Either belief requires faith. Many may desire God be more a part of their life but are turned away because what they imagine God should be like isn’t what others claim.

Most get their understanding about God from the Bible.  

Church-goers gain most of their understanding of God from the Bible. Many non-going church people are impacted by what others claim about God according to the Bible. I wrote here that the main passages used to condemn gays in God’s name are highly debatable. Try telling people with a straight face a perfect moral God tortures forever after death for beliefs held while a short time here on earth. What many assume of a good God doesn’t match what the Bible says!

The problem is how the Bible is viewed.

The Bible has been used to misled many about God, but we must admit the Bible has inspired many. Jesus, who represented God, set a powerful example by how He treated others. Yet, a close reading of the Bible notices hundreds of passages advocating violence in God’s name. It is normal to question an interpretation that makes God appear immoral from a human perspective. It is normal to question if the writers always fully understood God. It is not God’s nature to controlled anyone’s thoughts. Writers could be influenced by culture norms where sacrilegious to not speak of God as all-controlling than relational.

When insisting all of the Bible is inspired or approved by God, it forces one to reject the Bible if wrong on any issue. Many insist the Bible can’t support evolution. These same people also insist the Bible is without error. If one believes evolution is a possibility, this forces them to reject the Bible and often God goes with that. Maybe Genesis isn’t meant to be a historical or scientific rendering of creation but written to convey there was a Creator.

It is suggested we should look to Jesus as the final authority when confused.

There are still interpretation issues even if we insist Jesus be the final voice in what God is truly like. Those who respect Scriptures don’t always agree what Jesus thought. Turning the other check is interpreted to claim Jesus never advocated violence, but the possible literal translation of Mt. 5:39 is “do not resist by evil means.” Would Jesus agree violence is never desired but may be necessary sometimes? The NT is no different than reading the OT since we could be wrong what Jesus would do.

How can we read and represent the Bible?

The Bible can be viewed as a recording of experiences with God for reflection by the readers. God didn’t necessarily perform a lobotomy to control the thoughts and words of the writers. The Bible or any literature written thousands of years ago isn’t meant to be used as a rules or answers book. Jesus didn’t always answer questions directly because circumstances vary and the issue is our heart in solving problems. Imagine a world where all looked out for the interests of others and not just themselves during difficult times. Read the Bible with an open-mind motivated by love rather than with blind obedience.  Use common moral sense as you consider what a loving God is really like.

A part of the solution is to stop the sin of certainty!

There is so much civil unrest because both sides demonize one another by insisting they are right and the other side is wrong. Can you imagine if couples acted this way when disagreeing? Religious leaders seem hell-bent in telling people what must be believed about God, often according to their understanding and interpretation of the Bible. I am convinced the Bible or any literature wasn’t meant to be used as a question and answer book. The Bible read reflectively allows God’s spirit to speak to individuals in making unselfish decisions for a better world. Don’t push people away from God because of the Bible.

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My Journey

Welcome. My blog is a place where readers will find writings of personal experiences, thoughts, and the peace that the Lord provides throughout my walk. I intend to bring inspiration and insight, as well as providing a very personal and transparent view into my life, in order to help others see their own lives in a different perspective. I strongly believe that we all need a different view at times, in order for our own personal growth to take place.

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