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Archive for June, 2019

by Jim Gordon

Galatians 2:16 – nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus

We Christians so often spend our time working at trying to obey the Ten Commandments and trying to do the right thing when in actuality we do not need to be trying to keep the law at all.

We know we are saved by grace but we will still try to mix in some good works by our own effort. We go to church every time the door is open, we tithe our ten percent, we will not smoke, drink, dance or go to movies. We look down and condemn those who do not do what we feel the Bible commands. We feel guilty every time we mess up and think God is going punish us if we do not do everything we know is right to do as Christians. It is all work, work, work.

What happened to grace? What happened to being saved through faith in Christ and Him alone. Not Jesus plus works, not Jesus plus baptism, not Jesus plus obeying the law. We are saved through faith in Christ and we do not have to do any of these things. We do not have to avoid certain things to be loved by God. We have a freedom in Christ that was bought and paid for with the death and resurrection of Jesus. That does not mean we just live our lives doing whatever we want, but we live in the freedom we have through grace. We do things out of love, love for God and love for others. It is no longer out of obligation or trying to follow the law.

Let’s stop putting all the rules and regulations on ourselves and others that we think will make us better people. Let’s stop adding a mixture of law and grace by trying to earn the love of God by our works. Let’s start loving God and loving others and enjoy the freedom God has provided by his grace.

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By Mike Edwards

Beliefs claimed about God lead to many tuning out God. Our relationship with God cannot exceed our understanding of God. I have written HERE how we can decide what God is really like. One’s interpretation of a Book may be the only reason to think human and godly perfection are different. Why would a Creator not love us and others how we were seemingly created to love others?

Common moral sense would never put men in authority over women.

Most would agree equalitarian rather than hierarchical relationships are less likely to lead to the mistreatment of women. Many husbands assume leadership means making final decisions in an impasse. Best friends, in marriage or other dyad relationships, don’t require a leader. I have never had an issue in 37 years of marriage that cannot be solve creatively without one partner making all such decisions.  Jesus said the first shall be last, but most men don’t interpret this to mean their wife is the final decision-maker. Women need men with the heart of a servant (Eph. 5:28-29).

Isn’t it obvious the most qualified or gifted should be appointed CEO? Few would dare justify only allowing men in leadership roles in business; I doubt God feels any different who the preacher or priest is. Does God really not trust women to handle the Truth! Let’s stand on the side that is potentially less abusive to half of God’s creations.

Doesn’t the Bible though argue for loving authority?

It is said that the Apostle Paul, who wrote a lot of the New Testament, teaches men have spiritual authorities women don’t. Some may be unaware the Bible can be interpreted to endorse roles according to gifts not gender. See here. Paul affirmed and didn’t condemn women praying and prophesying (I Cor. 11:4-5). Paul mentions in practically the same breath that roles are according to one’s gifts and doesn’t mention gender (I Cor. 12:4-11). Romans 16 is only one of many chapters in the Bible that speaks of women in leadership roles, similar to both Priscilla and Aquila teaching Apollos (Acts 18:26). Passages like this presuppose that women can teach men.

Did Paul really use the example of Adam and Eve to suggest a universal model for leadership to avoid women leading men astray (I Tim. 2:12-15)? It is just as likely Paul used the first couple as an example of what to avoid – Eve prevailing upon Adam to go against God’s ways. But, if such a sin keeps women from preaching for eternity, maybe men shouldn’t preach either. Besides, Paul says Adam was responsible for what happened in the garden (Rom. 5:12). Paul in this same Timothy passage advises women to avoid certain hairstyles or jewelry (I Tim: 2:9), but seldom do churches make the same prohibitions as they do women teaching.

God can’t be bias toward gender or skin color.

I am not sure why any fair-minded person would think women can’t fulfill the same leadership roles as men in the spiritual or work realm unless believing a Book teaches this is God’s will for humankind. Most would agree not allowing equal roles because of the color of your skin born with is immoral. I would suggest denying women equal roles, because of the gender born, is emotional abuse if they are gifted to lead. A good God surely doesn’t advocate racism or favoritism. I am going to stand on the side that is potentially less abusive to half of God’s creations. 

Even in the Old Testament female leadership isn’t condemned.  

OT times, where patriarchal and female concubines were rampant, would likely be an era to speak against female leaders. The role of a prophet was clearly a mouthpiece for the very words and council of God. Miriam, the sister of Aaron, was a prophet (Ex 15:20) who help lead Israel (Mic. 6:4). Huldad also was a prophet (2 Kings 22:14; 2 Chron. 34:22). Queen Esther had great influence and clear authority (Esther 7-10). Deborah was a prophet (Judg. 4:4) who also served as a Judge of Israel, which was the highest leader position in Israel at this time. Such an authoritative role by a woman may not have been common in a patriarchal world but the text offers no condemnation. The OT recognizes a place for women in roles of civil authority and as spokespersons for God. Saying “a woman’s place is only in the home” is not a biblical one.

What about God’s gender and Jesus’?

But Jesus was a male and God is our heavenly Father! If people already didn’t listen to Jesus in the first century do you think they would listen to a female Jesus? Jesus encouraged equality between the sexes against culture norms. The gods of the nations in biblical times were described as either male or female. By contrast, the Jews did not speculate about the “masculinity” of God, and God is never ever referred to as male. We must be careful to not assume God is more male simply because our English translations use male pronouns when referring to God. God was also described both like a woman in childbirth (Isaiah 42:14), a mother who does not forget the child she nurses (Isaiah 49:14-15). Both male and female best describe God’s image (Genesis 1:26). A reason for more male references by the biblical writers is likely because of the patriarchal cultures the writers lived in. 

There are so many reasons to not encourage men having authority over women.  

One person wrote to the editor of a newspaper “…it’s been bothering me since 9/11. What’s the difference between the strain of Islam that proscribes gender roles and its counterpart in Christianity that does the same thing, albeit with a different set of prohibitions? Religious extremists would rather be dead than advise husbands to love their wives as their own bodies as the Apostle Paul did (Eph. 5:28). In any religion justification of the different treatment of women from men is usually because of a Holy Book that speaks for God. Common moral sense is assumed to be the enemy.  I haven’t only argued my view according to the Bible. Literature always requires interpretation, so we must use common moral sense as well. Appointing men in authority over women can be conducive for domestic abuse and other atrocities women face at the hands of men.

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by Rocky Glenn

As I shared in You Are Not Alone, since my recovery from being a churchboy began, I have encountered countless others that are walking a similar path.  I’ve since learned this path has been given the term “deconstructing.”  I heard it said just a couple of days ago that deconstructing your faith has now become the fashionable or “in” thing to do.  Although I can look back over the past four to six years and say I have definitely been deconstructing my faith, in my four decades of life I have never been one to do something just because it’s considered fashionable, popular, cool, or the latest trend.  (That’s not because I refuse to follow the crowd, part of being a churchboy is being so opposite and opposed to popular culture that you aren’t accepted as part of that crowd!!)

On several occasions in the gospels, Jesus tells us that if one seeks to save or keep his life he will lose it but if he loses his life he shall save it.  Although I did not realize it at the time this journey began, losing my life is exactly what has been going on with me.  It’s been a journey of questioning what I’ve known since a child and seeking answers for why as Christians we act certain ways and do (or more specifically don’t do) certain things, at least in public where others will see!  The ironic and upside down part of all this is I thought that by living the churchboy life, I had chosen to lose my life.  After all, I played by all the rules, said all the right things, and played the part as well as any human could.  In fact, in losing my life being a churchboy, I had lost so much life if it weren’t for the fact that I was conscious and breathing, I don’t even know if you could say I was living!  Life was a constant pressure cooker of looking the right way, saying the right thing, not giving the appearance of evil, not judging that person, not saying what you think, and definitely not letting anyone know you were human!  After all, we must be perfect because our Father in heaven is perfect (Perfect Imperfection). The sad part about this is I thought that was the best life anyone could ever live.

It all changed when I learned God loved me.  Oh yeah, the churchboy knew that Jesus had died for me and I was going to heaven when I died because I had my “fire insurance” and had asked Him to forgive my sins, and He lived in my heart, but there was no way he actually loved me.  I mean, sure, He would love me if I became what He wanted me to be, but there was no way He loved me as I was.  I had more scriptures to memorize.  I had a ministry to build.  I had souls to save.  There was work for the kingdom that must be done and I was the one who must do it!  What a load of garbage!  I have lost that life, if that’s what you can really call it.

Losing that life means life now looks a lot different for me than before.  Life is now about losing those rules and lists of do’s and don’ts that religion forces upon you and tells you must stay within in order to be accepted.  Losing my life means I’ve lost the need to try to become acceptable because I know I’m already accepted.  Losing my life means I’ve lost the need to try and change to be loved because I’m already loved.  (For more on this, see He Still Loves Me.)

Matthew 16:25 says, “If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.”  By living the churchboy life and trying to do it on my own, I was trying to hang on to my life and didn’t even realize it.  So, when I realized how much He truly loved me, there was nothing I could do to ever change that, and He loved me as I am and not for who He wanted me to be, I gave up my life.

How has this saved my life?  Life is now about living in His love and sharing that love with others.  At home, at work, in traffic, waiting in line at the grocery store, dealing with the server at the restaurant who has clearly had a rough day, every situation is an opportunity to share that love.  It doesn’t require a sermon.  No scripture verses or references have to be mentioned.  In fact, you don’t even have to mention God or Jesus at all.  It can be as simple as a smile, as kind as looking someone in the eye and asking how they are doing, as pleasant as a gentle answer.  Love looks a lot like generosity and kindness.  Love gives without seeking anything in return.  Love is for the benefit of others.  Saving your life in this manner produces peace, joy, and freedom that can only be described when you experience it yourself.

To tell you that I have truly mastered this and express love in every interaction and live constantly in that peace, joy, and freedom would be just another futile attempt of the churchboy in saving my life and making myself appear as something I am not, but I will strive daily to continue losing my life and finding it in His love.

Rocky

(This post originally written January 28, 2018.)

 

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by Jim Gordon

When thinking about all that is going on today about gay rights and transgender rights, I have found that most of the time both groups are majorly discriminated against. Often it is christian people who do a lot of the discriminating.

Many christians seem to think it is best to come against these two groups as a way of showing that we are in favor of christian values and we take a stand for God. Personally, as a christian I think this is completely wrong and so against what Jesus taught and showed us in regard to how to treat people. He accepted and spent time with all kinds of people, mostly people who the religious crowd would not even talk to let alone spend time.

Why is it we think taking a stand against someone or something is the way to show true christian love and acceptance? Why is it in a world with so many diverse people and beliefs we feel the need to openly defend our way as if it is the only way?

As a christian I do believe in living for God and showing His love to everyone. That does not mean everything I do and believe is right. That does not mean other people and beliefs are wrong. No matter what we choose to believe or how we choose to live, everyone deserves to be treated with respect and accepted as is.

A good friend of mine is a firefighter and he shared a paragraph from an ethics class he recently attended. It reads: ‘Equal Services for All. Always ensure that the services you and your crew are providing are equal for everyone on the scene. Never discriminate because of race, color, religion, age, sex, or disability. If you become aware of another firefighter discriminating against someone, rectify the situation immediately and report it to your chief. Discrimination should never be tolerated’. To me this sounds more like it came from Jesus telling his followers how to treat others.

I believe that taking a stand for christian values should be positive not negative. It is not showing what we are against, being mean, condemning, unaccepting and discriminating. It is showing what we are for in Christ, being caring, kind, showing love and acceptance to everyone.

We certainly are not all going to agree on everything. We are all going to make our choices on what to believe and how to live based on what we feel is right or best for us. Yet in those differences there is no reason we cannot respect, accept and love each other knowing that God loves each and every one of us.

It is time to set aside our differences, set aside discrimination, set aside prejudices and doctrinal beliefs and show the love of God to everyone we meet.

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by Jordan Hathcock, Guest Blogger
https://welcometothetablesite.wordpress.com

We Americans are easily impressed by all things big and successful. We find it almost impossible to gainsay that which has massive popular endorsement. So the assumption is that if a particular message can fill churches and arenas and propel books onto bestseller lists, then it must be a good thing. – Brian Zahnd

Bigger, stronger and faster, it’s the only way to survive and thrive in the good old USA. It has become the mantra of modern-day capitalism. The consumerism culture thrives on the constant banter of “we want it now and more of it”! We as a species have been leading the charge and now are seeing the horrible and harmful effects in our communities and environment.

Within the Christian platform, we have seen how using this consumer culture tactic, enables devastating spiritual and physical carnage. The Mega Church has become the mascot of this mass consumption crusade through its ideologies and practices. Now, every entity has its anomalies (like all things in life). There are some heathy and good results coming from mega churches, no doubt (I have experienced it firsthand). But, from an overarching perspective, the fruit of the mega church doesn’t look so good.

Here are just a few examples of what happens when the tribalistic big church group think runs the show:

– Too big to fail

– Prohibits intellectual diversity

– Pastor egomaniac syndrome

– Misappropriated funds

– Sexual misconduct

All of this leads to unhealthy relationships which then produces unhealthy communities. When we make church a “corporation”, we open-up all the rules and regulations that need a corporation to be successful. It comes more of a place to compete instead of a place to heal. When this becomes the priority (bigger and better) we lose the capacity to really step into discipleship (loving the least of these).

Just recently, we have seen this model of church cause great harm and pain. The Village Church and its head pastor Matt Chandler were caught up in a tragic incident that resulted in sexual abuse. On Feb. 17, 2018, Ms. Bragg and her husband, reported to the Village that their daughter, at about age 11, had been sexually abused at the church’s summer camp for children. Since then, Matthew Tonne, who was the church’s associate children’s minister, had been investigated by the police, indicted and arrested on charges of sexually molesting Ms. Bragg’s daughter. [1.]

With this devastating tragedy, you would expect any ethical organization (especially a church) to do whatever it takes to bring justice to this girl and her family. Not only that, but love and support from the leadership. This never happened as Ms. Bragg stated:

Ms. Bragg waited for church leaders to explain what had happened and to thoroughly inform other families in the congregation. She waited for the Village to take responsibility and apologize. She waited to have even one conversation with Mr. Chandler, a leader she had long admired.

But none of that ever came.

“You can’t even take care of the family you know,” she remembered thinking as she walked out of the large auditorium. “Don’t tell more victims to come to you, because you’re just going to cause more hurt.”[2.]

AHHH! This is fucking unacceptable! How can you sleep at night Village clergy?! Matt Chandler, where are you at?! How does it come to this? Well, I think what we see here is when you are part of a non-stop “bigger, stronger, faster” locomotive church model, you plow through anything that gets in your way (disregarding all collateral damage). When you run a community based on American consumerism ethics, you become too big to fail and will not accept defeat. The machine has too much of a good thing going to worry about a little sexual abuse…what a diabolical program.

What’s the lesson we can learn from all of this? I don’t know but I think we need to realize the danger when it comes to our hyper competitive consumer culture. If we claim to participate in the divine love of the universe that engulfs the air we breathe and the people we trust, we must create healthy spaces for Christs collective to grow. This earth in time and space and the forever now that lies between is to important and precious to ignore. We must humble ourselves and let go of our egos to let the Spirit guide us to new heights. It’s the least of these that we are here to serve, not the power-hungry tyrants and their cutthroat empires…

But the modern-day church doesn’t like to wander or wait. The modern-day church likes results. Convinced the gospel is a product we’ve got to sell to an increasingly shrinking market, we like our people to function as walking advertisements: happy, put-together, finished—proof that this Jesus stuff WORKS! At its best, such a culture generates pews of Stepford Wife–style robots with painted smiles and programmed moves. At its worst, it creates environments where abuse and corruption get covered up to protect reputations and preserve image. – Rachel Held Evans

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By Mike Edwards

I am convinced there are beliefs claimed about God that lead to many tuning out God. Our relationship with God cannot exceed our understanding of God. I have written HERE how we can decide what God is really like. One’s understanding of a Book may be the only reason to think human and godly perfection are different.  Why would a Creator not love us and others how we were seemingly created to love others? God surely loves, not condemns, gays!

Many people of faith only condemn gays because they think the Bible does?  

Many of us were taught to believe God condemns gays because the Bible says so. Some may be unaware biblical scholars who respect the Bible believe Scriptures do not condemn gay monogamous relationships. See here. The truth is literature require interpretations which are not infallible. We must not condemn gays because of a Book. Ever moral fiber in my body thinks a loving God can’t condemn gays when they can no more choose who they love than straights can.

It just isn’t natural!

Why would anyone choose a lifestyle subject to rejection and abuse? None of us decided one day to be attracted to the same or opposite sex. It is proven or we can at least say science isn’t conclusive why we have desires for the same or opposite sex (Karen Keen, Scripture, Ethics And The Possibility Of Same-Sex Relationships, Chapter 7). It is a myth that sexual choices are always the result of some trauma or rebellion in our lives. If we don’t know why one has feelings for the same sex, we mustn’t speculate or judge but love instead.

God can’t be a psychological abuser. 

We know the psychological harm done when one must hide their sexuality because of bigotry and hostility. So, shouldn’t we be guided by love – how should I treat others if I had the same non-choices? The harm isn’t in being gay, the harm is in condemning others for being gay. Mental health problems aren’t because one is gay but because one is force to hide their true identify or face rejection and condemnation.

God can’t be a family destroyer.

It is impossible to not feel unloved and rejected when someone says “I love you but I hate your sin.” Most parents’ hearts break when they think their devotion to God requires them to give their child some version of “love the sinner, hate the sin” speech. Our moral intuitions tell most that God is not bias against females, people of color, or gays. A parent need not reject a gay child according to the Bible. The Bible is silent on monogamous same sex relationships, while supporting relationships that show love and concern for one another.

What does the most common biblical passage used to condemn gays say?

In Romans 1 the motivation for same-sex relations was because of excessive lust not love. The writer possibly had in mind what he saw around him – men having sex with boys or sex with male slaves. Sexual behaviors that are abusive, unequal, controlling, mindless, selfish engagements, as opposed to consensual monogamous relationships, are immoral to any rational human being. The church acts as if all gay relationships are the same; opposite gender relationships aren’t!

What did Jesus say?  

Matthew 19 and Mark 10 are said to suggest Jesus condemned homosexual relationships by using Adam and Eve as the original intent and norm for marriage. The context is Pharisees citing Moses to justify divorce. Jesus used the example the audience were familiar with – Adam and Eve. Jesus spoke out against casual attitudes about marriage. Isn’t permanence in marriage, if couples continue to act loving to one another, in the best interest of couples and children? We cannot say definitively Jesus is condemning same-sex relationships who don’t have a lackadaisical attitude toward marriage. Jesus is an advocate for commitment and keeping two together. Male/female marriage only is not the issue.

What about Sodom and Gomorrah?

The Sodom and Gomorrah story may be the easiest to dispute when it comes to biblical interpretation. Genesis 19 and Judges 19 are stories about men seeking to assault male guests receiving hospitality in a local household. In both stories women horribly are offered as an alternative for sexual pleasure which should caution us against applications of these stories. Besides, the story is about gang rape and as has nothing to do about loving, consensual, same-sex relationships (David P. Gushee, Changing Our Mind, Chapter 11).

Calling out gays is hypocrisy anyway even if believing Bible condemns gays.  

It is common to refer to Paul’s list of sins to call out homosexuality but fail to call out the greedy and slanderers (I Cor. 6: 9-10). Unless you are homeless chances are you have been greedy more than once this week by keeping more than you need and not giving the rest to those struck by tragedies. When I see you, remind me to say “I love you, but I hate your behaviors.” Church folks condemn gay relationships but they get divorced half the time. Let’s spend our time getting the log out of our own eye before condemning gay couples who are committed!

So, anything goes!

Let’s don’t insult others by comparing homosexuality to pedophilia, bestiality, etc. Sex with children is not the same thing. Friends are coming to us about themselves or their children about a very personal matter, and they are speaking about consensual, adult relationships. There are no victims in consensual love. So, we can’t hate any sin? Hating homosexual sex is only loving if homosexual sex is sinful. Hating alcoholic behavior is loving because alcohol abuse really is harmful. 

Gays of course can marry.  

Procreation isn’t a criteria for marriage. We don’t deny infertile couples the right to marry. It is argued the world could not have populated in the beginning! We are no longer in that situation and the world will continue to populate because not all couples are gay. We have unwanted children who need loving couples. Is adoption by a same sex or different sex couple not a better situation than groups homes or orphanages? Many gay couples are far better parents than many opposite sex parents. Don’t worry! Loving couples don’t try to scare a child straight or gay.

The Apostle Paul who wrote most of the New Testament doesn’t encourage celibate life as some holy grail.  Paul in fact offered marriage as an outlet if unable to control passions (I Cor. 7). It is hard to deny most of us wish to enjoy the pleasure of marital sex and have a hard time being faithful otherwise. Why would God condemn same-sex marriages if the Bible doesn’t condemn or consider same-sex, faithful relationships?

Why I Doubt God Is An Excluder Of Religions!

Why I Doubt Heaven Is Closed  To Anyone After Death!

Why I Doubt Hell Is Real!

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by Susan Adams
https://blog.gracepodcast.cafe/surveying-the-carnage/
https://gracepodcast.cafe/about-us/

I’ve been thinking a lot about the carnage that has come out of evangelicalism. More specifically, Reformed theology, Calvinism, the homeschooling movement, the purity culture, and complimentarianism.

Who has suffered the most?  I believe without hesitation, that the children raised in these systems have been and continue to be, its greatest casualties.  We continue to receive emails from parents who have been broken by the system and who have grown children who have walked away from the faith and sometimes into atheism or agnosticism. Some of these children cut their parents off for a season.  Some, permanently. It’s painful, but I think necessary for the child to figure out who they are apart from how they were raised.  Some feel as though they have been brain washed their whole lives.  And maybe so.  Did we present one set of beliefs and hold them hostage to those beliefs, living in fear that they would somehow be corrupted by the world or even worse, another church with different theology?

I’m thinking too of the many who homeschooled like we did.  Many believed they were raising up little warriors for God.  Girls were taught that their value before God hinged on their presenting themselves as virgins to a man.  And if they weren’t virgins on their wedding day, they were damaged goods, considered less than.  They were also taught that their entire identity as women was gauged by their constant submission to a man, regardless of how abusive the relationship might become. They were compelled to follow that man, helping him to achieve all of his hopes and dreams while she stayed home and had babies.  I’m not saying that staying home and having babies is bad, I’m thankful I was able to stay home with my children.  But what if I had a choice to pursue my dreams too?

So not only were they held hostage to our theology, but to our worldview and political agendas as well.  We presented a life and a God that fit neatly in a box. Our children lost their identity, if they had ever known it to begin with.  I see one of the biggest results of being raised like this is anxiety and sometimes depression along with it.  They don’t know who they are.  They don’t know what it’s like to be belong to something, only how to fit in so they can be accepted.

So they leave.  Leave the church and sometimes their families.  And many leave their faith and sometimes stop believing there’s a God.

I came from a broken home.  Deserted by my dad.  Raised by an abusive alcoholic.  I was a shattered human when I met Jesus.  So why was I able to have an adult relationship with my parents and care for them when they died?  What’s the difference?  Why are kids who were raised in homes where divorce didn’t happen, where mom stayed home to cook and clean for them and sometimes homeschooled them, walking away from it all?

So I think for me, even though I was abused as a child, often told I was worthless and would amount to nothing, when I met Jesus  He was presented to me as a Savior, not a judge.  Loving, not critical.  And so I experienced real healing and I understood real forgiveness.  I was not a disappointment to God.  So I had someone to go to after my abuse – Jesus. 

I think the difference is their perception of who God is.  From an early age these kids have had it drilled into their heads that God is a legalistic God who is easily offended, usually angry, disappointed, and vindictive.  And our children are taught to conform.  They are taught to drink the Kool-Aid  and if they don’t they are labeled as the rebellious ones.  The outsiders. The outcasts.  That’s a lot for children to grow up under.  That’s a lot of expectations put on the small shoulders of children.  They aren’t encouraged to find out who they are but instead told to be like those we want them to be like.

And let’s not forget that each child in our families is different,  unique in their temperaments and personalities.  That while some kids seemingly make it through and carry on the traditions, their siblings may have been crushed and broken under the weight of it all.  But when we say our children have walked away I believe you can never leave Jesus.  Nothing separates us from him.  He’s with them.  He’s got them.

When this generation of kids hit rock bottom, who do they run too?  The God they’ve been told about isn’t loving.  He’s disappointed in them. So they leave.  Leave it all.  You may be thinking this isn’t true.  This isn’t what was taught!  Until we’re willing to admit that this was the message caught nothing will change.  At some point we need to examine why this is happening in such large numbers.  I think we need to admit our culpability in this.

So what do we do now? How do we handle what’s happened to our children?  We love them.  We support them.  We give them space when they ask.  We respect their boundaries.  We be there for them when they come back.  We don’t expect this to happen fast. It may takes years but we love.  We pray they can see how kind and sweet Jesus is.  We don’t judge.  We don’t try and fix.  We just be there.  Accepting them as they are.  Just like Jesus did with me back when I first met him.  He continues to accept me just as I am.  No matter where they are, we love, we support and we respect their journey.

I regret ever having raised my children in religion.  I wish I would have looked at each one as the unique person they were created to be and encouraged them to live their lives.  I wish I would have never picked up a Christian parenting book or program where the only goal was to tame and train children to live in a box.  A box created by a religion of morality. 

When I was at my darkest  and I thought I had lost everything, a very wise friend said to me – “Just because its like this now, doesn’t mean this is what it will be like five years from now or even a year from now.” She was right.  So I encourage you to rest in the One who loves your children far more than you ever will or could.

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By Mike Edwards

I am convinced there are beliefs claimed about God that lead to many tuning out God. Our relationship with God cannot exceed our understanding of God. I have written HERE how we can decide what God is really like. One’s understanding of a Book may be the only reason to think human and godly perfection are different.  Why would a Creator not love us and others how we were seemingly created to love others? God surely isn’t a hellish, sadistic torturer!

The Old Testament says nothing about Hell.

The Hebrew word Sheol in the Old Testament is wrongly translated as Hell. Sheol was used to describe a place of darkness occupied by the dead regardless of beliefs, not a torture chamber for unbelievers. Job, an extremely righteous man in God’s eyes, desired to go there to escape his tremendous suffering (10:21-22). God only warned Adam and Eve about death, not Hell, if eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Noah failed to warn evildoers about Hell before their death by Flood. The popular understanding of Hell is not in the OT. Recent translations simply translate Sheol as “Sheol.”

Jesus said nothing about Hell.

One reason many may not believe God eventually convinces all about Heaven is because Hell supposedly exist. Jesus used the Greek word Gehenna, that has been translated into the word Hell, maybe 3-4 unique occasions to disciples or religion leaders and never to a big crowd. Gehenna was the name of a real valley near Jerusalem that was filled with garbage and even dead bodies. Fires were set to get rid of the garbage and smell. We don’t normally translate names of valleys with a different name. Gehenna should be translated as Gehenna. Jesus used the word Gehenna symbolically to illustrate what kinds of lives here on earth lead to hellish living, not what happens to people in the afterlife. Hell’s non-existence allows hope for heaven for all.

The Apostle Paul, who wrote a lot of the New Testament, never once warned this dire fate! 

But, the Book of Revelation speaks of a Lake of Fire!

The Bible only suggest that believers and unbelievers will face some kind of judgment after death. Fire in the Bible is used more metaphorically than a literal fire where people are tortured forever after death. The Book of Revelation is the only place Lake of Fire is mentioned, but if dragons with seven heads are considered figuratively why wouldn’t the Lake of Fire be a metaphor? Why would a loving God torture anyone forever since such pain serves no lasting purpose? Hitler was condemned for torturing millions of Jews for a brief time; God is said to torture billions not briefly but forever. A moral God can’t be a hellish, sadistic, torturer!

Don’t people need the fear of God to change?

Fear only leads to trying to avoid getting caught. God’s continual encouragement and mercy, not the fear of Hell or gloomy uncertainty of God’s favor, is our necessary nourishment for lasting changes of the heart. One may argue if certain beliefs aren’t required for Heaven, people will do whatever the hell they want on earth. Fearing God in the OT was the same as respecting God’s ways to avoid personal heartbreak and the destruction of others. How real is faith if only to avoid Hell? Genuine changes result when knowing you are deeply loved by a parent or God empowering you to reflect such love to others.

Can there be justice there is no hell and all go to heaven?

Punishment doesn’t bring back a victim’s robbed memories of the future due to the murder of a loved one. Real justice is understanding your victim’s pain and accepting the harmfulness of your actions. After death God may bring to memory every action of betrayal and how it felt to their victims. The cleansing and educative effect may take longer for some than others. Humans like God may forgive their enemies if they truly regret their actions and seek forgiveness. Justice from a fair, merciful God is possible despite people being given a second chance after death.

There are many reasons to doubt Hell is real other than because not in the Bible!

  • Hell opposes our created moral sense. Most don’t want to believe or act as if Hell is real. Wouldn’t we all be yelling like lunatics to family, friends and strangers to avoid Hell? Hell only exist because interpretations of a supposed infallible Book are alleged infallible.
  • Hell encourages hidden agendas in relationships which we despise. If Hell is true, we must always have a hidden agenda to convince friends to accept our beliefs to avoid destruction.
  • Hell can lead to a violent view of God. God’s justification of violence to be appeased has led to excusing our own violent solutions in the name of justice.
  • Hell makes it seems as if we humans are better lovers than God. Most of us would not treat our enemies, much less our children, the way God supposedly treats unbelievers and their creations.

Why I Doubt God Is An Excluder Of Religions!

Why I Doubt Heaven Is Closed  To Anyone After Death!

 

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by Norm Mitchell, Guest Blogger
https://thewildfrontier.wordpress.com/

How is it that humans, who all have the same basic needs, can disagree so fiercely about what is right and what is wrong? It amazes me how different our opinions can be on what exactly constitutes right and wrong. And of course, we all are thoroughly convinced that we are correct.

We each think that we know what is right, yet in the defense of our beliefs, we have a tendency to be awfully vicious to each other. This is not new. Humans have done this from the beginning.

To be sure, there are those few out there who have wholly committed to doing evil—to hurting others for their own profit or pleasure. But probably more evil has been done by the rest of us in the name of good or in the name of God. This concept deserves some serious consideration, but I’ll save that for another time.

On the surface, we are all concerned about what is right, what is fair, and what is just. Yet when we try to nail down exactly which actions are good and which are bad, none of us agree.

Ironically, this is what started humanity down the violent course we are on. The problem is not that some people are good and some are evil. The problem is that in our efforts to define good and evil, we conceive evil.

So in the name of being pro-life, we deprecate those who are pro-abortion. In the name of women’s rights, we vilify those who are anti-abortion. In the name of Christianity, we disparage homosexuals. And in the name of gay rights, we malign those who think that homosexuality is unhealthy. We say that we are pro-tolerance—except toward the intolerant. And we say that it is wrong to oppress others—unless they are oppressors. And we’re anti-hate—except when we hate the haters.

And so the cycle of conflict twists and seethes in a downward spiral that threatens to suck us into an inescapable vortex of our own making.

So here’s the dilemma: two diametrically opposed concepts can’t be true under the same conditions at the same time. Homosexuality, abortion, oppression, social justice—these things can’t be both right and wrong at the same time. So who is right? And does it matter?

I would say that what is right does matter—who is right does not. The endless quarreling is convincing nobody. Those who have firmly held opinions about any given issue will not change their opinion simply because someone passionately disagrees with them. The arguing is unproductive and has become a wedge that is driving us further apart. So where does that leave us? We could continue to use the legal system to coerce others to behave the way we think they should behave and pray that dirty politics is the most devastating result of our conflict. But perhaps there’s a better way.

It seems to me that, when it comes to questions of morality, the better way is to seek the highest Good—that is, to seek God above all else. When we do that, we will be moving in the right direction. Does that guarantee that we will all agree on what is right and what is wrong?

Unfortunately, no, we still will not all agree. But even in our disagreement, if we are truly seeking God, we will begin to treat each other with love. We will never bridge the gap between us until we decide to love each other. We will never understand someone else’s opposing point of view until we see them through the lens of love.

Yet too often, we place conditions on love. (I’ll love you when you see abortion the way I see it. I’ll love you when you see women’s rights the way I see them.) The love must come first. Only when we choose to love others, regardless of their opinions, will we begin to understand them.

Choosing to love others does not mean that we have to compromise our beliefs. We do not have to do or support things that we believe are wrong. But we can still reach out in love to those who do not agree with us. Will everyone behave this way? Unfortunately, no. But those who follow Christ should lead by example in this matter.

Above all, we must love each other. Love will facilitate understanding, which will, in turn, further break down barriers. When we choose to love others regardless of their opposing viewpoints, we will discover that love is the mechanism that God has provided to help us transcend our differences.

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By Mike Edwards

I am convinced there are beliefs claimed about God that lead to many tuning out God. Our relationship with God cannot exceed our understanding of God. I have written HERE how we can decide what God is really like. One’s understanding of a Book may be the only reason to think human and godly perfection are different.  Why would a Creator not love us and others how we were seemingly created to love others?

A Universalist believes God welcomes all to spend eternity in Heaven after death here on earth. Some may make a choice here on earth to have a relationship with their Creator and continue on after death. Some may not believe in God here on earth but misconceptions about God will be cleared up when meeting God. Some believe in Purgatory where some exist until convinced of God’s true love for them. The truth is only God knows what happens after death. Be open-minded!

Hell, as a place for unbelievers, doesn’t really exist according to the Bible.

One main reason many don’t believe in universalism is because Hell supposedly exist. A Book may be the only place one would think such a place exist. Jesus used the Greek word Gehenna that was translated into the word Hell in some of our Bibles. Gehenna was the name of a real valley near Jerusalem that was filled with garbage and even dead bodies. Fires were set to get rid of the garbage and smell. We don’t normally translate names of valleys with a different name. Gehenna should be translated as Gehenna. Jesus used the word Gehenna symbolically to illustrate what kinds of lives here on earth lead to hellish living, not what happens to people in the afterlife. Hell’s non-existence allows hope for heaven for all.

The Bible suggests that believers and unbelievers will face some kind of judgment after death. Fire in the Bible is used more metaphorically than a literal fire where people are tortured forever after death. The Book of Revelation is the only place Lake of Fire is mentioned, but if dragons with seven heads are considered figuratively why wouldn’t the Lake of Fire be a metaphor? Why would a loving God torture anyone forever since such pain serves no lasting purpose? Hitler was condemned for torturing millions of Jews for a brief time; God is said to torture billions not briefly but forever. A moral God can’t be a hellish, sadistic, torturer!

Eternal life in the Bible isn’t about one’s destiny after death.

Jesus didn’t think of eternal life as something after death but a quality of life that begins here on earth to avoid future regrets. Jesus was asked by a religious expert how to have eternal life. Jesus simply said to love God and your neighbor (Lk.10:25-37). No one is going to Heaven if such actions are required according to God’s standards. If entering Heaven depends on certain beliefs or saying the sinner’s prayer, wouldn’t Jesus have responded differently? Jesus talked about how true living begins on earth by knowing how much your Creator loves you. Such knowledge can empower one to be the unselfish person we desire to be deep down.

Can there be justice if all go to heaven?

Punishment doesn’t bring back a victim’s robbed memories of the future due to the murder of a loved one. Real justice is being forced to understand your victim’s pain and accept the harmfulness of your actions. After death God may bring to memory every action of betrayal and how it felt to their victims. The cleansing and educative effect may take longer for some than others. Humans like God may forgive their enemies if they truly regret their actions and seek forgiveness. Justice from a fair, merciful God is possible despite people being given a second chance after death.

A loving God would never determine one’s destiny on chance encounters.

Did the thief on the cross get lucky while others were out of luck because they didn’t sin enough to get a Cross next to Jesus. Believing our destiny depends on a set of beliefs has led to some wacky baptizing practices or hoping your skeptical child hasn’t reached that age of accountability before being thrown into Hell. Do you really think God is going to judge all based on their beliefs during a short time here on earth influenced by so many random factors?

  • Why would God pretend that every reason for a person refusing God in this life is equal? Does God really forgive a serial killer who may have warning of their last breath but not others, who commit far less heinous actions in this life, but were killed suddenly in a car accident? Some rightly despise their Heavenly Parent because of the abuse suffered by their earthly parent. Some have numerous opportunities to respond to God while others have very few times. Is God’s grace dependent on circumstances or God?
  • Our beliefs are often determined by where we were born or the family we were born into. Our destiny cannot be based on certain beliefs about Jesus in the Bible when the majority of people born into this world died without any knowledge of the Bible or who Jesus was. Those with a Bible may have misunderstood God either because of poor role-models or what others taught about God. God is not going to let one final destiny be controlled by others. Meeting God will clear up any confusion and remove any causes that led to erroneous thinking.

A loving God can’t all of a sudden stop being forgiving at the moment of one’s last breath.  

Thinking an eternal God can stop being forgiving is doubtful, even according to the Bible. We are told to forgive our enemies as many times as necessary but God doesn’t do the same? God can’t stop being God somehow after our last breath by refusing to forgive any offense. I cannot imagine even imperfect human parents ever cutting off a child when finally accepting responsibilities for their actions. There isn’t a deadline or time limit on God’s love.

Even the Bible possibly suggests all go to Heaven eventually.  

Why wouldn’t one want to believe God is a Universalist where all are allowed to have eternal life if freedom and justice can be defended in such a scenario? Several biblical passages can be plausibly interpreted to suggest all enter heaven one day: “For as in Adam all died, so in Christ all will be made alive” (I Cor. 15:22, i.e. Rom. 5:18-19, Philip: 2:10-11).  God is obviously full of second changes. Heaven may be more populated than many people imagined. I doubt any reading this or their loved ones would deny such an invitation by God. If the Bible can possible be interpreted this way why can’t the possibility be entertained.

The one main reason Universalism may not be true.

Some people, even if they were given infinite chances in eternity, may still reject God forever. Sometimes our choices made for a long period of time define who we are. Others may argue no one in their rational mind would not want to live with a God truly loving. But, how can universalism be true unless God’s love in the end is coercing or controlling?

The truth is we cannot know for sure what happens after death when we meet our Creator in person. Bible scholars have used certain verses to lean on either side of the fence about whether God gives second chances or not. I suggest therefore we take a stance based on an understanding of a loving God. All have some inclination what a good God would do when it comes to second chances after death just as we think how a loving parent should respond to a child in such circumstances.

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