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Archive for October, 2019

by Jim Gordon

As a person that has grown up in organized religion, I can honestly say that the church today has fallen way off course. What we call church today many times seems more like a large corporation. We seem to be more focused on our programs, building bigger buildings, having a bigger and better worship band, getting on radio or TV and being a step ahead of the church down the street.

Our churches today are so divided by denominations and doctrines that it makes me think of Heinz 57 Varieties. It seems like there is a church building every mile or two from each other, yet they cannot seem to come together in unity. We are all brothers and sisters in Christ, yet we continually divide ourselves and fight and argue amongst ourselves. Those outside the church can only look on and laugh.

It amazes me how upset and defensive people can get when you mention that going to church is not a requirement. They seem to forget that the church is not a building and is not a place we go too. The Church is the body of believers no matter when and where they get together.

Usually the first verse that is quoted when we talk about not going to church is Hebrews 10:25 – not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near. Nowhere does this verse say that we have to assemble in a building on a certain day at a certain time. Nowhere does it say we have to have a pastor to teach us, or a worship band to lead us in praise and worship.

I feel so often that we christians want to be entertained and told what to believe, then go home feeling satisfied that we have fulfilled our duty until next Sunday. We have become lazy and do not want to spend the time hearing the Holy Spirit teach us. As 1 John 2:23 states, as for you, the anointing which you received from Him (talking about the Holy Spirit) abides in you and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him.

Jesus said where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them. That can be in a restaurant, in a home, in a park or anywhere. So many people put more emphasis on where we meet and not enough emphasis on spending time with the one we love. Why is it we feel the need to go to a building anyway? God said we are the temple of the Holy Spirit. God told us that He is always with us. So why is it people say they are going to the house of God to meet with Him. We are the house of God, and He lives within us.

Going to a building to meet with other believers is not wrong, but let’s start calling it what it is. The building that people go to on Sunday morning is only a place where the members of the Church sometimes get together. The Church are those of us who are following the example of Christ, and that is done on a daily basis not a one-day event.

How many times do people get more involved with the things about Christ, the services, the meetings, the up-keep of a building and the money to keep the bills paid, that they lose sight of their first love Jesus. He is to have the preeminence.

We are to follow the example of Christ by loving God and loving others as ourselves. Let’s be clear that we are to love all people, not just those who believe like us, agree with us, look like us or are of the same faith.

Stop the arguing over different interpretations and denominational doctrines. Stop the judging and condemnation of people and start loving others no matter what. It is then that the world will know we are His disciples and see a difference in the way we live as Christians.

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By Mike Edwards

I am talking to the hand! I admit beliefs about God impacts how God-followers treat others. I blog ad nauseum that I think it is important to realize God isn’t a sexist, homophobe, hellish sadist, angry egomaniac, etc. Such beliefs are important but so what if they don’t lead to certain actions. I love my new beliefs about God, but I hate to admit talking/writing is easier than doing.

God doesn’t judge us on beliefs even according to the Bible.

I can’t find where Jesus in the Gospels talked about saying the sinner’s prayer or demanding his listeners accept certain beliefs before following Him. Jesus wanted us not so much to adhere to certain beliefs as much as He simply wanted us to seek God’s help in living out His message in the lives of others. It’s hard to find fault with any of Jesus’ message. God isn’t offended or waiting to check off certain beliefs we better have before engaging in a relationship.

If certain beliefs are required by God, then doubt would be unacceptable.

Can you imagine a loving parent saying “if you doubt me you are toast?” We only want our children to not doubt our wisdom because we believe we have their best interest in mind. But, I rather my kid question or challenge me whether I really care about them. Please doubt me than ignore me! If my wisdom is so valuable then I would have no problem trying to prove my love rather than first requiring certain beliefs. Doubt or challenge God all you want! 

The only thing God may be dogmatic about is taking action.

One main belief irrational is that we shouldn’t love others like we want to be loved. Word to extremists – a loving God who created freedom clearly desires their children freely reciprocate their love as opposed to being forced. Not even God can force true love. A loving God couldn’t possibly want to control or expect certain beliefs or else!

How am I acting?

The encouragement and support I feel from God make me a better man, partner, father, and friend. Deep down I want to treat others like I want to be treated. I sense God’s help when successful and support to not give up when failing. I still find it easier though to write about God than act like God, but I am going to die trying.

 

 

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by Jim Gordon

Growing up in the christian church, we were told a lot about sharing our faith. We were told that if we did not tell others about Jesus they would never know anything about him. It seemed to make a lot of sense at the time.

We were told if we did not share our faith with everyone we met we were not doing our duty as a christian. This has led to a lot of guilt over the years.

To make things worse, we were told if we did not tell them about Jesus and the possibility of going to hell if they did not accept him that their blood would be on our hands.

I truly believe we were taught wrong. There is certainly nothing wrong with sharing your faith, but to do so under pressure and out of guilt is another story. I believe our commitment is to love God and love others. The Holy Spirit will convict and draw people to the God of love. He may even use us at times, but it will be done naturally and as he leads in love. It will not be forced or due to obligation.

I also believe when we live by guilt and pressure to witness to others, this can lead to friendship with ulterior motives (1). We are nice and friendly to others with the hope we will get to talk to them about God. We get so busy trying to force the conversation so we can do our required duty that we forget to just be unconditional friends.

In 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 it says to “make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody”.

To me this makes more sense, to live daily in a way that wins the respect of others. Anyone can say words, but living a life being friendly, caring and accepting makes much more of a difference. I have personally seen people who were very bold in their words. They could talk to anyone, anywhere about God and tell them they need to turn their life over to God. Yet when they were done talking, they lived a life that is completely different from the words they just spoke. People look at that and do not want anything to do with the god they were just told about.

I personally do not believe we are to be forcing our views on others. We should not feel obligated or forced to share our faith with anyone. We are to live our lives as we know best in a way that is pleasing to God. Then let that love be a natural by-product that others will see and be drawn to God without us saying a word.

When we live our lives out of love for God and love for others, telling others, whether by word or deed will be natural, unforced and without obligation. It will be out of sincere love and usually because others ask about the love they see in us.

  1. Friendship with Ulterior Motives

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By Mike Edwards

Our image of God can dictate our actions. If God can do Hell, we may think we should emulate God in our attempts to judge and punish. Our understanding of God can determine the depth of our relationship with God and how we might treat others. We may imagine God, most often referred to Father, is like our earthly father or parent. We may think God is like what is claimed by God-followers, which often comes from their interpretation of the Bible. They may be wrong!

  • If we think God is hard to please and pissed off about sin rather than what sin is doing to us, we may judge others just as harshly rather than showing patience and mercy.
  • If God is really a warlike God according to the OT, we will use such behaviors to justify our actions in war when we shouldn’t.
  • If God condemns gays, we will condemn gays out of devotion to God.
  • If God thinks men have authority over women in some positions, that will filter down to your wives, daughters, and friends and stifle their gifts.
  • If God can prevent evil and doesn’t, isn’t that like a parent who arbitrarily decides to watch their child being sexually abused or not? Maybe God can’t love perfectly by controlling freedom. God can only stop evil with the help of others or not create freedom!

It matters what you believe a loving God is like. If God punishes us forever (Hell) for sins briefly while here on earth, aren’t we teaching others to fear God rather than experience God relationally like they would a human parent? Be open to discussions. Imagine what you believe a perfect God is like in your life and the lives of others you interact with. You may be right!

 

 

 

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Love Unplugged, part 3

by Rocky Glenn

What two words, when combined, mean happiness and sadness?  Good and evil?  Light and dark?  Hot and cold?  Those same two words also contain give and take, war and peace, and famine and feast.  What are those two words?  All things.  All, according to Merriam-Webster, means the whole amount or quantity of as well as every member or individual component of.  Thing, also according to Merriam-Webster, means a matter of concern or particular state of affairs.  Combining these would suggest that all things would mean the whole amount of matters of concern or every individual state of affairs.  Essentially, any thought, any emotion, any feeling, any action is part of “all things.”

Returning to our musical theme, the last tune on our 3 song unplugged love-themed set (Love Unplugged, part 1 and Love Unplugged, part 2) is all about love’s relationship with all things.  For this discussion, I changed things just a little and researched the original Greek definitions for each word listed in the final verses describing love.

1-cornithians-131 Corinthians 13:7-8 from The Amplified Bible: Love bears all things [regardless of what comes], believes all things [looking for the best in each one], hopes all things [remaining steadfast during difficult times], endures all things [without weakening].Love never fails [it never fades nor ends].

Love bears all things. Bear means to cover to keep off something which threatens or to roof over. According to the NIV, love always protects. What does it protect from? All things . . . any thought that intends to harm, any action meant to punish.  By bearing all things, love refuses to say or do something just to win an argument or fight and seeks instead to preserve the other person, as well as preserve the relationship.  Thoughtless words shot out in the heat of an argument are stopped before being spouted out by the bearing nature of love. Looking back at the end of verse 6 (Love Unplugged, part 1), we can see that love does not rejoice in iniquity.  When coupled with this bearing nature, it is safe to conclude that not only does it not rejoice in iniquity, if necessary love will take the iniquity, injustice, or wrong upon itself to ensure that another is protected.  This bearing nature would never seek to embarrass or disrespect another person. In fact, it will do everything possible to prevent it from occurring.  The bearing nature really magnifies the selfless nature of love. (Love Unplugged, part 1)

Love believes all things. To believe is to think to be true, to be persuaded of, or to place confidence in. In other words, love is an eternal optimist!

Love hopes all things. The word translated as hope here means to expect and confide or to trust in. Love not only trusts, it is also trustworthy.  It would be safe to conclude from this that love does not look for hidden meanings or veiled messages and because of this leaves itself open to be taken advantage of and often is.  (For more on this, refer back to the quote from C.S. Lewis in the section of love not being easily provoked in Love Unplugged, part 2).

Love endures all things. To endure means to stay under, to remain, and to persevere. This year, my high school sweetheart and I celebrate twenty years as husband and wife. At times, “all things” have been good; at other, “all things” have been not so good. By the grace of God, we have endured.  In fact, we have not only endured, but, through His grace and His constant teaching of love, we’ve not just survived, I’m very humbled to say we have thrived.

Love never fails. The original meaning of the word fail means to be driven out of one’s course.  Love maintains its course by bearing, believing, hoping, and enduring all things.  The Amplified Bible quite simply says it never fades or ends.

So concludes the “unplugged” discussion of these ever so famous words found in 1 Corinthians.  I pray, once again, that at the very least, these words may cause you to simply pause and possibly ponder what love truly is and if it is being displayed in your life. May your love stay on course by bearing, believing, hoping, and enduring all things.

Rocky

(This post originally written March 26, 2017.)

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by Jim Gordon

Is it me, or do you find that some of the teachings we have grown up with in modern day religion may be wrong? It could be a simple misinterpretation or it could be people purposefully trying to force others into their way of thinking.

Do you ever grow tired of reading all the different views and opinions, interpretations and doctrines? Do you get aggravated when people argue over their beliefs, yet God has told us to love one another?

It can get pretty discouraging seeing all the postings on Facebook and other social media where people argue, and sometimes heatedly, over their views and interpretations. Sometimes they are basic views we have grown up accepting as gospel truth, yet now we question whether they are gospel or man’s wrong interpretation.

No matter how you interpret the scriptures, no matter how much you believe your way of thinking on spiritual matters, someone else will have a completely different view. Even those who are followers of Christ cannot agree on everything. We all have a different view on the bible and spiritual matters.

I wonder why we cannot accept each other no matter what our interpretation. Truthfully, none of us can prove most of what we believe, whether it is faith in God, heaven, hell, satan and a number of other topics. It is all by faith that we believe what we believe. We cannot prove or disprove anything.

I think we should ask the Spirit daily for His guidance into truth. Hold to what you believe, but be open enough to change when God (not some other person) gives a clearer view of the truth. When someone has a different way of looking at things, accept them. You do not have to agree with them. Who knows, they might be right. Friendly discussion of each others views can be helpful.

I do not think any of us can say without a doubt who is completely right or wrong in our interpretations. We should seek God for truth through the Spirit and let everyone have their right to do the same. Quit fighting and arguing over who is right and who is wrong.

We should remember that unity comes only in Christ. It is not through religion, doctrines, denominations or bible versions but through Christ alone. Unity through Christ looks beyond religion, doctrines, denominations, race, sexual orientation and nationality.

God is love and he lives within us. By allowing his love to flow out of us we can look beyond our differences and accept one another even when we disagree.

One thought comes to mind in all this, ‘Jesus loves me this I know, for the bible tells me so’. The most basic and simple song we learned long ago seems to be the one thing on which we can all agree.

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by Jordan Hathcock

“It’s difficult to avoid all the crisis talk that fills the airwaves: climate change, debt, food deserts, clean water, masses of discarded plastic filling the oceans, populism nationalism, racism, shootings, stabbings, the list goes on and on. And apparently it is not just the poor and the middle-class who are feeling the pressures and concerns of all this, we all seem to have lost sight of the future.”- Barry Taylor

Within the Christian tradition, the future has always been more geared towards a more doom and gloom outlook. This is due to several factors: church doctrine, theological perspectives, biblical hermeneutics, and cultural influences. This isn’t just a religious position, from the Western eyes, an apocalyptic future has always been in our scopes. We love the hopeless end times so much that we have become contagious to any other possible future outcomes. Screw a compassionate eschatology, we want that blood, guts and fire!

Here is the thing, when it comes to the future, I think we all would agree that we want it to be a bright and hopeful existence for our kids. Yes, religion has played a huge part in the pessimistic future position that a lot of us hold. The Abrahamic faiths have not helped! When we view God as an executioner, riding the dark horse coming in the clouds to seek and destroy, who would want to trust in a faith like that?! With that being said, I do believe that we have numerous issues in the world today and in our day to day lives. This world is fucked up in many ways! How are we supposed to react and position ourselves?

I don’t know for sure, but I think having a compassionate and enduring view of the future puts us on a more beautiful trajectory. It does takes steps and action to get this type of faith moving. Recently, I just finished a course with LA Hatchery called: Spiritual Entrepreneurship. Through this course, we discussed, critiqued, questioned, and proposed innovated ideas that would propel us into a brighter faith of the future. One of the course instructors, innovated theologian Barry Taylor, described a great perspective in retrospect of the future with using the Mt. of Transfiguration:

“In the story of the Transfiguration, Jesus’ closest friends witness an amazing encounter and want to build a monument on the site and make it a place of pilgrimage and retreat. In some sense they seem to want an escape from the hardships of life and to bask in the light of this revelatory moment. But Jesus has other ideas. He leads them back down the mountain, back to the world, to ordinary existence where life is dominated by uncertainty and anxiety. He calls them to live in the dust of an uncertain world and to bring a different future to it.”

Boom! That is what I think we must do! We are going to experience all the uncertainties, anxieties, and doubt when it comes to the future. No way around that. I don’t think it’s so much about happy endings but instead, its more about collaborative beginnings. It’s all about the process. We need to start being creative in how we react to our current world situations, collectively and individually. We cannot let fear of letting go of old traditions that are no longer viable in bringing a brighter future to existence (Mark 7:8).

News flash: from all the data from social researchers, when it comes to religion and its participants- its not working! The nones and dones are piling up! It’s time to use a little of that death & resurrection that Jesus spoke about and put it into practice. If we want to see any type of productive future of this faith for our kids, I think we better hop on this approach pronto…

“When tradition is thought to state the way things really are, it becomes the director and judge of our lives; we are, in effect, imprisoned by it. On the other hand, tradition can be understood as a pointer to that which is beyond tradition: the sacred. Then it functions not as a prison but as a lens.” – Marcus Borg

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