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Archive for August, 2019

by Jordan Hathcock

 “We are part of something more than we are observing something. How does that feel to you? From the perspective of participation, we can recognize that most of religious and church history has been largely preoccupied with religious ideas about which we could be wrong or right. When it is all about ideas, we do not have to be part of “it”; we just need to talk correctly about “it.” We can avoid actually living out our beliefs and walking our talk.”– Richard Rohr

When it comes to the history of Christendom, it was mostly about obedience then participation. We see this through the various traditions. This concept of obedience ends up being more of “having the correct” beliefs rather than living out a loving way of life. When we get to caught up in the ideas of faith, we wind up being consumers rather than doers.

When we come to experiential trust, we can recognize that it’s really about connecting with others through relationships. It’s making oneself encounter the whole of being rather than worrying about if you have the doctrine of the atonement right (which it all boils down to a theory rather than an experience). See, when we get to caught up in “who has it right” we create an us vs. them paradigm which only causes division.

We have to come to the table of reconciliation and be always for coming together unified despite our differences. Yes, there is a way to participate that involves some type of decision to “obey”-which a better term would be taking action. Unfortunately, from many people’s stories and experiences with obedience, it was more of a blind allegiance rather than a divine connection. It is a dangerous thing when one loses himself to the higher powers of authority. This will lead to unhealthy abuse as one study showed regarding blind authoritative control:

“Decent people participate in horrific acts not because they become passive, mindless functionaries who do not know what they are doing, but rather because they come to believe — typically under the influence of those in authority — that what they are doing is right.”-Science Daily

When we come to a place of authoritative obedience, we become oblivious to the harmful effects to ourselves and others. This is not what having faith is all about! Faith is having the courage to step into the unknown and experience the process of bringing about love that heals and liberates. God is not interested in obedience as much as entering in a relational space that endows growth and connection. Yes, we make the decision to trust and follow God, but if we do not believe that the center of all being is already connected to us, we will never fully allow this relationship to God and Her creation blossom and take hold of our reality. If its just obedience to an idea and not to a reality, we will not see the transformation bloom in ourselves and our surroundings.

Coming to a place of desiring the divine connection is a difficult journey. Its not all skittles and rainbows, that is for damn sure! It does take a great amount of patience and letting go of egotistical habits. Jesus wasn’t lying when he said, “to find life you must lose your life”. It is action that really drives a reaction. If we just sit on the sidelines of statements of beliefs, we will never truly experience the divine transformation that breaks us free. If we don’t take seriously the Orthopraxy of this whole Jesus movement, we are not going to survive. Its time we become participants of the God who is love and let go of the idea of blind obedience if we ever want to see dynamic change…

“New and stirring things are belittled because if they are not belittled the humiliating question arises ‘Why then are you not taking part in them?” ― H.G. Wells

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By Mike Edwards

The problem of evil is a main reason people indicate they don’t believe in God. How we think God and suffering co-exist in the midst of personal suffering can cause us to wonder if God truly exist. I suggest HERE how we can decide what God is really like. Why would a Creator not love us and others how we were seemingly created to love others? 

Why is freedom so important?  

The majority of evil results from the freedom to be kind or cruel toward others. It seems God creating freedom necessitates one being able to do as much harm as they can do good. There is not some divine or “greater purpose” in the suffering of innocent people. But authenticity, the highest good in relationships, is impossible without freedom. Not even an almighty God can force true love. God, like parents, had a choice – to not create or to create knowing suffering was a possibility in the pursuit of intimacy. Divine love limits divine power.

God can’t!!!

Saying God can’t may seem sacrilegious, but a God who can prevent evil but doesn’t is no different than a parent who stands by and watches their child being physically or sexually abused. Are you dissatisfied with conventional answers such as: “It’s all part of God’s plan;” “God wants to make you stronger;” “God’s ways are not our ways;” “You didn’t have enough faith;” “Everything happens for a reason” (Thomas Oord, God Can’t: How to Believe in God and Love after Tragedy, Abuse, and Other Evils, p.11). If evil is some grand scheme God can control, why does the Bible say God hates evil so much? 

God doesn’t cause or allow evil!  

Most agree God doesn’t cause evil but some say God allows evil to bring about a greater good. Oord reminds us greater good doesn’t always come about. A surgeon may have to break open your chest to save your life, but what purpose is served from rape, torture, betrayal, murder, deception, corruption, incest, and genocide as if part of some good plan? From this twisted perspective, evil is good! When we say God allows, it gives the impression God stands by when God could stop evil. No one respects those who stand by in the name of freedom while individual rights are being violated. God can’t control or violate freedom and love perfectly. God can only stop evil with the help of others so to not violate freedom. Or not create freedom! 

What about miracles if God can’t supposedly control?  

It may be easier to explain God’s uncontrolling nature if miracles could be refuted. Miracles happen as many attest, but miracles don’t happen because people grovel at the feet of an arbitrary God who has to be begged to love more. A good God surely is always working to heal, but so many biological and environmental factors are involved. Maybe it is not a stretch to say God can’t control human freedom as well as non-human factors. I am convinced God will intervene by all means when circumstances allow. Miracles can happen when God’s uncontrolling love aligns with countless factors known and not known.

It matters if God supposedly knows the future.

A young woman may ask God for wisdom in marrying their partner. All think it is a match made in heaven, but the husband becomes abusive and the children suffer. What kind of God doesn’t warn if God knew this was going to happen? Evil is the result of current and unknown future human free decisions. Not even an all-powerful God can create and guarantee life without death, violence, suffering, and struggle and yet there be free will necessary for genuine relationships. 

God is not a magic prayer genie! 

A good God surely doesn’t cause or want us to suffer. Praying doesn’t make God more caring. God is already doing all they can in a free world. Jesus’ prayer to avoid the Cross may be the best model in times of suffering. Jesus asked God to intervene but God if you are unable please stay close to me. Pretending God can simply heal without accounting for freedom can makes one’s suffering worse. Did I not pray enough? Did I not beg enough? Did I not behave enough or have the right attitude? It isn’t that we didn’t pray enough with the right words so God will answer. 

Is God a mystery and we can’t understand evil and suffering?

Some appeal to mystery by declaring God ways are not our ways to rationalize their interpretation of the Bible, but how can we have a relationship with a God we can’t understand with the brain God gave us? How we are supposed to know and love like God if God is mysterious? The Bible says to be perfect like God, but we can’t know what this means if we can’t know what perfect love is. God’s love surely is like perfect human love. If God calls favoritism evil but plays favorites, this plainly makes a supposedly loving God evil.

Why did God even create?

God knew the risks of freedom as do human parents. Are we wrong to bring children into a world hoping they will want to reciprocate our love but knowing our children could cause suffering or suffer at the hands of others? Suffering is avoidable only if God had not created or allowed freedom. Few argue that no freedom is better than freedom. God and parents risk creating which can lead to great joy or great pain. One is not possible without the other.

What is God doing?

God is tireless in working through individual lives to change the world. Hitler may have been stopped if others had gotten involved in his life as a child or when plotting his evils early on. Perhaps the only way to defeat evil in us, other than destroying at the first hint, is for us to persevere and overcome evil. Also, suffering can enable us to be of use to others in a world where suffering is inevitable if any freedom is present. Martin Luther King’s suffering moved the scales from the eyes of many how they tolerated bigotry.

 

MORE POSTS IN SERIES: I DOUBT GOD IS ……

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

Why I Doubt God Is A Homophobe

Why I Doubt God Is A Sexist

Why I Doubt God Is A Mysterious, Moral Hypocrite

Why I Doubt God Is A Blood-Thirsty Child (Jesus) Killer

Why I Doubt God Expects Every Word Of The Bible To Be Viewed As Inspired

Why I Doubt God Is An End-Of-The-World Doomsayer

Why I Doubt God Is An Angry Egomaniac

Why I Doubt God Is A “Hidden Agenda” Proselytizer

Why I Doubt the god of Extremists Or Terrorists

Why I Doubt God Is A Prayer Genie

 

 

 

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by Rocky Glenn

Distractions keep us from being present and enjoying the moments we live. For the churchboy, the greatest distraction is attempting to live up to a set of expectations. An expectation is a belief or anticipation of how someone should or will respond. Churchboys have many expectations they chase after: their own expectations, expectations of God, expectations of the church, and expectations of others. Quite often these get intertwined and create a web of confusion which is difficult to break free of and leaves one unable to ever enjoy the moment. Disapproval from friends, family, and fellow church members is felt when expectations are not met and long held beliefs and practices are questioned. This disapproval gives way to separation and alienation from those once held close as peace is found more and more in uncertainty rather than simply accepting clear-cut, placating answers to the tough issues of life and conforming to perceived expectations. It is in this journey toward uncertainty the recovering churchboy wakes up to Truth as the scales of expectations begin to fall slowly from his eyes. In my previous post, I discussed how both the prodigal son and his older brother fell victim to the distraction of regret. If you are perhaps unfamiliar with the story, allow me to share below:

The tale opens with the younger of the father’s two sons going to his father asking for his share of his father’s estate. Immediately after the request we are told the father divided his estate between the two brothers. Within a short time, the younger son packed all his belongings and left home and, before long, wasted his entire fortune. To further compound the situation, a famine hit the land and the only employment he could find was feeding pigs. As hunger drove him to the point of desiring the slop he was feeding the animals, he woke up to the idea of his father’s servants being better cared for and receiving three meals a day while he was starving to death. At this point, he decides to return home and beg to be accepted as a servant.

Imagine the confusion of the younger son as he is returning home and, just as he can barely distinguish the silhouette of his father’s home in the distance, he notices a cloud of dust gaining momentum moving towards him on the dirt road only to realize the catalyst for the dust storm is his Father running to him with open arms. Pushing his father away, he begins his rehearsed speech of what a failure and let down he truly is and has become. The father interrupts as he wraps him in his arms all the tighter and shouts to all around, “Bring him some fresh clothes, shoes, and jewelry! Get him cleaned up! It’s time to celebrate and party! My boy has come home! Once thought lost and dead, he is now found and alive!”

During the younger son’s celebrated return home, his older brother was working in the fields and unaware of his brother’s return and the party being thrown in his honor. As he approached home after the day’s work and learned of the celebration and its cause, the story records him as refusing to enter the party and storming off sulking in anger. Being approached by his father for an explanation, he states his case rather emphatically, “I’ve worked for all these years. I’ve never brought you any shame and always done everything you ask. You’ve never held a party in my honor, yet this fool returns home after wasting away all his money and you throw a feast for him as a reward!”

Just as the father’s heart was overflowing with joy upon the return of his younger son, I can imagine sorrow pricked his heart to hear the words of the older brother. How heart-breaking it must have been to look at his oldest son and say, “Don’t you get it. You’ve worked for me all these years and never once realized all I have is already yours.”

The story of the prodigal son is one of the most well-loved and well-known stories Jesus ever used to illustrate the Father’s love. Taking a closer look at the story of the prodigal we can also see examples of how distractions of expectations rob each of them of enjoying the moment just as it does the churchboy.

Expectations of the Younger Son: The Internal Churchboy

As the story opens, the younger son’s request reveals his unhappiness and dissatisfaction with his current life as he is distracted by it not meeting his expectations of what life truly should be. He sets about spending all his time, energy, and resources in attempts of achieving and acquiring all he ever wanted. However, as his bankroll runs thin and his energy is spent, he is forced to face the reality we all must come to realize. Life has no “supposed to be.” Once distracted by his own personal expectations, the distraction of regret has become his close personal companion as he finds himself weary, lost, and alone with no other choice but to return home ashamed and groveling expecting rejection.

Though they would never admit it or exhibit it externally, churchboys often view themselves as the eternal prodigal. Convinced and conditioned to believe the problems of their lives are simply a result of their own selfishness and pride leading them astray, they live their life feeling unworthy to be called a son and seek solace in simply being known as a servant. They anticipate being turned away in displeasure as they return to the Father week after week, Sunday after Sunday confessing their failures of living up to the Father’s perceived expectations: “I didn’t pray enough this week. I didn’t spend any time reading my Bible. I spent more time watching TV and on social media than I did with you. I lost my temper, said things I should have never said, and hurt those I love. I’m sorry. Although I don’t deserve it, please forgive me. I’m so unworthy.” Churchboys beg and plead for the Father’s forgiveness to simply feel accepted once again. Their expectations of the Father are tainted with the fear of rejection and anticipation of being turned away as a result of their image of themselves and how they perceive the Father views them.

The prodigal’s return home is a beautiful illustration of waking up to the true unconditional acceptance of grace for the first time. The cocoon of shame and unworthiness from missing the father’s perceived expectations slowly begins to crack as unconditional love breaks through and the son slowly begins to realize there is nothing he could ever do to not be considered a son. When I was first presented the gospel of grace and acceptance after many years of living the weekly cycle of the prodigal, I was just as perplexed as I’m sure the younger son was being wrapped in his father’s arms and celebrated for returning home. To realize the Father has no expectations in being considered a son is the path to recovery for the internal churchboy.

Expectations of the Older Brother: The External Churchboy

The older brother’s response is reflective of the churchboy’s outward life. Much like the older brother, churchboys make public displays of all they do to please God. They expect to be rewarded for their service and are serving for the reward of acceptance. Their security and trust lie in their years of service rather than in who they are. Because of their track record and accomplishments, they view themselves in higher regard than others. Blinded from the true definition of sonship, their expectations are to be accepted based on the good they’ve done, as well as the evil they’ve not done.

Such is the way of the churchboy, constantly working to obtain what he already has access to. He believes the only way he will ever hear, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant,” is by working more, doing more, saying Jesus more, and outshining those around him. As long as he feels someone is closer to the Father than himself or there is something greater he must do, the churchboy will continue working to reside in a place he doesn’t realize he already exists in and can never escape, the Father’s love.

The perceived expectations the older brother has of the father are really no different than his younger sibling’s, but they go about meeting those expectations in different manners: the former through working to achieve and avoid, the latter begging and pleading. Until they release their expectations neither brother, nor the churchboy, can enjoy the moment they are in. For the brothers, that moment is a moment of love, acceptance, and celebration of being with their father. For the churchboy, it’s the same.

Expectations distract from us enjoying the moment and being present where we are. Our minds become so entangled with what’s supposed to be, what’s required, and anticipated outcomes we become blinded to the expectations we’ve placed on ourselves, on others, and on our God. Let us rejoice in the unconditional love and acceptance of the Father and pay the Father’s love forward in unconditional love and acceptance of others.

Rocky

More posts in the Enjoying the Moment series:

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by Jim Gordon

Does it not seem strange that in the christian church world we are told we are to love others, yet when we come to a difference of opinion or a change in views in our beliefs, christians can be the first to throw a stone?

We hear about fairly well-known individuals within the church system say they have changed their views and no longer accept some of the teachings they grew up with in the church. They are not necessarily saying they are walking away from God but they are walking away from many things they have been told about God they no longer accept.

When this happens, usually other christians are the first to judge and condemn these individuals rather than try to accept them and find out exactly what is going on. Their first thought is they are leaving their complete belief and faith in God.

Many times, this is not what the person is saying anyway. Leaving religious teachings of the church is not leaving God. In fact, many times leaving some of these teachings behind is just the beginning of a deeper walk with God.

I grew up in the traditional church setting and I had many good times there. I met a lot of nice people and learned many things about God. The thing is the church as we know it was never what God intended. Church is not a place or an organization, it is the people who love God and love, support and encourage one another.

The church today seems more like a corporation with the CEO and board of directors. I know there are a lot of good people within the church system. They love God and want to live their life for him. Yet for my wife and I, we became disenchanted with the religious system and felt there was a better way for us to live for God, which was outside the walls of religion and the human-led system of church each week.

We felt that since the Spirit lives within us there is no need for a middle-man (pastor) to lead and teach us. If the Spirit of God actually lives within us, why do we so often depend on a human being to lead and teach us?

I certainly do not want to make anyone feel bad if they are still a part of the institutional church. They are like I used to be and feel that was the best way to show love for God and learn about God. I would not tell anyone they should leave the system, although for my wife and I we certainly do believe it was the best thing for us.

Whether you are in the church system, questioning the church system or have left it, the main focus should be to love God and love one another. Doing so fulfills all the law and the prophets (as Matthew 22:35-40 explains). Of course, we know that the law no longer needs to be fulfilled but at the time Jesus taught this he was living under the law. Now that grace has been applied, we no longer live by the law but by love.

Leaving the institutional church or changing and deconstructing your religious views and interpretations do not mean you are leaving God. Rather than jump on board with those who judge and condemn, take a little bit and find out more about what is going on. Then remember we are all at a different place on the path as we follow Jesus. Pray for one another, encourage and support one another but do not beat one another up as we each try to follow Jesus as we feel led.

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By Mike Edwards

Beliefs about God can lead to many tuning out God. Our relationship with God cannot exceed our understanding of God. I suggest 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?

God can’t be a controlling lover.  

Controlling love is an oxymoron. Besides, not even an all-powerful God can give us free will and not give us free will at the same time. Genuine freedom must involve the right to do as much harm in proportion to how much good one can do. It isn’t that God has the power to do something and doesn’t. It’s that God can’t. God can’t control evil here on earth if God respects freedom. 

Is God to blame for suffering?  

A good God surely doesn’t cause or want us to suffer. Praying doesn’t make God more caring. God is already doing all they can in a free world. Jesus’ prayer to avoid the Cross may be the best model in times of suffering. Jesus asked God to intervene but God if you are unable please stay close to me. Pretending God can simply heal without accounting for freedom can makes one’s suffering worse. Why did God heal them and not me? Did I not pray enough? Did I not beg enough? Did I not behave enough or have the right attitude? It isn’t that we didn’t pray enough with the right words and behaviors so God will answer. God is already doing all God can.

Why bother to even pray then?  

Maybe prayer is more talking and sharing with God then asking for things and for God to override freedom. Maybe prayer is meant to help us not feel alone in a chaotic world. Prayer is more talking to gain support than manipulating for gain. God is always available to talk about anything on our heart, but we best leave running the universe to a loving God who has the interest of all in mind. 

Don’t miracles prove God can control what God wants?

One must admit miracles aren’t that frequent. The Old Testament reveals amazing miracles don’t always lead to inspired living. Jesus’ miracles turned heads but Jesus’ suffering turned hearts of billions of followers. We can pray for others but God is already doing all they can. Are we? Miracles can happen as many can attest to, but miracles don’t happen because people grovel at the feet of an arbitrary God who has to be begged to love more. Miracles happen when God’s uncontrolling love aligns with countless factors known and not known.

Prayer is not a substitute for action.

It is easier sometimes to pray for someone than take supportive actions which is the most common way that God answers prayers. Rather than praying your friend’s spouse stop drinking, which is harming their family, see if your friend would rather you say something to their spouse. When you know two friends are in conflict, speak to the one wrongly denying any wrongdoing. God always desire our permission to use our lives to help others.

The Bible says you can ask for anything you want in God’s name! 

Our interpretations much account for what a loving, uncontrolling God can do. Passages such as Mathew 7:7 are lifted out of context to support the false prosperity gospel: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” Isn’t this passage in context simply saying that if we parents give good gifts despite our imperfections, will not God as our perfect Parent always give good gifts. First-century readers didn’t assume this was a blank check for any request. The Apostle Paul expects followers would face persecution for their beliefs (2 Tim. 3:12), thus God obviously is not a blank check.

How can we pray?

We might replace the word “praying” in the Bible with “talking.” We can talk to God for many reasons including pursuing a closer relationship with our Creator to be more like God, for self-examination, for sharing our concerns, and not feeling alone in a chaotic world. We tell our children associating with the right people leads to making wiser choices. Maybe prayer is to motivate us to be more loving like God toward others. God is not a Genie in a bottle who can singlehandedly all by themselves make things instantly happen. God is surely doing all they can to influence for good and seeks our help to change the world for good.

See Mark Karris, Divine Echoes: Reconciling Prayer With the Uncontrolling Love Of God

 MORE POSTS IN SERIES: I DOUBT GOD REALLY ……

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

Why I Doubt God Is A Homophobe

Why I Doubt God Is A Sexist

Why I Doubt God Is A Mysterious, Moral Hypocrite

Why I Doubt God Is A Blood-Thirsty Child (Jesus) Killer

Why I Doubt God Expects Every Word Of The Bible To Be Viewed As Inspired

Why I Doubt God Is An End-Of-The-World Doomsayer

Why I Doubt God Is An Angry Egomaniac

Why I Doubt God Is A “Hidden Agenda” Proselytizer

Why I Doubt the god of Extremists Or Terrorists

 

 

 

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by Jim Gordon

Growing up in the church system I was always taught that the pastor was the authority on anything spiritual. After all, they had been ‘called’ and had gone to college to be taught everything about God and the bible.

I remember how impressed I was by pastors. If I had a question about the bible I could make an appointment and go in and talk with the pastor. I figured he would have all the answers.

As I got a little older, I became infatuated with some of the big named evangelist. I would listen to them, send them money and if at all possible, go to their crusades. I can remember thinking if I could only be like them. They were super-spiritual and knew all about God and had the answers to all spiritual questions.

I really thought that was the way to learn about God, by going to church, reading the bible and getting all the wisdom of the pastors and evangelists.

Fortunately, I got to a point where I realized the pastors and evangelists were no different than me. They did not have all the answers and they were not super-spiritual like I had always imagined. I came to understand that people are people. None are closer to God or more special to God than another. Yes, some are more knowledgeable due to more time reading and studying but no one is higher up or more important in God’s eyes.

Now days I really do not care much what men and women say, it is just their opinion. They are humans like the rest of us. We can certainly discuss things and get insight from one another, but God loves each of us the same. The Spirit within us can guide and teach us without the help of any human being. If we believe the Spirit lives within us, why are we more interested in what another human says? Why not learn how to hear the voice of the Spirit from within rather than the thoughts and traditions of men?

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by Jordan Hathcock

“The moral standards by which Israel’s first ancestor were expected to act seem to come not so much by God’s unique command, but by expectations of the surrounding cultures” – Pete Enns

We are all products of our environment. Our cultures play a huge role in how we as a collective, strive to improve and develop ourselves into a reality of wellbeing and enjoyment. The Latin root word cultura: “till the soil, tend, grow” is the same root as Cultivate and Cult. Which I find fascinating when we when look at how cults work in our religious settings. I see it more expansive then that. Culture is the true cult when it comes to how we as a society interact, develop, and grow.

One of the definitions of cult states: “a religion regarded as unorthodox or spurious”. I think this is the most used definition when it comes to religious people accusing other religious people for “not doing it right”. Within Christendom, there is an everlasting list of religious groups that are accused of being cults: LDS, Jehovah Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventist’s are the main targets. Yes, these groups have their problems, but I think as research shows, majority of the churches we see throughout Western Civilization are showing unhealthy practices which is leading to an exodus from the religious institutions. Alas, the great cult list continues.

With that being said, for all those religious/spiritual practitioners out there, what do we do with the other definition of cult: “great devotion to a person, idea, object, movement, or work”. From the Christian perspective, isn’t this what we do with Jesus? Aren’t we in the end, a cult? I mean this is how we got our name in the first place, right? We were following The Way (what followers of Jesus called it) of Jesus and when other groups saw this, the cult name we were given was “Christian”. So, is this word/idea of cult the end-all of good and healthy religious practices?

Don’t think the religious/spiritual are the only group guilty of being cult-like. From Patriots and their civil duty to a person and idea, to the Scientist and her devotion to the work of the scientific method–all humans in one way or another practice cult-like behaviors to bring about “wellbeing and enjoyment” to their social structures. See, culture is always influencing how we as humans view the world. What culture is best? I don’t think that’s the question we should be asking ourselves.

We should realize that culture will always be part of the human experience. All of us will have our cult-like ways in how we move through this life. But the thing that still moves me to still participate in the way of Jesus is the realization that culture doesn’t always produce healthy, peaceful and loving outcomes. Injustices still are running amok throughout the world of cultures. The poor are still poor, the hungry are still hungry and the rich are still getting richer.

The violent cultures of Empire & Religion are still manipulating how all this social process works. These structures only want one thing: controlling power. This model will not bring justice, mercy, peace and love. What do we do as a society to change this culture? Well, tough to say. But I do believe Jesus showed us a way to develop a new process within our cultures: It is the powerless who act out of love in order to change the cult of culture (Mark 10:42). Let us be lovers who seek peacemaking; not haters who seek warmongering…

“Jesus was not killed by atheism and anarchy. He was brought down by law and order allied with religion, which is always a deadly mix. Beware those who claim to know the mind of God and who are prepared to use force, if necessary, to make others conform. Beware those who cannot tell God’s will from their own. Temple police are always a bad sign. When chaplains start wearing guns and hanging out at the sheriff’s office, watch out. Someone is about to have no king but Caesar.”- Barbara Brown Taylor

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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 suggest 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? A loving God couldn’t possibly have anything in common with extremists or terrorists!

We must avoid claiming a good God is determined solely by a Book.  

We can’t prove when the Bible records “God said” that the biblical writers/editors always heard from God correctly. The idea that the entire Bible is inspired or approved by God, without questioning, often leads down the slippery slope of inspired interpretations. We can’t utter “the Bible says so” because our interpretation may be wrong. It is very different to approach the Bible from the perspective that God is uncontrolling but continually seeks to influence for one’s good. 

Jesus when leaving this earth didn’t promise to leave us with a Bible but God’s Spirit in discerning good from evil (Jn. 14:16). Supposed right beliefs or interpretations are less important than simply loving others. Those not growing up in church don’t understand all the fuss. Who thinks literature subject to interpretation, written thousands of years ago, should be read so dogmatically? A fallible Book can lead to listening to different opinions as we continually evaluate the most loving approach. The Bible wouldn’t be God’s main communication anyway, because the majority born into this world never had a copy.

Terrorists seldom are Gandhi-type individuals who seek to treat all like they want to be treated. Doesn’t true religion seek to serve not be served? Terrorism seems driven by power and control. If certain claims about God in any Book are questionable of a morally perfect God (most agree One claiming to be God must be perfect), it is doubtful God inspired such false beliefs.

We must avoid implying a loving God seeks to control freedom of beliefs.

One would think a God who is powerful enough to create, unless a respecter of freedom of beliefs, would annihilate immediately those who choose evil and oppose God. God’s love in the Bible is most frequently compared to that of a human parent. Human or spiritual parents bring children into the world hoping their children freely reciprocate their love for authentic relationships. Forced love is an oxymoron. A good God couldn’t possibly want to control beliefs through fear.

We must intervene with family or whoever when we notice one’s beliefs leads to forcing their religious practices on others or blowing up innocent people. Terrorists don’t just blow themselves up to spread their gospel. Jesus felt His own suffering for something He believed would change lives for the better. A loving God surely respects the freedom of beliefs in this life and after death, encourages men and women to be equally vulnerable to one another, seeks only to convert others from evil actions, and guides through a relationship and not a book written thousands of years ago.

We must avoid claiming a loving God’s view of women hints of inequality.

I am not suggesting all religious extremists are saying Paradise is a lustful adventure for men at the expense of women, but it is important to not be dogmatic that the Bible teaches women are under the authority of men in the God of the Bible eyes. This can encourage dominance on the man’s part. Women and men surely need unselfish partners who have the heart of a servant. Some religious extremists would rather be dead than advocate for that. We must avoid proscribing gender roles which more frequently are used to oppress women than men.

We must avoid suggesting a loving God would torture unbelievers before or after death.

Delayed torture is still torture in the eyes of many. We mustn’t claim Hell is real because biblical scholars don’t agree the traditional understanding of Hell exists in the Bible. Most humans wouldn’t even create such a place for their worst enemies! The word hell is a substitution not translation for certain Hebrew and Greek words and seems invented over the centuries to scare people into obedience. A loving God respects the right to choose your own personal beliefs in this life, and God wouldn’t torture people after death for such decisions.

Conversion to certain beliefs is never the loving goal.

I believe Christianity or any religion must differentiate themselves from terrorists or extremists. Who doesn’t know it is right to encourage treating others like you want to be treated, but we must avoid attempts to convert others to a set of beliefs associated with our religion. Jesus had no evangelical spiel other than to encourage people to shun evil and do good. Jesus encouraged spirituality for self-interest and the interests of others. Jesus did want us to know God was the kind of Creator or Parent who desired a friendship to encourage such a journey. Attempts to convert suggests a not so hidden agenda. Since Hell doesn’t exist and billions have lived who have never heard of Jesus or the Bible, a loving God would not require certain beliefs for a relationship.

MORE POSTS IN SERIES: I DOUBT GOD REALLY ……

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

Why I Doubt God Is A Homophobe

Why I Doubt God Is A Sexist

Why I Doubt God Is A Mysterious, Moral Hypocrite

Why I Doubt God Is A Blood-Thirsty Child (Jesus) Killer

Why I Doubt God Expects Every Word Of The Bible To Be Viewed As Inspired

Why I Doubt God Is An End-Of-The-World Doomsayer

Why I Doubt God Is An Angry Egomaniac

Why I Doubt God Is A “Hidden Agenda” Proselytizer

 

 

 

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by Rocky Glenn

Enjoying the moment is a personal choice a person makes to be present in what they are currently experiencing and to give that specific point in time their full self. It’s a decision to open oneself up to be vulnerable and a realization the moment may or may not go as we desire. How I treat the one standing in front of me at any given time is also how I decide to enjoy the moment. To not live in the moment is live a life distracted. Distractions keep us from being present and enjoying the moments we live. A distraction is anything which keeps a person from giving their full attention to something else.

The Distraction of Regret

All of us experience things in our lives we wish had not happened or we would have handled differently if given another opportunity. These things range from decisions we’ve made which caused unforeseeable, maybe harmful, outcomes to decisions others have made which had adverse, negative, and possibly even devastating, effects on our lives. Regret imprisons us when we live focused on the “what ifs” and “what could have beens” of those decisions. Replaying scenarios repeatedly in the theater of our mind, we fixate on every aspect of those situations reliving the pain, hurt, anger, and sorrow as if it had just happened. If the consequences are of our own making, we feel we deserve whatever negative results have occurred and wallow in the misery of our shame much like the prodigal son in the hog pen. However, when forced to accept another’s decision we believe is simply outrageous or unfair, we respond much like the prodigal’s older brother. I believe his response of anger to the celebration of his brother’s quickly turned to sorrow and regret with the realization he already had access to everything he was working to attain. Resisting the distraction of regret is not refusing to admit sorrow and remorse for what may have happened, it’s a refusal to remain in that moment and let it define who you are. We must let the past make us wiser, stronger, and grateful for what we have lived through and experience. Regret gives way to self-loathing and bitterness and steals you from the life happening right before your eyes.

The Distraction of What’s to Come

The last four to six weeks prior to reflecting on and sharing about enjoying the moment were a trying and frustrating time as I wondered what lie ahead. Since I no longer have the desire to one day be a worship pastor, what does the future hold? I didn’t begin the blog with aspirations I would one day write full-time, but is it now something to consider? Are there opportunities yet to be discovered which would allow more time for ministry and still support the family? Do I even want to be involved in a ministry at all? What exactly does ministry look like now anyway? Is there an opportunity ahead which would allow Shannon and me to spend more time together helping others while providing an income as well? If those opportunities presented themselves would I be willing to take the risks to make them succeed?

All these questions swirling in my head created a cloudy fog I had trouble navigating. Fatigue and restlessness plagued me as I just could not let go of figuring out what the future holds. Questions swirled in my head like a tornado waking up to start the day, sitting at my desk at work, spending time with the family, working out at the gym, and drifting to sleep at night. The distraction of what’s to come kept me from enjoying my everyday life and, no doubt, caused me to miss small moments of awe and wonder which occurred in daily interactions with coworkers, family, and friends.  I was so caught up in determining a destination, I was forgetting to enjoy the journey. While on vacation, in finishing a book I have been struggling to complete since January, I stumbled upon the prayer below from Thomas Merton in the closing pages:

“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always, though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”

This prayer changed my thinking and reminded me I don’t need to know what lies or even have an idea of where I’m going. I simply needed to rest in the moment and satisfaction of my desire to please my Father and His full knowledge of my desire and willingness to lead me. It brought me to a point of consciously reminding myself to live and experience whatever moment I find myself in. I can remember very vividly afternoons spent in the ocean with my family thinking, “Nothing matters right now except the fact I am here with them and we are together. What’s for dinner is not important. The drive home in a few days does not matter. What may be happening at work right now is not important. I am here with my family getting battered by waves in the ocean, having water gun fights in the pool, and we are having the time of our lives.” After reading that prayer, making it my own, and making a mental decision to enjoy the moment, I can say this was quite honestly the best vacation we may have possibly ever had.

There’s one final distraction I want to discuss, but, due to the nature of the distraction and how it relates to the churchboy, I will hold it for my next post.

Until then, I leave you with the following reminders:

Regarding Regret: In the Broadway musical Rent, composer Jonathan Larson urges us, “Forget regret, or life is yours to miss,”

Regarding What’s to Come: In Switchfoot’s opening track of their Native Tongue album, we are implored to Let It Happen:

Let it happen, let it happen

Tomorrow knows what tomorrow knows

You can’t make it get here sooner

Let it happen, let it happen

I don’t hold what the future holds

But I know you’re my future

Rocky

More posts in the Enjoying the Moment series:

 

 

 

 

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by Jim Gordon

We hear the word fundamentalism often in the christian world. I actually grew up as a fundamentalist but never realized that was what I was because I never put much thought into all the different terms and labels. I just loved God and went to church because that was the way I thought we lived the christian life.

When I looked up the word fundamentalism in the dictionary I found the following definitions: 1. a conservative movement in theology among nineteenth and twentieth-century Christians. Fundamentalists believe that the statements in the Bible are literally true. 2. in Christianity the belief that every word of the Bible is divinely inspired and therefore true. 3. a religious movement characterized by a strict belief in the literal interpretation of religious texts, especially within American Protestantism and Islam; the beliefs held by those in this movement; strict adherence to any set of basic ideas or principles.

Now that I know what fundamentalist means, I no longer believe I would be considered one. My views, beliefs and interpretations have changed so much over the years, especially since leaving the organized church. For some reason I never felt comfortable asking questions while in the organization. I just took what the pastor said as gospel truth and never questioned anything. Being outside the walls of religion I can let all those questions come out and seek truth from the Spirit of God rather than from a pastor.

I believe fundamentalism leads more to separation, condemnation and being judgmental. It seems to me being so set on specific doctrines, beliefs and interpretations can prevent us from asking questions, learning, accepting and loving others.

Are my thoughts a popular way of looking at the christian life? Of course not! I grew up in the organized church from a very young age and spent nearly sixty years in it. I also used to think everything depended on my works such as attending church, tithing, doing good works, reading the bible and believing it was perfect, completely literal and the only way God spoke to us today. There are many people still doing all this and they sincerely love God and think this is the way we are to serve God. Yet being outside of this setting I have seen what is for me a better way. A way of depending on the Spirit within to teach and guide us. A way that loves and accepts others even when they do not see things the same.

Today the term fundamentalist christian seems to have more of a meaning of being hateful and not being accepting of others views. Completely different from what Jesus taught and what God is like.

Jesus was not a fundamentalist, he was not even a christian. Jesus was the personification of the Father who is a God of love. Even those writings from the old testament where men wrote from their beliefs, ideas, interpretations and what they thought about God were shown to be wrong when Jesus arrived. He showed us that God is not a god of vengeance, hatred and murder but a God who loves all of us.

We are to love God and love one another. Loving our neighbor does not mean just loving those who live next door, or loving those who believe like we believe. Our neighbor is everyone else in the world. Seems to me most fundamentalist reject those who see things differently and prefer to stay away from those who do not believe the same.

I would rather be known as a follower of Jesus rather than a fundamentalist christian. The way of the law and following rules and set doctrines of men have come to an end. The way of loving one another because of the grace of Christ is the new covenant way. I have actually become quite tired of using labels at all. We are all human beings who are loved by God. We should all be treated with love, respect, acceptance and have the same rights as everyone else. God did not create some people better than others, we are all created in the likeness of God and are loved by God.

There are so many topics and beliefs I grew up learning in the fundamentalist church that I no longer accept. I certainly have not lost my belief in or love for God, yet the many interpretations that were taught by men and women in the institution I now find wrong and not like Christ.

Rather than adhere to a set of rules and institutional-taught beliefs we are to submit to the guidance of the Holy Spirit who lives within us. Learn to hear the voice of the Spirit and let your life be a daily communication of the love of God to others.

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