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Archive for April, 2019

by Jim Gordon

Continuing on the subject of church and abuse, we know many people have been abused and treated wrong within the system. Some more severe that others, but none of it is good.

I think one of the groups that seem to be affected most by this are those who are LGBTQ. I have seen this group of people treated rudely and like second class citizens in the church where they should find love and acceptance more than anywhere else. God said to love our neighbors, he did not say to love only those we agree with.

Even in the churches that are actually accepting, LGBTQ people are often not allowed to participate fully within the organization or hold certain positions.

GodsDoorsAreOpentoAll

Christian people will deny rights and services to LGBTQ people based on their christian beliefs and that even includes fellow christians who are LGBTQ. Even government office holders can refuse certain services and basically get away with it because they say it goes against their christian morals. As as christian I say these things should not be.

Labels are placed on many people, gay/straight, black/white, male/female, christian/atheist, American/foreign. Yet behind those labels are human beings who were created in the image of God. They are loved and accepted by God and we are told as followers of Christ we are to be known for our love for one another also.

I feel for those who are LGBTQ. It hurts to see people who were created and loved by God be rejected and abused by his followers. I think it is time to look past the labels, look past your personal feelings and accept people just the way they are….created and loved by God.

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by Jordan Hathcock
Guest Blogger

You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.

When it comes to the chaos in life, it’s hard to determine the best course of action. I mean, the “technology driven, non-stop on the go” culture we find ourselves in, who can blame us? It’s almost as if we arrived in a whole new terrain that only functions at warped speed. Where do we find the tools to assist us through the path that will lead us to healthy and liberating results?

Well, research is showing that this new technology-driven on the go lifestyle is having some unhealthy results. As, psychologist Dr. Stephanie Brown keenly points out:

Researchers note that this push for speed is changing the way people think. The need to be efficient and instant leads to a dumbing down of information intake so that people become scanners and “decoders” of information, cruising horizontally across the screen to pick up bytes, rather than delving towards a deeper understanding.

Maybe the biggest cost we’ve encountered already is the harm to human relationships. Instead of enhancing close bonds, technology has facilitated avoidance of direct person-to-person contact, which takes too much time. We maintain the illusion that we’re connected more closely than ever by the number of Facebook “likes” we accumulate. But it’s all fast, now, this instant. Everything is impulse. Our sense of connection exists in the action, not an accumulated, deepening experience.

Yikes! So, our relationships are unhealthily inauthentic and our capacity of obtaining information is declining! What are we to do? This mode of being is becoming more and more prevalent the more we succumb to the status quo. Does there need to be some type of revolt to end the madness?! Well, I think we have to really step back and ask ourselves “what really is important”? I know, to simple right? But I think this mind of contemplation is really key to getting us grounded back to a more healthy social atmosphere.

Look, we all have access to so much information at the tip of our fingers. It’s hard not to be addicted (yes I said it) to this extraordinary power! The thing we need to come to grasp with is that to really “connect”, we have to encounter flesh and blood relationships. This goes from the snip-its of information we obtain on Wikipedia–to our most avid “like” sessions on Facebook. There is nothing like the real McCoy.  True connection comes into full fruition when we stand face to face with either a real book (yes, try it sometimes) or a real person (I know it can be hard for us introverts). Actual contact matters! Lets get spiritual (within the material) here for a minute. When we understand that the true reality–Logos, the Christ–works through a “gathering” of people (Mat 18:20), we come to recognize the need for community.

Here is the paradox of this all.  I truly believe for us to come back to a more interrelated social structure, we first have to step back and center ourselves in the quietness of life.  The ever-present moment is calling us a species back to her folding arms. This reminds me of how surfers ride waves. Let’s see if this analogy works for you as it did for me (haha). As a rider of the waves myself (I just don’t like labels), I am constantly battling the on slot of the never-ending tide push of waves, when out paddling in the salty seas.  It is always seems that to really be present and ready for the ability to finally catch a wave, I first need to understand that this constant ripple of waves can be used as a very enjoyable ride of bliss.

It is a matter of practice and technique to finally find the perfect set, pass the break, to surf. See, there is a moment in all things of life where within the chaos, we can find a moment of mercy to go with it. In this, we discover a way that deeply matters and shapes us for the better. I can tell you first hand that there is nothing like starting your day off by catching an amazing wave of nature (yeah, I know, so cliché but I can give two shits hehe).

It reminds of this verse in Psalms:

Deep calls to deep at the sound of Your waterfalls; All Your breakers and Your waves have rolled over me.

Deep calls to deep! We have to awake to the things that matter in life. When the constant push of waves come over us, we have to learn to center ourselves back into the Divine Balance of the universe. When all else is spinning out of control, let us be reminded of Love and how it never fails to bring us home. Let us paddle with the waves of chaos and be energized by the ride that brings us to shore with mercy. Where we find people laying on the shores, enjoying the Sun of everlasting warmth, and laughing with others who are experiencing the stillness of life…

A healthy social life is found only when, in the mirror of each soul, the whole community finds its reflection, and when, in the whole community, the virtue of each one is living.

https://welcometothetablesite.wordpress.com/2019/04/19/waves-of-mercy/

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By Mike Edwards

Many don’t pursue God when what they imagine a good God should be like isn’t want many claim. In simple terms a moral hypocrite is one who treats others different than they wish to be treated. If you were gay and felt you had no choice in who you had feelings for any more than straights, wouldn’t you desire acceptance and respect concerning your consensual and loving relationships? God surely loves others like we humans know how we ought to love one another.

Are God’s morals the same as perfect human morals?

It is intuitive to think one claiming to be God must be morally perfect. The Bible tells us to be perfect like God (Mt. 5:48), but we can’t know what this means if we don’t know what perfect, moral love is. We can’t follow God’s example if God’s good is sometimes evil. God’s love surely is the same as perfect human love. God is morally perfect humanly-speaking.

Doesn’t God care to be understood and relatable?

I don’t know many who would claim a good God or the God of the Bible doesn’t desire a relationship. This is what makes the story of Genesis so moving. Other ancient near east creation stories tell a story of humans being held in contempt by the gods. The God of the Bible esteemed humans in the beginning and desired a close relationship. If God is claimed to be mysterious at times or God’s evil is good sometimes, how are we supposed to know and love like God?

We may only think God and human morals are different because of an inspired Book.  

It isn’t natural to think God has different moral expectation of themselves from those God created. That is why interpreters play the mystery card because they understand some explanation is required when their views of God are incompatible with most people’s idea of a loving God. Since they believe God gives us our mind and conscience, some rationalization is needed. God surely can’t be a moral hypocrite humanly-speaking.

It is true we don’t always agree what true or perfect love is.

Common moral, loving sense is not the enemy. Don’t let your interpretation of a Book, which could be wrong, override the golden rule with others of different gender, color, or sexuality. Terrorists or extremists justify immoral treatment of others by hiding behind a supposedly infallible Book. Even if the Bible is infallible, one must never claim their interpretations are infallible since they could be wrong. Actions of love are always more important than any beliefs you may have.

The God I know can’t be and isn’t a moral hypocrite!

I suppose some would condemn gays not because of a Book but because they think it isn’t natural. Listening and being open-mindedness though may change your mind. Please don’t judge when you can’t be certain. I can’t imagine one would think – except because one deems their interpretation of a Book inspired – that a woman shouldn’t be the CEO, priest, pastor, etc., if more qualified than the man. Loving others like you want to be loved is true, human, godly love!

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by Jim Gordon

Since doing the article on abuse in the church I have come across several people who have left the church system but not because of abuse. Unfortunately, abuse does happen and it is terrible especially within a place that should be known for its love.

Yet, even more than stories of abuse the one comment that seems to keep being said is that ‘I left because something just did not seem to be right. I felt there had to be more’.

I think this is a common feeling among those of us who have attended church for some time and have seen some things that just do not make sense. Sitting in a service once a week looking at the back of someone’s head does not make a lot of sense when in the bible we are told when we come together each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. Yet that does not happen. We all sit quietly listening to one person participate.

BetheChurch

God said he is building his Church from living stones, or in other words from us. Church is people. It is not a building nor an organization. We are the temple of the Holy Spirit and if the Spirit of Christ lives within us, why are we just sitting letting only a few participate?

Many people are coming to the realization that the organization we know as church is flawed and not what God intended. We seem to be putting our focus on the pastor and the organization rather than emphasizing the Spirit of Christ who lives within us. We are to allow him to love others through us as we go about our daily lives. People are getting tired of just sitting along the sidelines when we can walk daily with the Spirit of Christ walking with us.

The Church that God is building is a living organism, many people making up one body under the headship of Christ. The church that many attend is an organization made of brick and mortar, doctrines and denominations and led by human beings. Many good things happen in the church building but the body of Christ is an active, living body where everyone has an equal part to play. Rather than attend a pre-planned service once a week we are to be living daily under the guidance of the Spirit. It is by his power from within that we can show the love of God to everyone we meet.

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by Jim Gordon

Have you been hurt by the church? Have you been abused within the church? I know many have and that is terrible, but there are many more who have not. My wife and I are a couple of the many who were never abused or hurt within the church but we still left. There are many of us who have left the system, not due to abuse or hurt but we have come to see the system as flawed. We have come to find a better way to express our love for God and for our fellow mankind. For us it is walking outside the walls of religion yet following the example of Jesus by loving God and loving people, all without an ulterior motive of getting people to church. Do you have a similar story? If so we would be glad to hear about your steps to leaving the system. Feel free to post your comments below.

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by Jim Gordon

So often when I mention that my wife and I have left the organized church, people assume something happened to hurt us or make us mad or we were abused in some way. Just to be clear on this subject neither one of us have ever been abused or hurt by the church. Neither one of us are mad about some event or some person at church. I know there are people who have had bad experiences which sometimes includes abuse and I think that is terrible. Fortunately for us that is not the case.

Today we seem to hear much about sexual abuse and the catholic church although this can happen in any church system. We hear of people in power within the system taking advantage of their members for various reasons. Fortunately this is not the norm in most churches but is a real and terrible thing that happens way to often.

I actually had some very good times while within the church system. I made many good friends, learned about God and his love for me and had many fun and enjoyable experiences with the people who were part of the church system.

It is certainly not out of abuse or being hurt that my wife and I decided to leave the system. After nearly sixty years in the organization and after the last fifteen of those years feeling that something is not right with the system, we made the decision to leave and follow Christ outside the walls of religion. To be clear, this was our decision and we certainly do not expect everyone to agree or do the same thing. Many people are part of the organized church who truly love God and want to serve Him. After all, the religious system we know as church is all we know.

We believe the Church is a community of people and not a building nor a service held one day each week with paid professionals leading the service. We believe the Church is each of us who follow Christ and see him as the head. We are the temple of the Holy Spirit and each of us are equally functioning members making up his body.

WhatisChurch

We believe forsaking not the assembling of yourselves means we need one another. We live each day having fellowship with those God brings our way no matter where it happens. We never truly found real fellowship when we sat in an organized service for an hour looking at the back of the head of the person in front of us. We believe true fellowship is not just sitting together with other people in a room but it is daily loving, encouraging and praying for one another and meeting the needs of those we are able to help.

The temple in the Old Testament was only a shadow of what was to come in the New Testament. God now lives in us as his temple and he is our leader rather than another human being we call pastor. The only mediator between God and man was Jesus. He repaired the separation between God and man and we now have direct access to the Father without anyone in between. There is no hierarchy in the Church. Each of us are equally important parts of the body and able to teach, encourage, build up and pray for one another. It is truly a priesthood of all believers and not a one person show. Those with specific gifts for helping the Church are not better or more spiritual than the rest. They are brothers and sisters who walk along beside those who need encouragement. They are those who have learned a spiritual lesson and are there to help those who are still learning. They are servants among the body of Christ who are there to help and encourage.

So when I say that we have left the church it is only the building and organization I am talking about. We left not because we were mad, hurt or abused. We left because we believe the religious system most people call church is flawed and far from what God is building. He is building a group of people who will daily follow Him outside the walls of religion and organizations of men, loving God with all their heart, soul, strength and mind, loving their neighbor and accepting all they meet along the way.

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By Mike Edwards

I don’t have to convince anyone that God does or doesn’t exist. God can speak to the hearts of individuals on their own. That billions are convinced there is a loving God cannot be declared definitely irrational or delusional. It is not irrational either to ask if God is real, why doesn’t God clinch the argument by making their Presence obvious? I would encourage those who believe in a relational God to not stand in the way of others and speak for God declaring any beliefs are required by God to consider a relationship.

God doesn’t require any belief!  

I am convinced God only wishes for all to consider the possibility of a loving God who desires to help you in your journey of becoming the person deep down you want to become. Loving, human parents don’t require certain beliefs from their children before hoping they will consider if they love them. Are we better lovers than God? 

You certainly don’t have to believe in magical trees and talking snakes.

No one was there with Adam or Eve to know literally what took place. Genesis isn’t necessarily a scientific explanation about Creation but about a relationship with the Creator. Flood stories appeared in ancient literature before Genesis. The global flood story could describe a regional flood in hyperbolic terms to convey moral, spiritual food for thought. God doesn’t require literal belief in any event in the Bible or else! Now if God physically appears raising your friend from the dead, you may want to consider!

You don’t have to believe Jesus resurrected from the dead.

I know the above statement is extremely offensive to many, but I care more about those who want to believe in a God but struggle with certain requirements as opposed to those who are already convinced a loving God is real. Jesus told followers He was coming back from the dead and they didn’t believe Him. And they supposedly witnessed miracles beforehand to have less doubts such a claim was possible.

I would like to think more of us if we witness a man or woman coming back from the grave after being killed that we would think their message such as claiming to be the son of God would be believed. But, none of us lived during biblical times so we will not have such an opportunity. I happen to believe the historical evidence is credible that Jesus rose from the grave, but God can handle doubts or skepticism.

You don’t have to believe that Jesus was the Son of God.

Many insist that Jesus was both God and man. Some can’t logically wrap their heads around Jesus being both man and God. Exactly how does one do that chromosomally? Isn’t it logically impossible to be God and not God? Some may be willing to accept that Jesus was an extraordinary man who epitomized who God was. Why can’t we begin there as a discussion as to what teachings and actions of Jesus seem to represent what a loving God is like?

Doesn’t God at least require the Law of Love?

I have written before that the only belief God requires is love. I would say that differently now. God doesn’t demand love but only seeks to encourage unselfish love which leads to personal freedom. God know what we know – the road traveled of learning, reflecting, and freely choosing convictions over time is what leads to genuine, lasting love.

Didn’t Jesus require belief for eternal life?

When Jesus was asked directly by a religious expert how to have eternal life, Jesus didn’t talk about escaping torture after death. Please see HERE that the Bible says nothing about the traditional understanding of Hell. Jesus replied to simply 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. Jesus’ message wasn’t about requiring certain beliefs but avoiding consequences in life here on earth through destructive choices. This is the message of any loving parent!

What beliefs about God are worth insisting upon to others?  

There is no belief about God you should impose upon others. You could be wrong. God is big enough to prove themselves to those interested. You don’t even have to insist God is loving. A tyrannical God isn’t worth believe in. I surely am not as perfect or loving of a parent as God is, but even I don’t require my children accept any of my beliefs or else. Even I understand controlling through fear than proving my love doesn’t lead to true change and intimacy.

 

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