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Archive for December, 2019

By Mike Edwards

I guess depends if he gets impeached! Religious leaders say the darnest things. God gets a bad rap when Christians make certain claims about God and events in the world. Even “it was meant to be” implies God is responsible for suffering in the world. God ordaining who wins elections means you weren’t really free to vote anyway other than what God had determined. This makes a mockery of the freedom God has given us. An uncontrolling God may be a more satisfying alternative.

It matters if we claim God controls or knows the future.

A young woman may ask God for wisdom in marrying their partner. It seems a match made in heaven, but their partner becomes abusive and the children suffer too. If God supposedly knows the future, why didn’t God warn the young woman? A human parent would if they knew ahead of time. A controlling God can lead to asking “why or what is God punishing me for” or “God, do you really love me?” There really isn’t freedom if the future is already known thus determined.

But the Bible says…

It is commonly thought that an all-powerful Supreme Being must know the future much less control the future. Yet, the Bible speaks about God regretting decisions (i.e. Gen. 6:6). If God knows the outcome of decisions, why does God make regrettable decisions? Many biblical passages refer to God changing their mind depending on what choices humans freely make.

Did Jesus simply peer into the future when predicting Peter would deny Christ three times before it actually happened? Could Peter really resist? Why would Jesus pray Peter’s faith would succeed if failure was inevitable (Luke 22:32)? Jesus’ prediction could have been a warning to Peter to prepare for upcoming faith challenges. A professor may observe a student and warn they will fail their class but hoping the student avoids such failure. Biblical prophecies aren’t peering into a determined future but can serve as warnings. They only come to past if not heeded.

There are freedoms in God not knowing the future.

God guidance isn’t some mystery. God isn’t hiding a “known” future for important decisions. We don’t have to live in fear of making “right decisions.” We already know the mind of God when it comes to moral decisions; otherwise, God supports us in making best decisions at the time that make our lives and the lives of others better. The future is open. There isn’t one correct decision. Joy and good can be achieved by taking any number of paths and avoiding immoral paths. 

God is not controlling. 

God can’t control the future without making a mockery of freedom. God wants us to feel free without strings attached, unlike what we may feel from human parents when making decisions. If God can’t control the future, can God make any promises? A God who creates can surely guarantee eternal life after life here on earth for those who desire to be with their Creator. Meanwhile, God seeks to partner with us to make for a better world. God doesn’t control lives or elections!

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by Jordan Hathcock

We don’t want the Christian tradition to become an antique shop just preserving old things. We want to build on old things and allow them to be useful in different ages, vocabularies, and cultures. We want our faith to be ever new, so that it can speak to souls alive and in need right now! – Richard Rohr

During the holiday season, we can see the old ways of tradition booming forth within each culture context. In most Western societies, the Christmas tradition rings loudest with its songs, lights, decorations and food. Not to take way the amazing traditions of Hanukkah, Kwanza, Winter Solstice, Yule, etc. What I am doing here is simply pointing out a renewed since of presence within the Christmas tradition. It’s easy to see the beauty within the holiday of Christmas and forget how much it has evolved since it’s beginnings.

In many instances, the Christmas holiday borrows from other ancient traditions to capture the currents cultures needs and desires. For example, the lights on the Christmas tree. Early Christians adopted this custom from early Celtics due to its symbolism of keeping “the evil spirits at bay”. Christians repurposed this custom into a symbol of resurrection to the “tree of paradise”. Both customs bring with it a truth of protection and new beginnings. Thus, the reason early Christians adopted the custom.

Also, even with the issues the Santa Clause brings (consumerism, greed, etc.), he did stem from a real Christian figure in Saint Nicholas as well as the folklore character known as Woden. Both figures brought gifts to the ones in need (which is a great symbol of what God does for her creation). I think the actual historic figure in this (Saint Nicholas) should be the one we tell our kids about. Here is what the real deal good old Saint Nicholas was about:

He used his entire inheritance to help the poor, sick, and children in need. He gave in secret, expecting nothing in return. Nicholas saved young women from slavery, protected sailors, spared innocents from execution, provided grain in a famine, and rescued a kidnaped boy.

All of this really points to numerous amounts of diverse traditions from ancient times that are still bringing about new ways of life in this holiday season. See, when we discover that the old ways were new once in time, we discover that the old ways always can become the new ways if we allow them to be renewed. I think we get to caught up in the tug between old vs. new that it ends up always being this dualistic battle instead of being a beautiful complementation.

We must let go of the idea that we must have this ageism divide between the old and new. To become unified (John 17:23) we will have to be more open to both sides of the old and new paradigm. Of course, when we see a tradition that brings harm to and individual or group, we have to cease the practice of that particular tradition and let it go. This can be hard for both sides. There will always be a time where regardless of how new or old a practice is, death and resurrection is going to be needed for a new type of design.

Jesus brings this same type of idea up when he said: “Every disciple of the kingdom is like a householder who draws out from his storage room, things both old and new”. —Matthew 13:52. It’s when come to the reality of the responsibilities of someone who is for the abundant life of all (not just some who have the same type of beliefs), regardless if it holds to the old or new ways. This is no easy feat. Fear has to die and love has to reign. It’ll be difficult but I believe it’s something that needs to be done if we ever want a world that brings life instead of death…

Oh, my ways are strange ways and new ways and old ways, And deep ways and steep ways and high ways and low, I’m at home and at ease on a track that I know not, And restless and lost on a road that I know.- Henry Lawson

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by Rocky Glenn

When James Hunter mirrored the skills of leadership listed in The World’s Greatest Leadership Principle: How To Become A Servant Leader to Paul’s attributes of love from 1 Corinthians 13, he provided more than simply how to be a great leader. He spelled out practical ways of showing love and provided insight on being a great human. When I first set out to detail each of the skills here, I naturally thought the eight traits would divide into four posts of two skills each. However, as I begin studying them more, the breakdown I’ve used seem to fall off the pages right before me.

As I’ve stated in each post, Hunter’s ultimate definition of love is the act of extending yourself for others by identifying and meeting their legitimate needs and seeking their great good. Patience and kindness are the first traits listed and are the first steps on the road to extending oneself. For most of us, patience and kindness come rather easily, at least externally, as we always strive to show our best face to strangers and others we seek to hide our true selves from. The act of extending was further displayed as we then discussed humility, respect, and selflessness. These three skills provide the motivation to allow us to be patient and kind as the more aware we become of treating others with respect and seeing we are human and all the same the more patience and kindness flow naturally from us. I truly believe the last three skills discussed cause the greatest extension of ourselves when practicing love.

To once again borrow the words of C. S. Lewis:

“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.”

Extending yourself makes you vulnerable. In other words, to love is to be open to hurt. These last three skills guide us in dealing with hurt.

Forgiveness

Forgiveness is defined as letting go of resentment. It’s one of the most important character skills for a person to possess: because people are human and will make mistakes, a lot of them. Your spouse, your kids, your parents, your boss, your coworkers, your teammates are going to screw up and let you down. We must be willing to accept limitations in others and develop the capacity to tolerate imperfection. The skill of letting go of resentment that lingers when people have hurt us, falsely accused us, threw us under the bus, and generally let us down is not about being passive or letting people get away with bad behavior or pretending the bad behavior is acceptable. Forgiveness involves going to people and communicating how what have done has affected you, dealing with it, letting go of any lingering resentment. Resentment destroys the human personality. Harboring resentment, seeking revenge, and obsessing about what others have done to us often causes us to become spiteful and hateful. When our pride and feelings are hurt, we justify not letting people off the hook.

Hunter explains forgiveness occurs when we separate people from behavior. We all do bad things but aren’t necessarily bad people. Are we as willing to let others off the hook as easily as we do ourselves? I was once told by a man I loved dearly, “Rock, we only accuse others of what we are capable of doing ourselves.” I hated hearing those words. I refused to admit the judgments I made mentally against others were only because I had the ability to do the exact the same things. Then the words of Paul is his letter to the Romans wafted through my thick head, “You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.”

Honesty

Honesty is simply being free from deception. Trust is the glue that holds relationships together. Trust is built by behaving with honesty, it requires effort, and comes through communication of listening and speaking. One major aspect of honesty which is rather difficult is accountability. Failure to hold people accountable for their actions is deceptive and is not living up the responsibility of helping others be the best they can be and provides the false illusion that everything is okay. Dishonesty and deception take root in our heart as unforgiveness is allowed to dwell. Gandhi stated, “One man cannot do right in one department of life whilst he is occupied in doing wrong in any other department. Life is one indivisible whole.”

Commitment

Commitment is defined as sticking to your choice. Practicing the skill of love requires commitment and passion for personal continuous improvement as well as a passion for doing what you say you are going to do, following through on promises, and finishing what you started. Commitment is about being loyal to people on the team and being there for others when they fail or when they need your help. It’s not about blind loyalty – doing the right thing always trumps loyalty. Commitment is having the moral courage to do the right thing regardless of friendships or alliances, even if its unpopular or comes with personal risk. Moral courage is the resolve to subordinate anything that gets in the way of doing the right thing. When all is said done, that right thing is always love.

Forgiveness, honesty, and commitment require vulnerability. To be vulnerable is to be capable of being physically or emotionally wounded and possibly open to attack or damage. It’s not a popular idea today to love to the extent of being vulnerable and possibly exposing yourself to hurt; however, as Paul reminds us in the closing of his famous words on the subject, “Love never fails.”

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By Mike Edwards

More prayers are unanswered than answered. The amount of evil in the world suggests God doesn’t intervene most of the time. Many prayers that are claimed answered could simply be humans taking action. God didn’t make your partner stop drinking; they finally hit bottom and got sick and tired of being sick and tired. Supposed miracle workers don’t go into hospitals. I bet those folks got the same faith as those healed at their rallies. Many are rightly disheartened about God when claims about prayers don’t match up with reality.

Love can’t be controlling or arbitrary.

I experienced as a child and learned as a parent controlling love is not love at all. Controlling love is an oxymoron. It isn’t that God has the power to do something and doesn’t. God can’t change people or circumstances without them freely cooperating. Miracles don’t happen because some people are less sinful or beg better at the feet of an arbitrary God. Miracles happen when God’s uncontrolling love aligns with countless factors known and not known. It’s above my pay grade!

But the Bible says….

The truth is for almost every passage on prayer, there are opposing interpretations. Mathew 7:7 is used 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 want to give good gifts. First-century readers didn’t assume this was a blank check for requests. The Apostle Paul expected persecution for beliefs (2 Tim. 3:12), thus God obviously is not a genie!

What is prayer?  

Maybe prayer isn’t about manipulating God for gain, but letting God run the universe who has the best interest of all in mind. Prayer can be talking and sharing with God, rather than asking for things and for God to override freedom. Maybe prayer is meant to help us not feel alone in a chaotic world. We can never overburden God like we feel toward our friends sometimes. We tell our children associating with the right people leads to making wiser choices. Maybe prayer is for self-examination to change our way of thinking so we can be more loving like God toward others. 

Does God answer prayer? 

Depends on what you are asking for! God is always listening and ready to support. God is surely doing all they can to influence for good and seeks our help to change the world for good, but God cannot both control and love perfectly. God is answering prayer when we hear: I love you; I forgive you; I won’t abandon you; let’s do this together!

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by Rocky Glenn

In The World’s Greatest Leadership Principle: How To Become A Servant Leader James Hunter defines love as the act of extending yourself for others by identifying and meeting their legitimate needs and seeking their great good.  We’ve looked at Hunter’s classification of love as a skill as it requires repeated practice, but what does it mean to extend yourself?  Extend means stretch longer or wider to cover a larger space.  In the previous post, we looked at how this extension begins with patience and kindness.  The next three traits require we stretch ourselves further in developing the true skill of love.

Humility

Humility is defined as displaying an absence of pride, arrogance, and pretense.  It is often mistaken as weakness and having a “poor pitiful me” complex.  However, true humility keeps things in perspective knowing its strengths and weaknesses and recognizing all are capable of mistakes.  It produces authenticity as humble people know who they really are, they keep their egos in check, and allow space for uncertainty and the opinions of others, even if contrary to their own.  Because they know they don’t have all the answers, and they’re okay with it, they don’t take themselves too seriously and are even able to laugh at themselves.  In Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis describes humility as follows:

To even get near [humility], even for a moment, is like a drink of cold water to a man in a desert.

Do not imagine that if you meet a really humble man he will be what most people call “humble” nowadays: he will not be a sort of greasy, smarmy person, who is always telling you that, of course, he is nobody.

Probably all you will think about him is that he seemed a cheerful, intelligent chap who took a real interest in what you said to him.

If you do dislike him it will be because you feel a little envious of anyone who seems to enjoy life so easily. He will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all.

This past weekend, the family and I took the opportunity to view A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood which is based on a journalist’s interactions with Fred Rogers for his article assignment.  In the first phone conversation between the two, Fred makes the following statement, “Do you know what the most important thing in the world is to me right now?  Talking on the phone with you.”  This interaction embodies the words of C. S. Lewis above.  To use the definition of love from James Hunter, humility extends itself by taking an interest in others in the moment as it happens.

Respect

Respect is simply treating people like they are important or like they matter.  Genuine respect is felt when originating from a truly humble person.  Being respectful of others includes treating even those we consider insignificant or find challenging with the same consideration of those we consider important or of great stature.  A common misconception about respect is that it must be earned.  Hunter points out respect is not earned, it is given.  I am a systems guy who loves spreadsheets, calculations, and data analysis.  When faced with a decision, I’ve often created pro and con lists both mentally and physically.  Hunter reminds us respect is not earned based upon a spreadsheet tallying someone’s positives and negatives but should be given based simply on the fact of being human and because everyone is important even when we judge someone as behaving poorly or undeserving.

In the aftermath of September 11, 2001, all major U. S. airline companies reported a loss in the third quarter except one.   The employees of Southwest Airlines organized a giveback effort to contribute a portion of their paycheck back to the company to keep it afloat.  What would cause employees to make such a decision for their employer?  Although he had stepped down six months before the dreadful event of that day, twenty-year CEO Herb Kelleher of Southwest Airlines had created a culture within his company: “A company is stronger if it is bound by love rather than by fear.”  This attitude of love and respect was not something Kelleher developed overnight but was instilled in him at an early age by his mother who taught him “that positions and titles mean absolutely nothing.  They’re just adornments; they don’t represent the substance of anybody . . . She taught me that every person and every job is worth as much as any other person and any other job.”

Boxing great Muhammad Ali described respect this way, “I don’t trust anyone who’s nice to me but rude to the waiter. Because they would treat me the same way if I were in that position.”

Selflessness

Selflessness is defined as meeting the needs of others and requires giving of yourself.  It finds its home in the willingness to set aside one’s wants and needs in seeking the greatest good for others and putting others before yourself.  Selflessness is an impossibility without humility and respect.  C. S. Lewis also captured the heart of selflessness in his further words on humility: “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.”  The nature of selflessness is what allows us to extend ourselves to cover wide spaces others may be unwilling or even unable to cover and cross.

In conclusion, referring once again to Paul’s letter to the Philippians, he reminds them of these three traits of love with the following:

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.  You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

Paul explains this mindset is displayed in the attitude and life of Jesus.  Hunter lists no greater example than Jesus of love and servant leadership.

So, how does this play out in our daily lives?  Do you consider yourself humble, respectful, and selfless?  How do you handle interruptions in your daily tasks or routines?  I’ve written previously of my struggles in this area and room for practicing each of these skills.  Remember, love is not a feeling and not based on our feelings but is a choice we make and exhibit through our behaviors.

On a humorous note, and just to end with a chuckle, I’ve always considered traffic quite a transparent scenario to examine oneself in displaying these qualities.  How selfless are you when in a hurry and others simply won’t get out of the way?  How much humility and respect do you show to drivers who insist on waiting to the last minute to merge or simply refuse to yield?

I’ll be the first to admit I need more practice on each of these skills.

Rocky

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by Jim Gordon

I grew up in the traditional church environment and followed the religious teachings and doctrines over the years. I have seen a lot of things that I now question and wonder why things were done that way.

Over the years many of us have come to see God as a big super human person sitting up in heaven just waiting to punish us for our mistakes. We see him as being impersonal, judgmental and many times as someone to fear.

Yet when we think about the life of Christ and know he was sent from God to show us what God is really like we come to see God in a different way. When we read about how Jesus lived and treated people we see him as loving, compassionate, kind and accepting. Jesus came to show us that God is the same way.

After Jesus left this life on earth God sent the Holy Spirit to live within us. Think about it, God in Spirit form lives within us and among us right now. He is not a super human person way up there somewhere but He is Spirit and is right here within us.

God is not out to get us and punish us every time we mess up. I think God gets a bad reputation from some of the writings in the bible. I believe men, although they were inspired by God threw in some of their personal views. Obviously if you were inspired by someone to write a book you would still write it from your perspective. Anything man has a hand in is going to be flawed. The bible is inspired by God and when combined with the leading of the Holy Spirit it is purposeful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness, and in guiding us to the living Word of God who is Jesus.

Rather than running around being afraid of God and waiting for the judgment of God to fall, look to Jesus and see that God is love. Whenever punishment is needed it is only for our good and it is done in love. Just as a loving parent sometimes punishes their child it is done in love and for correction that is for the child’s own good. We are not waiting to be destroyed by a God who loves judgment and condemnation. We are living with a God who is love, who created us and who wants the best for us during our time on earth.

Stop being afraid of God and seek fellowship. If you hear a pastor telling you that God is out to get you and that you had better shape up or else, get away from there and find brothers and sisters in Christ who will be encouragers and who will help build you up rather than condemn and scare you. Fear of judgment will not lead you into a loving relationship with God. Only true, godly love will be what draws us into fellowship with God.

God is love. For those of us who are followers of Jesus we should also be known for our love. As Jesus said in Matthew 22:37-39, And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Live a godly life by loving people. Rather than being known for judgment, condemnation, hatred and what you are against, show the love of God. Be kind to all people and be known for your love of your fellow human beings.

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By Mike Edwards

I cannot imagine any fair-minded person thinking women can’t fulfill the same leadership roles as men in the work or spiritual realm unless out of devotion to God because of their understanding of a Book. Most would agree not allowing equal roles because of the color of your skin is immoral. I would suggest denying women equal roles is emotional abuse if they are gifted to lead. Does God really believe roles are best determined according to gender than gifts?

Would God encourage role differences at work but not at home or worship? 

Few justify openly only allowing men in leadership roles in business. We call them misogynists or bigots! Is God really prejudice who the preacher or priest is? If two plausible interpretation exist in a supposed inspired Book by God regarding a woman’s role, shouldn’t we stand on the side that is potentially less abusive to half of God’s creations. The most qualified or gifted should surely lead the company or preach!

A Book may be the biggest reason Christians don’t think women should lead.

Bigotry or a Book, where every word is thought to be inspired by God, may be main reasons different treatment of women from men are justified. Bigots are put in their place. Secondly, even if it could be proved God inspired every word in the Bible, thus perfectly representing God’s view, we still must interpret what the writer meant according to God. Scholars, who respect the authority of Scriptures, often disagree about the meaning of the same passage.

Bible believers cannot argue there aren’t plausible interpretations that God endorses equalitarian roles between the sexes. See here. The challenge is no one can claim certainty due to the Bible because literature requires interpretation. We all have bias when interpreting the Bible, thus it is mistaken to argue one’s gender interpretations are right and those that differ are wrong. We can’t just declare “the Bible says.”

What are the consequences of men over women as leaders?

Best friends, in marriage or other dyad relationships, don’t require a leader. Men often assume loving leadership means making final decisions in impasses. I have never had a marriage issue in 37 years that cannot be solve creatively without one partner making all such decisions. Men in authority over women can encourage dominance on the man’s part and dependence on the woman’s part, which can be conducive for domestic abuse and the other atrocities women face at the hands of men. Most would agree equalitarian rather than hierarchical relationships are less likely to lead to the mistreatment of women when it comes to home or religious life. 

God, women, and men.

God surely believes in roles determined according to gifts not gender whether it be at home, the office, or in worship. Let’s stand on the side that is potentially less abusive to half of God’s creations. It could be argued many men don’t abuse their leadership at home. The temptation to abuse emotionally or physically is best removed. I removed spanking as an option as a father because of the impulse to react and not consider creative alternatives. No, my kids didn’t all end up in jail! We can handle differences openly and lovingly without declaring dogmatically because the Bible says so. Common moral sense isn’t the enemy!

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by Jim Gordon

After forty-eight years of work, retirement came as something I had looked forward to for many years. Yet once it happened the first thought was who am I now? What is my purpose? What is my identity?

All those years my identity was in what I did for a career. Now that it is over there were issues about who is the real me? Not the part that pertains to a job title but the real me. What makes up Jim Gordon apart from a job? What are my beliefs and what are the things that make me tick?

I have found that I am truly not my job title. There is more to me than a title at work. It is the same for all of us, once the title of our job is gone, it is time to re-familiarize ourselves with the real us, the one that has been there all along but hidden behind the job title.

I started thinking about who I am and what I believe and came up with a few thoughts. Just because I no longer have a job title does not mean I do not have something to offer. I believe we are all created in the image of God and we all have something we can contribute to show love and encourage others.

My first thoughts were more on things I am not: I am not into organized church, denominations or any particular doctrine. I am not into politics. I do not belong to any political party. I do vote, but I vote for who I feel will do the best job no matter what party they belong too. I am not into exclusion, separation or treating others with contempt. I do not want to judge others or try to force my views on anyone.

I have come to realize that we all have so many different views and opinions that I am not going to be able to please everyone. No matter what I believe, what I say, what my opinions are there are going to be people who totally disagree. I have come to accept that and to go on being me without the worry of what others think.  I am not sure why we fight and argue amongst ourselves so much.

I feel the person I am now is to live a quiet life, working with my own hands, loving God and loving others without the worry of what others think. We are each free to believe what we feel is right. I want to live a life pleasing to God, be responsible for hearing from the Spirit and doing what I feel is right for me.

I want to love people, accept others and show them the love of God no matter what. I will stick to the views, interpretations and opinions I feel are right and let others have the same freedom.

I will accept others just as they are and will not judge, condemn or hate anyone for any reason. I believe that God loves all of us just as we are. I will do my best to do the same. I really think if we all took that view on life, we would all get along much better.

I certainly have more time now than when I worked, but that does not mean it is time to sit around and do nothing. There are plenty of opportunities to do good, to show the love of God and to serve a positive purpose in life. No matter what stage of life you are in, God has a purpose for you to show his love and encourage others each day. Seek the guidance of the Spirit from within and be ready for God to bring others across your path to love and encourage.

If you are retired or no longer working for some reason, do not give up and think that things are over. You still have purpose. You still have good you can do. As long as you have love to give, a smile to lend or a voice of encouragement to share, your purpose and potential are just as valuable and important as ever.

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By Mike Edwards

I can’t prove God exist but millions including me aren’t irrational to think a Creator created the world around us. Atheists and believers agree. The only God worth believing in is a perfect God. We can only understand perfect love through the lens of human love. We don’t always agree what such loves looks like but human love is a reasonable starting point. The main reason many oppose views below is out of devotion to God because what they believe the Bible says about God.

God couldn’t be a Bible worshipper

First, we can’t prove the biblical writers always understood God perfectly unless you take their word for it. Secondly, literature requires interpretation so no one can claim their view is the right one. We can’t ask the writers what they meant. Thirdly, the Bible isn’t likely a Creator’s main communication, because the majority born into this world never had a copy or knew of Jesus.

God couldn’t have created Hell

God is not a sadist. A God who teaches forgiveness seventy times seven couldn’t possibly create Hell to torture anyone forever. Such pain serves no lasting purpose anyway. Humans wouldn’t even create such a place for their worst enemies. The traditional understanding of Hell doesn’t exist in the Bible. The word hell, a substitution not translation for certain Hebrew and Greek words in the Bible, appears to have been invented over the centuries to scare people into obedience.

God couldn’t only let Christians into heaven

A loving God wouldn’t only let Christians into heaven when the majority of people born into this world died without knowledge of Jesus the Christ. Secondly, one’s religion, or rebellion against a certain religion, is often based on the family born into whether it is Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, etc. Is God a God of chance?

God couldn’t condemn gays

A loving God couldn’t possibly condemn gays when they can no more choose who they are attracted to than straights can? If you are a straight man, don’t you naturally have to fight not looking at naked women than men. Ask gays their battle! Who chooses to be gay when one has to hide their sexuality because of bigotry and hostility?

God couldn’t be a sexist

God surely wouldn’t put men in leadership position over women which has encouraged dominance on the man’s part leading to atrocities women face at the hands of men. Like many views about God, the Bible can also be interpreted to endorse roles according to gifts not gender. God can lead women and men in trying to out serve one another. Shouldn’t the most qualified or gifted, whether male or female, be appointed CEO, preacher, or priest?

God couldn’t be an extremist or terrorist kind of God

Terrorists seldom are Jesus-type individuals who seek to love others like they want to be loved. Doesn’t true religion seek to serve not be served? Loving spiritual or human parents bring children into the world hoping their children freely reciprocate their love for authentic relationships. Forced love is an oxymoron. God couldn’t possibly want to control beliefs through fear.

God couldn’t be a moral hypocrite humanly-speaking

Even atheists believe One claiming to be God must be perfect. We must question biblical writers’ understanding of God if interpretations are contrary to people’s ideas of a perfect, loving God. When the Bible challenges us to be perfect like God (Mt. 5:48), the assumption is we can know what perfection is. Godly and human perfect love must be one and the same.

God can’t control evil and suffering without help

The magnitude of evil in the world is a main reason people indicate they don’t believe in God. It seems God creating freedom necessitates one being able to do as much harm as they can do good. Authenticity, the highest good in relationships, is impossible without freedom. Not even God can force true love. It can be misleading when we say God “allows” evil, as if God stands by when God could stop evil. God can’t control or violate freedom and love perfectly. God can only stop evil with the help of others or not create freedom.

God couldn’t be a prayer genie

Praying doesn’t make God more caring. God is already doing all they can in a free world. Pretending God can simply heal without accounting for freedom can makes one’s suffering worse. Did I not pray or beg enough? Prayer isn’t about manipulating for gain but pursuing a relationship with our Creator for self-examination, sharing concerns, and not feeling alone in a chaotic world. God is not a Genie in a bottle who can singlehandedly all by themselves make things instantly happen without our help to change the world for good.

God couldn’t be a future fortune teller

Most probably don’t think much about whether God knows the future or not. The truth is not even an all-powerful God can do the impossible such as change the past or know an undetermined future until it happens. God isn’t failing to communicate a “known future” so we can avoid bad relationships or decisions. God suffers with us rather than simply gaze into a future crystal ball. God created freedom and seeks to partner with us to make for a better world.

Notice I didn’t suggest what I think God believes when it comes to issues such as immigration, taxes, climate change, etc. Total certainty, unless beheading people for not sharing your beliefs, is an illusion. What we need is honest, open dialogue. Opinions must stand side by side as we continually evaluate the most loving approach. Problems often begin when we claim moral superiority either from our own moral intuitions or our understanding of a Book.

See here for further defense: http://what-god-may-really-be-like.com/why-and-what-i-believe-series/

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by Rocky Glenn

To be completely honest, the title of this series does not agree with me.  It makes no sense to think of love as a skill.  To think of love in such a manner takes the mystery out of it and seems to reduce it to nothing more than a learned trait or ability.  We romanticize love as something spontaneous which just happens and is uncontrollable, but maybe our idealization of love is why we experience a lack thereof.  By definition, a skill is the ability to do something well, based upon one’s knowledge and practice.  According to the Oxford dictionary, to practice is to perform (an activity) or exercise (a skill) repeatedly or regularly in order to acquire, improve or maintain proficiency in it.  Could it be because we haven’t been taught to practice the eight characteristics of love listed by Paul that we see so little of it in action in our everyday lives?    

As I shared previously, the study of leadership and love based upon James C. Hunter’s The World’s Greatest Leadership Principle: How To Become A Servant Leader has provided a more practical application of Paul’s components of love than I have previously encountered.  Hunter’s description of each of the eight characteristics have provided more of a mirror than I imagined into my own personal thoughts, motivations, and behaviors.  Remember, Hunter defines love as the act of extending yourself for others by identifying and meeting their legitimate needs and seeking their great good.  Defining love as an act indicates love is a verb and takes action.  In short, love does.  Love is not a feeling and not based on our feelings but is a choice we make and exhibit through our behaviors.  In this post, I begin sharing each of those traits in more detail as explained by Hunter.

Patience

Patience is typically defined as displaying self-control and most commonly thought of as being seen in times of waiting.  Hunter puts a different spin on patience by defining it more clearly as impulse control.  An impulse is a strong desire or urge to act suddenly and reactively.  Impulses are knee-jerk reactions displayed with little to no consideration of consequence to such reactions.  Those given to impulses will generally offer excuses such as “This is just the way I am,” or “You know how I am” to excuse their out of control behavior when losing their temper or flying off the handle.  To rely on such an excuse is a refusal to extend oneself for others.  Practicing impulse control teaches us to respond not according to what we feel but according to what is the right thing to do.  Patience makes us consistent and predictable in both mood and actions and causes us to be easy to be with and approachable.  Paul describes this as forbearance and moderation in his letter to the Philippians and states this quality of our lives should be evident to all.

To gaze into the mirror of patience is to consider the memories of blowing it, losing your cool, and erupting in angry, volcanic outbursts.  Even if the emotions behind the outbursts are truthful, justified, and legitimate, would you have responded in like fashion had you taken pause to understand and consider the damage such a reaction could cause to those on the receiving end?  What if the recipient of your lack of patience were a VIP, dignitary, or someone whom you wished to impress?  Would your response have been the same or would you have magically been able to control yourself and your impulses?

Kindness

The common definition of kindness is the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate.  Kindness requires us to reach out and extend ourselves by being courteous and listening well even to people we may not be particularly fond of.   Hunter defines kindness as displaying common courtesy to others.  By dubbing kindness the WD40 of relationships, he explains common courtesies are the little things that help relationships flow smoothly.  Little things most of us would simply refer to as manners like saying “Please”, “Thank you”, “I’m sorry”, “I was wrong”, or even “Good morning!”

Kindness is also about showing appreciation and encouragement to others.  Hunter reminds us of the famous words of Mother Teresa, “People crave appreciation more than they crave bread.”  Everyone wants to know they matter and are valued.  Kind people are listening people.  We’ve all been cut short in conversation and interrupted by others who simply can’t wait for us to stop speaking so they can say what’s on their mind.  It’s obvious they aren’t listening as they nearly trip over the words they can’t wait to say.  Taking a moment to pause and consider how devalued and under appreciated you feel in such circumstances will help lead you on the path to kindness towards others.

If love is truly the act of extending yourself and seeking someone’s greater good, patience and kindness must be the first steps of extension as they allow others to feel safe around us.  It’s written perfect love drives out all fear.  As we become known for our generosity and approachability, the fear of rejection will disappear.  It will not always be easy or convenient to practice patience and kindness, but, just as athletes train for competition and musicians rehearse for a performance, the more we practice each of these skills, the more proficient we become.

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