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Archive for October, 2019

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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By Mike Edwards

It is only natural to think a Creator would love us and others how we were seemingly created to love others. It matters what we think God is like because our understanding determines the depth of our relationship with God and others. Those who believe in God typically suggest we should strive to be perfect like God. An atheist would say the only kind of God worth believing in is a perfect God. Such language assumes we know perfect from imperfect, good from evil.

Those who declare God is mysterious even believe human and godly perfection are the same.

God is claimed to be a mystery sometimes because one’s interpretation of Scriptures makes God appeal evil from a human perspective. Isn’t this because we all have an inborn intuition that God and human perfect love are the same? It’s nonsensical to suggest evil is sometimes good in God’s eyes. Even the Bible assumes we can know what perfect love is, because the Bible tells us to be perfect like God (Mt. 5:48). We must question our interpretations when God’s love seemingly is not the same as perfect human love.

But, we don’t all agree what perfection is! 

Most agree all should strive to treat others like we want to be treated. We seem to know how we “ought” to treat others. Now, there is disagreement. Should we show tough love to a loved one struggling with addiction or believe their regret of actions and give another chance? Certainty in how we should always act or know what God would do is an illusion. Certainty has led to forcing “supposed” truths onto others. Uncertainty, unless obviously immoral such as sexual abuse, allows different opinions to stand side by side as we continually evaluate the most loving approach. 

Something isn’t immoral because we think the Bible says so.  

Many believe the Bible or Quran are revelations from God about what God is like. But, scholars and laypeople disagree on meanings of passages since literature requires interpretation. Certainty about God according to one’s interpretation is an illusion. Terrorists and extremists defend their beliefs because of a supposed inspired Book, but interpretations aren’t inspired. The world may be an amazingly different place if God-followers didn’t say “because the Bible says so.” 

Human perfection is our best starting point for knowing what God is truly like.

Common moral sense is not the enemy. Don’t let your interpretation of a Book override the golden rule with others of a different gender, color, or sexuality. Don’t condemn others because of your interpretation, whether you believe a Book is infallible or not. You can hardly ever go wrong treating others like you wish to be treated if in their shoes. Actions of love are always more important than any beliefs. What do you imagine a good God is like? You may be right!

 

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Love Unplugged, part 2

by Rocky Glenn

Questions are interesting things, especially those that give you pause and make you think about something you’ve never considered before.   That’s exactly what the following question is.  It was posed to me by a minister years ago and I’ve never forgotten the way it made me stop for consideration.  Here it is:

“If fine china and dinnerware is supposed to be reserved for important people, why do we only utilize it when we entertain guests?  Are the guests more important and matter to us more than the family who reside under the same roof?”

While this question could easily be answered with practicalities and conveniences, it presents the idea of why are we often guilty of not giving our families the best of us: the best of our time, the best of our attention, the best of our love.  After all, our families are the ones who truly see us unplugged.  Staying with this musical analogy, when we put on the facade of our “best” for others, we are essentially musicians using amplification, distortion, effects, and sound modifications to make the acoustic sound of who we really are into something we assume they will find pleasing.  Pondering this idea is what prompted me to slow down and examine what love really is and begin this whole series on 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 on, what is considered the day of love, Valentine’s Day.  (See Love Amplified.)

1-cornithians-13

For a detailed look at 1 Corinthians 13:4, see Love Unplugged, part 1.

1 Corinthians 13:5-6 from The Amplified BibleIt is not rude; it is not self-seeking, it is not provoked [nor overly sensitive and easily angered]; it does not take into account a wrong endured. It does not rejoice at injustice, but rejoices with the truth [when right and truth prevail].

Love is not rude.  To be rude is to be ill-mannered, impolite, discourteous, uncivil, and ill-behaved.  Quite simply put, as translated in the NIV, love does not dishonor others.  Love respects others and never dishonors them.

Love is not self-seeking.  Love is not selfish.  Love does not think about itself and does not demand its own way.  Love does not ask, “What’s in it for me?”

Love is not provoked [nor overly sensitive and easily angered].  Depending on your personal perspective, one of the greatest (or worst!) things about marriage is learning how to push your spouse’s buttons!  There’s nothing that feels so liberating as a justified retaliation for a supposed wrong endured by the one you cherish most . . . of course, that’s also the quickest to ensure you go to bed angry at each other and possibly go days without speaking!!  Love resists the urge for “button-pushing.”  Suffice it to say that in our nearly twenty years as Mr. and Mrs., refusing to provoke each other and forfeiting sensitivity is not something that has come easily to us but thankfully it occurs at a far, far greater frequency than once upon a time.   To know how to truly provoke another and refuse to do so is love.  This point actually displays how truly vulnerable love is. C. S. Lewis says it this way, “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”  According to Peter in 1 Peter 4:8, love covers a multitude of sins.

Love does not take into account a wrong endured.  Combining the four versions of this scripture pictured above let’s describe this one as love keeps no record of being wronged because it thinks no evil and is not resentful.  You will never hear love ask, “What about me?”

Love does not rejoice at injustice, but rejoices with the truth [when right and truth prevail].  There is no evil in love.  There is no part of love that enjoys evil.  Love grows in truth and dwells in truth.  I’ve heard it said that the only reason for dishonesty is fear of not being loved if the truth is known.  However, love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear (1 John 1:18).

I pray you are enjoying the practical applications of love we are exploring together.  Once again, this is not something we can do on our own.  We love each other because He first loved us.

Rocky

(This post originally written March 5, 2017.)

 

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by Jim Gordon

What would you tell someone who asked you what a christian must do to be pleasing to God?

A lot of people would start out by saying we must go to church, we must tithe and we must obey the ten commandments. They would probably say we have to witness to others and give our money to the poor, and probably even some in the USA would say we must vote republican.

Seems like we christians are so hung up on works and doing things in our own effort to be pleasing to God. If we are not going to church we are backsliding. If we do not tithe to the church we are robbing God. We have all these things we are told we should be doing to be pleasing to God.

I think a lot of the christian world today has forgotten that Jesus came to fulfill the old covenant. When he said “it is finished” he was declaring the old covenant had come to fulfillment. By living a perfect life, Jesus showed us God’s true character which is love. He restored the fellowship between us and God. He sent the Spirit to live within us so we could enjoy that fellowship on a daily basis.

I think the real answer to the question of what must we do to be pleasing to God is…..nothing! We do not have to do anything because God provided grace through Christ. We are the righteousness of God and the Spirit of Christ now lives in us. It is not based on what we have done, it is all on what He has done.

We no longer have to try to keep the ten commandments. Those were a guide, or tutor to lead us to Christ. We no longer have to go to church because through Christ, we are the Church. We can assemble together with other believers any day, anywhere. We do not need to look to others for guidance and knowledge because the Spirit lives in us and is our teacher and guide. We do not have to tithe our money because the old covenant has been fulfilled. We can now give our money out of love and to who and where God is leading us to give. We do not have to force every encounter with someone to witness to them because the Holy Spirit is the one who draws all men to God. Since He lives in us we can be open to allow Him to work in us how He pleases.

So many christians today do not realize the freedom we have in Christ. They do not understand grace and the fact that we are no longer under condemnation. We do not have to do things to be pleasing to God. We now live under the guidance of the Spirit and we do things out of love, not out of obligation and trying to keep rules and commands.

So many of us live day to day under condemnation because we feel we have not done enough for God. We feel we do not measure up because we cannot do things like someone else does, or we cannot preach like someone else can. The fact is, God made us all the way we are for a reason. In the body of Christ, we all are equal and all have equally important qualities that God uses. No one is on a higher level than anyone else. We are all brothers and sisters and we are all under the headship of Jesus Christ.

Stop feeling like you are not pleasing to God because of something you do or something you do not do. Christ has provided grace for all of us, and there is nothing we can do to earn it or pay for it.

We can rest in God’s love. We can enjoy daily fellowship with Him because He loves us. We can be assured that we are now in the Kingdom for eternity because of what Christ has done for us. We can stop listening to others who we think are on a higher level than us, or who we think are closer to God because God loves each of His children equally. We are all capable of hearing and learning from the Holy Spirit who is within us. We do not have to wait until Sunday to hear from Him, worship Him, serve Him because we are the Church and every day is the Lord’s day.

Stop condemning yourself, look to God, love Him and love others. Let Him teach you, guide you, live through you day by day. There is nothing more you need to do than accept Him, love Him and love others. We are now new creatures in Him. We now live in His Kingdom. Forget the the rules and regulations of religion. Love God, love one another and realize you are loved just the way you are.

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