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Archive for January, 2020

By Mike Edwards

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Who blames those who morally question the story of the Flood in the Bible? We condemn people drowning just one child in a bathtub or a litter of puppies in the river. Why does God supposedly not blink an eye killing millions? People loss their faith in God or don’t bother with God when blindly insisted every story in the Bible is meant to be taken literally or as scientific fact.

Did God really drown the world minus eight in a global flood?

Ancient literature that predated Genesis wrote about local floods in their lands. It is not fabrication when a local flood is used to illustrate global human problems. This was a common literary practice in Ancient Near East times. Remember, books in the Old Testament were written for Israelites, not us modern readers. The story in the garden and the Flood can illustrate destruction is more likely when following human wisdom rather than God’s wisdom. 

Were Adam and Eve really the first couple?

If the writers never intended the Global Flood to be taken literal, it is possible the Adam and Eve story wasn’t meant to be read as historical or scientific fact. Scientists, who believe in the authority of Scriptures, have provided overwhelming genetic evidence that the human race couldn’t have originated from a single couple but through a population of some thousands of individuals. Believing this evidence doesn’t mean one is denying God. See https://biologos.org

Talking serpents and magical trees could be literary devices to discuss a relationship between God and humans. Maybe it isn’t coincidental that serpents in ancient near eastern literature symbolized evil. Genesis intends to tell us that God is the Creator, not how God actually did it. Many biblical scholars are convinced beginning stories in Genesis were written to convey God’s desire to bring order from chaos. Writers had no intentional of giving a scientific account. We only assume that.

But didn’t Jesus and Paul assume Adam and Eve were historical figure?

Paul and Jesus in the New Testament did refer to Adam as described in the Old Testament. This doesn’t necessarily mean Adam and Eve had to be historical but were excepted as representatives of the first humans for the purpose of talking about God. The Apostle Paul, who wrote a great deal of the New Testament, may have even thought Adam was historical. That doesn’t mean Paul isn’t still capable of revealing God to us.

What are we to believe about God?  

Many have good reasons to not believe all the stories in the Bible were intended to be historically factual. Let’s don’t insist all believe the same way if they are convinced otherwise. We cannot know with certainty the intent of writers thousands of years ago. Relax! Literature can’t mean anything. Only extremists don’t accept that their interpretations feed their hunger for power and control rather than love and freedom. Read the Bible with a questioning spirit motivated by love and putting oneself in another’s shoes. That seems to be God’s main message.

 

 

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by Jim Gordon

It is easy to see that people can quickly take a stand on one side or the other of an issue to which they feel strongly.

Many are pro-life and anti-abortion; pro-American and anti-refugee; pro-Christian and anti-Muslim; pro-marriage and anti-LGBTQ, and on and on it goes. Whichever side is taken it can often be very intense.

We all have a right to our opinion and to express our opinion. Yet I do not feel we have the right to express our opinions with judgment, condemnation and hatred.

Many groups of people have suffered judgment and condemnation from those of the Christian belief. It is sad that some who claim to follow the example of Jesus can be so hateful towards people they think are doing life wrong.

My personal belief is that Jesus said to love God and love one another. He never told us to condemn and hate people. Even when we disagree on the topics, we are still to be respectful and loving to everyone.

Love, kindness, respect and accepting people for who they are is the way of Jesus. He never condemned, never hated, never sought revenge. Sure, he often said go and sin no more, yet he never made the person feel terrible and he never followed up making sure that person actually did not sin again.

I feel Jesus said to sin no more because he knew what the effects of sin were on the person. He did not want them to go through the guilt and shame, but wanted them to be free to share his love with others.

Today there are many topics on which people take sides. Many that stir people up to do some very unkind and unloving things. As followers of Jesus we are to go a different route. We are to show his love and acceptance to everyone. We do not need to point out what we feel are sins of others. Not everything is a sin just because some people think it is. God can work in the life of each person to deal with what needs done without us throwing in our two cents. We are only told to love God and love people.

So, go ahead and take a stand on the issues that are important to you. Vote for who you feel will do the best job and give equal rights and fair treatment to all people. Yet do these things with kindness and respect for those who see things differently. Show the love of God to everyone no matter if you agree or not. Love is the way of God and it is to be the way of those who are followers of God.

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By Mike Edwards

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We can’t prove God inspired every word of the Bible unless taking a writer’s word for it. Besides, biblical writers claiming inspiration could mean God uses writings to interact with us without declaring such writings are infallible views of God. Since the writer didn’t claim God spoke audibly, we can question if the writer’s impression was correct when recording God commanded the destruction of innocent women and children in war: “Now go, attack the Amalekites…put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys”(I Sam. 15:3).

An inspired Bible leads to justifying violence and other immoralities in God’s name.

The idea of an infallible or inspired Book has led to assuming God’s views on morality only come from a Book such as the Bible. Not questioning if writers always understood God perfectly has led to justifying killing infidels in the name of God. God’s supposed warlike attitudes in the Old Testament have been used to justify wars throughout history. Imagine if terrorists had to admit that God possibly didn’t endorse words they interpret to deny freedom of beliefs!

Terrorists aren’t the only ones who don’t question if God inspired the writer’s thought or if their interpretation is correct. The Bible is used to prove many contrary views such as mutual or hierarchical roles. We must question if a loving God would put men in leadership position over women which has encouraged historical dominance on the man’s part. People condemn gays, despite their moral sense, because God supposedly rejects same gender loving relationships according to a Book. A fallible Book may actually lead to knowing God better.

What can you trust about God if not the Bible?  

Only a perfect or good God is worth believing in! Who doesn’t know a good God hates beheading people because they don’t share your beliefs unless a supposed infallible Book supposedly speaks for God? God doesn’t get enough credit for communicating through our moral senses. An infallible book has led to forcing “supposed” truths onto others. Questioning encourages honest, open dialogue as we continually evaluate the most loving approach. Problems often begin when we stray from common moral sense and insist on our understanding from a Book.

We are free to question how best to love others.

The viewpoint that God didn’t inspire the Bible, or at least admitting one’s interpretation isn’t inspired, could lead to less violence in God’s name and forcing other immoral opinions on others in the name of God. The Bible can be viewed as recorded experiences of beginnings with God and Israel culminating with the life of Jesus that we don’t possess in other documents, so we can reflect on what God is really like and how to best love others.

 

 

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by Jim Gordon

In the bible we read that God is love. That sounds so nice, especially when the meaning according to the dictionary is strong affection for another; affection and tenderness; affection based on admiration; profoundly tender.

Yet we read in the old testament about a God that sounds so different from this description. We read of a God of destruction, vengeance, punishment and hatred. One that kills people whether it be men, women or children. A God that kills animals and destroys property. What kind of love is that?

The new testament tells us more about a God of love. Jesus came to this earth to show us what God may really be like.  The examples Jesus showed were love, forgiveness, acceptance, affection, tenderness and compassion.

My personal opinion is that God is like the God Jesus portrayed. I think the old testament was more about the views of human beings, what they thought, how they perceived God and how they used God to promote their desires and hatred of their enemies. Again, this is just my view but it makes more sense to me knowing that the bible states that God is love.

People will argue that God’s ways are higher than ours and we cannot always know and understand what the purpose of God is in different situations. They will also argue that the bible is perfect and inerrant and we cannot question what is written therein. Yet I do not believe the perfect godly trinity is Father, Son and Holy Bible. I believe the bible was inspired yet written by men. Men also translated and interpreted it. I feel that over the years of man having a hand in doing these things that many things got changed, misinterpreted and mistranslated. I think God got a bad rap due to the involvement of man in the process.

Even the bible itself does not say it is inerrant. The bible makes clear who the perfect, living Word of God actually is, and it is not a book. We read in John 1:1, John 1:14 and John 5:39 that the Word of God is Jesus.

I say all this not to try and disprove the bible. I say this to show that God is love. God is not out to punish and destroy his creation just because of things they do. He sometimes will correct us, just as a parent does their children. This is also done in a loving manner. As a loving parent, we want the best for our kids and sometimes it involves a disciplinary action for their own good. But disciplining in love is completely different from beating, injuring, being hateful and killing to make a point.

It frustrates me when I read articles about various christian leaders making comments about how God is punishing someone or some area with earthquakes, fires, sickness and death because of something they consider to be sinful. To me, that is the god of the old testament. One that men use to validate their own thoughts and desires.

The best way to find out what God is like is to read the gospels written about the life of Jesus. He represented what God is really like. He loved people. He did not force his views on others. He accepted people, healed people, fed people and offered them a better way of living. A way of love. It did not depend on who the person was, what they looked like, what their color or nationality was, who they loved or what political party they followed. Jesus loved them all and treated them with respect and kindness. How much better our world would be if we, who claim to be children of God (1), treated all people with the same love, kindness and respect. Rather than demanding judgment, exclusion and killing; or demanding our views and opinions be forced on others or our political views be enforced on all. I say look out for the best interests of others, and do so in a loving and kind way. Live your life as you feel the Spirit is leading you, but do not force others to see things the same way. Remember Jesus told us to love 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. There should be no mistake here, God is love and we are to show that love to everyone.

(1) Link to article by Damon Brewster

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By Mike Edwards

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There is so much violence throughout the world. Evil is alive and well even in churches, synagogues, and mosques. Must God-followers always lay down their arms according to Jesus’ words and example? Would non-violent reactions end wars and evil, or does evil end when all individuals and nations decide to stop victimizing others.

More and more God-followers are rightly advocating for a loving than wrathful God. Many suggest since Jesus is God Himself, we should follow His words if we think they contradict an Old Testament prophet’s understanding of God. Progressives, for lack of a better word, would likely agree the Bible was not written so we can simply turn to a page to get an answer for our problem. I might give my kids different advice though dealing with similar circumstances. Should you confront, divorce, etc.? It depends! Seek God and the wisdom of others who are slow to be certain.

Quoting Jesus doesn’t settle it!

Progressives accept that the Bible, since literature, requires interpretation. Love isn’t dogmatically claiming my interpretation is right and yours is wrong. One interpretation of Jesus according to the Bible is that His example and the Cross mandate we must not respond violently. But, should we always respond as Jesus did on the way to the Cross? The Apostle Paul didn’t. When in danger, Paul threaten God on others and appealed for government protection (Acts 23).

Some biblical scholars, who respect the authority of Scriptures, suggest Jesus advising to “turn the other cheek” (Mt 5:39) was illustrating how we might respond to insults, not that we can never respond to violence against us or others. Does this and other passages rule out individuals or nations defending and killing if necessary when being attacked or even under the threat of attack? Depends! Jesus didn’t condemn a Roman soldier’s faith for serving his nation (Lk.7:1-9). 

Can we at least agree …….

Research is sited to suggest non-violent responses can deter further violence. We should always strive to not respond to violence with violence if there is another way. We don’t seem to agree that when violence seems unavoidable, that we can be grateful for those who protect us when people cannot be “talked or exampled” from violence. When we dogmatically claim God never advocates violence, we imply people are not being Christ-like when they must kill when serving their military, police force, or family. We don’t know what God would always do!

What would God do in your situation?

Can you have a security plan as a church or family that would use violence? That is a personal decision between you and God. You have to decide for yourself if to attend a certain church or go elsewhere. Personally, I hope I am God-loving enough to not respond to a situation with violence when other options exist. Jesus’ example encourages non-violence but sometimes self or government protection is necessary because evil is still very real. I am convinced we can love our enemies and love the innocent by protecting them from harm. The Bible doesn’t settle whether God would never advocate responding to evil with violence!

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by Jim Gordon

Philippians 2:3-7 – Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant and being made in the likeness of men.

In today’s world, it seems everyone has the I am number one attitude. We are all interested in what is best for us, what makes us happy, how to be more comfortable and satisfied in our lives. Seems like we will do anything we can to get ahead in life, to get all the comforts and things to make it easier for us.

The verses above state that as followers of Christ, we should be doing just the opposite. Our thoughts and attitudes should be how we can show the love of God to others, what we can do to help those in need, how can we use the money God has blessed us with to help the less fortunate.

God says that we are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, strength and mind and to love others as ourself. While the jobs and things we have been given and blessed with by God are not wrong, we need to keep in mind that they are not the important part of our lives. We are to be thinking of others and their need for love, acceptance and help. How can we encourage and build up someone, how can we help meet a need in their life.

There is nothing wrong with taking thought of our wants, needs and interests. The verse states ‘do not merely look out for your own interests’. Unfortunately, many times our own interests are all that concern us. May we daily ask God to help us think of others, look past the labels that are placed upon them and see the human being that we can help and encourage with the love and leading of God.

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by Mike Edwards

The political divide in our nation is obvious, but shouldn’t people who claim to follow Jesus’ teachings get along? Yes, plenty of people are leaving the institutional church but they aren’t leaving God. It is hard to make a big impact in the world alone. A movement though can! Why isn’t a Following who claims the importance of loving others as themselves having more of an impact on our culture?

It is human nature to not always get along.

The wife and I got along pretty well when dating, but that didn’t exactly prepare me for the first years of marriage. Love doesn’t make go away having to share bathrooms, finances, closets, in-laws, etc. I didn’t learn soon enough that love requires learning to disagree well so to live happily incompatible. You got to learn some skills as differences arise. But Christian divisions run deeper than nature.

One’s belief if the Bible is inspired by God may be the greatest divider among Christians.

Some believe God inspired all of the Bible thus is God’s final word on guidance; others believe the Spirit may guide us toward even a higher view of God than the writers always had. One can still be a God-follower though their view of the Bible is different than yours. Besides, literature requires interpretation whether you believe God inspired all of the Bible or not. More churches are forming than uniting because of differences in interpretations and no one is admitting they may be wrong. Christian opinions can stand side by side as we continually evaluate the most loving way.

Can we get along despite a helluva lot of differences?

It has been suggested despite the challenges of translation and interpretation the central message of the Bible is clear to all. I respectfully disagree. One’s belief about Hell supposedly impacts everyone born into this world. Views on women’s roles impacts half the population. Gay differences impact millions and millions of people. Can I get along with one who is convinced God condemns gays for attractions they can’t control? I may never know because we are quick to demonize one another when we don’t share the same convictions.

What first steps can we take to show true love?

We each have to decide what is the first big step we can take in our relationships. As my beliefs were forming and changing over the decades, I wasn’t always respectful in sharing my passions. If I had it all to do over, I would have sought to understand first before being understood. This is the best way for relationships to not end up demonizing one another. Standing side by side may in time allow one to be persuaded for the right reasons. Christians acting loving toward one another could change the world!

 

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by Jim Gordon

As we start a new year, do we really need to say anything more than to love one another?

The message you heard from the very beginning is this: we must love one another. (1 John 3:11)

Do not take revenge on others or continue to hate them, but love your neighbors as you love yourself. I am the Lord. (Leviticus 19:18)

Above everything, love one another earnestly, because love covers over many sins. (1 Peter 4:8)

Be under obligation to no one—the only obligation you have is to love one another. Whoever does this has obeyed the Law. (Romans 13:8)

My children, our love should not be just words and talk; it must be true love, which shows itself in action. (1 John 3:18)

No one has ever seen God, but if we love one another, God lives in union with us, and his love is made perfect in us. We are sure that we live in union with God and that he lives in union with us, because he has given us his Spirit. (1 John 4:12-13)

Do all your work in love. (1 Corinthians 16:14)

Be always humble, gentle, and patient. Show your love by being tolerant with one another. Do your best to preserve the unity which the Spirit gives by means of the peace that binds you together. (Ephesians 4:2-3)

To conclude: you must all have the same attitude and the same feelings; love one another, and be kind and humble with one another. Do not pay back evil with evil or cursing with cursing; instead, pay back with a blessing, because a blessing is what God promised to give you when he called you. (1 Peter 3:8-9)

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39)

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)

“Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” (Romans 12:10)

“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:44-45)

“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:12-13)

“Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.” (Romans 12:8)

As we start into the year 2020, let us remember to put down our prejudices, ignore the labels placed upon people and let the love of God and love of all people be what we are known for. Happy New Year and thanks to all who followed our articles during the past year.

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