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Archive for April, 2020

By Mike Edwards

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The traditional understanding of Hell isn’t in the Bible. God isn’t a sadistic torturer who has to be appeased by killing their child? Humans wouldn’t even create such a place to torture their enemies after death. Hell was invented over the centuries to scare people into obedience. Such fear only causes confusion, pisses you off, or leads to hiding stuff. What really is God’s good news?

The Bible says nothing about the traditional understanding of the word Hell. See here.

Gehenna, the Greek word translated as Hell in the New Testament, was the name of a real valley near Jerusalem with a history of terrible slaughter. Gehenna is best translated Gehenna just as Mount Everest is best translated Mount Everest. There is no word in Hebrew or Greek for “hell.” Jesus used Gehenna to illustrate that spiritual death is as tragic as physical death. The Apostle Paul who wrote most of the NT never refers to Hell. Noah, or any prophet in the OT, never warned of Hell as a consequence for behaviors here on earth.

Is God saving us from earth to get into Heaven?

The word “heaven” appears the most in the Gospel of Matthew. The Kingdom of Heaven isn’t a place to go after life on earth. Jesus sought to bring heavenly love to earth – “on earth as in heaven.” Jesus said nothing about dropping to your knees to avoid Hell to go to Heaven after death. But, didn’t the Apostle Paul say “the wages of sin is death” (Rm. 6:23)? Paul is speaking of spiritual death because Paul is still alive though sin has put him to death (Rm. 7:11). Paul mentions Heaven twice in Romans, yet says nothing about Jesus dying so we can go to Heaven (Rm. 1:18, 10:6).

What does the Bible say God is saving us from?

When Jesus was asked by a religious expert how to have eternal life, He simply said to love God and your neighbor (Lk.10:25-37). Jesus’ focus wasn’t on quantity of life after death but about a life worth living here on earth. Jeremy Myers says it best: “When Scripture teaches about being saved from sin, it is not referring to escaping hell and going to heaven when we die, but to the deliverance from the devastating and destructive consequences of sin in this life.” https://redeeminggod.com/confess-jesus-romans-10-9-10/

God wants to save us not from God but from ourselves.

God hurts because we are hurting ourselves and those around us. God seeks to encourage us to pursue heavenly than worldly ways. God seeks to empower us to be the unselfish people we deep down desire to be. This was the message Jesus was willing to die, rather than save Himself, to inspire us seeking God’s help in radically loving others. As God loves us, Jesus encouraged mercy, forgiveness, and going the extra mile in our relationships. Jesus sought changes of the heart for the good of the world. Loving God can empower loving others to the fullest.

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by Jim Gordon

We all know it is a fact that no matter what you believe, what your interpretation someone always has a completely opposite view. This is true on about any subject, religion, nationalism, LGBTQ issues, women’s rights, abortion and during the present day especially on COVID-19.

It seems we can get excited about hearing some truth that really connects. Then the next thing we read is an article by another person that completely disagrees with what you just heard. This is true whether it is religion, politics or the medical world.

More than that, most of us Christians get mad when someone disagrees with us and believes something different from “our” way of thinking. We get on Facebook and make ourselves look crazy because we talk about brotherly love, then we fight and argue with someone because they interpret things differently. Most of the time it is about things we cannot prove one way or the other.

We really have to stop and think that whatever it is we believe, whatever our interpretation, everyone is not going to agree with us. Everyone has a right to their way of interpretation as long as they do not force it on others. There is no reason for us to get mad at someone for seeing things differently.

In regard to our christian life, it is all a matter of faith. No matter what it is in spiritual matters, no one can really prove what is right and what is not, or what is real and what is not. Just because someone has a different interpretation does not mean they are right or wrong.

We need to keep our ears open to the leading of the Spirit, and follow on our own path looking to Jesus. That does not mean any and every path is the right one, but we cannot be the judge of who is right and who is wrong. Jeremy Myers, in his book ‘Dying to Religion and Empire’ states, “The beautiful thing about following Jesus is that while He leads us all in the same direction, there are millions of different paths He can take to get us there. His goal, of course, is to advance the Kingdom of God on earth through the people of God who are being conformed into the image of God”. We need to follow Christ as he leads us individually, and then be ready to love all people, no matter if they are on the same path or not.

Let’s stop arguing, fighting and demanding that everyone agree with us. Follow the leading of the Spirit within and love those we meet along the journey. I think the Spirit of God is big enough to lead us all into truth in individual ways, yet all to the same goal.

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By Mike Edwards

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There are many advantages to being a part of a group of people who seek to encourage one another about God. Many of us had to leave the building but we haven’t left God. I will cite a well-researched book that interviews “dones” (Church Refugees by Packard and Hope). I will ask you at the end what your experience has been.

Why I left the church building

I will be brief. I was being taught beliefs about God that didn’t make moral sense of a loving God. They still don’t four decades later. My journey led me to question if Hell is real, if God only lets Christians into heaven, if God determines spiritual roles based on gender than gifts, and if God condemns gays. There are sixteen main misbeliefs about God I write about mostly. See here.  Eventually my journey led to starting and naming my blog What God May Really Be Like

I eventually stop going to the building because I couldn’t stop believing what I was learning. Whatever the leaders of the church teach is want most of the members believe. There was rarely open dialogue or in my opinion intellectual honesty, so I left. I have no desire to be divisive or undermine people’s faith.

Church Refugees seems to suggest the following reasons people left the church building:  

  • Lack of real community. Leaders were quick to judge rather than listen and then listen some more. It is important to earn the relational right to judge.
  • Lack of responsible stewardship. 60% of the budget went toward the 90-minute show without serving better those outside the building. The lights have to stay on but isn’t there better uses of the money?
  • Lack of meaningful dialogue. Being preached at doesn’t allow open discussions. Being so damn certain all the time is hardly relational, especially when even scholars disagree what the Bible says about issues impacting the lives of so many people.
  • Lack of grace. People weren’t looking to excuse their moral failures, but why can’t we focus less on sexual behaviors and more on the poor, homeless, etc. Who is perfect!

I am sure there are many, many reasons people leave the church. Abuse by leadership is real and why many may not only leave the church but God as well. I left because there were no outlets to talk about beliefs claimed about God that I was concerned was leading others away from God.

Why do you think others left or why did you leave the building?

 

 

 

 

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by Jim Gordon

We all can agree that the events going on in our world today are shocking. Those of us alive today have never known anything quite like this.

Just as in about anything that is said or happens in our world, I find there is a wide array of opinions on this going from one extreme to the other. Most believe what our medical experts are saying and are trying to do what they recommend. Yet, spend any time on social media and you will see there are many who think this is a government conspiracy, a highly inflated and overdone death count, media hype or a complete hoax.

Of course, we always have people who say this is a judgment from God on this group or that group, or due to this sin or that sin. I personally do not believe God has sent this upon us for any reason. We live in a natural world where things happen. I do believe God will see us through this time and give us wisdom to use what we learn and experience to make improvements for all human beings.

Personally, I do believe this is all real. I suspect some of the numbers could be exaggerated due to not knowing the exact cause of illness or death, but I do not believe this is done intentionally. Unfortunately, I believe the government and medical world was caught off-guard and unprepared for such an event and now they are doing whatever they can think of to help.

Though we have never had a situation exactly like this in the past 100 years, I do see some similarities in the situation based on the following from the CDC website with information about the flu pandemic of 1918:

‘Mortality was high in people younger than 5 years old, 20-40 years old, and 65 years and older. The high mortality in healthy people, including those in the 20-40 year age group, was a unique feature of this pandemic. While the 1918 H1N1 virus has been synthesized and evaluated, the properties that made it so devastating are not well understood. With no vaccine to protect against influenza infection and no antibiotics to treat secondary bacterial infections that can be associated with influenza infections, control efforts worldwide were limited to non-pharmaceutical interventions such as isolation, quarantine, good personal hygiene, use of disinfectants, and limitations of public gatherings, which were applied unevenly’.  https://www.cdc.gov/flu/pandemic-resources/1918-pandemic-h1n1.html

For my wife and me, it is not as much of a problem for us staying home. We are both retired and have regular income. We can order groceries, food and needed supplies online and have them brought direct to our home. Yet, I certainly do understand those who are younger who may be laid off work with no income. Their jobs could be in danger, their business may never recover, they may have young kids to take care of. Even with unemployment, many are having trouble getting registered and many still waiting on checks to arrive.

Then there are those who are still working out in the public. First responders, medical staff, essential employees. They all have to wonder in the back of their mind if they are being exposed or bringing this disease home to their families.

I believe the government is trying to do things to help, but we all wonder if skipped mortgage payments, rent, credit card payments and such are going to cause more problems later on due to taking advantage of these things that seem to help for now.

I can certainly understand the fears and frustrations of people in each of these situations.

So often when disasters and events like this happen, it brings people together to help each other and work together to improve the situation. It is good to see so many new innovations and new ways to provide PPE, disinfecting PPE and new testing processes for the virus that are happening. It is good to see how people can work together to come up with new ideas to help in this time of great need.

I do believe we will get through this and things will begin to get back to some type of normal. I do understand we all see things differently, but pray that we can look past our differences and work together to support one another and help bring this time of sickness and hardship to a close.

No matter how you view this crisis our world is going through, remember we are in this together. Do your best to remain calm, to be kind and helpful to your fellow human being. Out of respect for one another, follow the social distancing and general health precautions when you are out in public. We will get through this and better times will return.

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by Mike Edwards

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Moses challenged God about destroying the Israelites when they went back to worshipping idols when Moses was up the mountain receiving the Ten Commandments (Ex. 32:1-14). Moses won the argument (32:14). Abraham challenged God about destroying Sodom and Gomorrah and won (Gen. 18). Job challenged that God supposedly always blesses obedience and disobedience is always cursed (Deut. 28). God ended up agreeing with Job against his friends about the real world of justice. The God of the Bible doesn’t mind being doubted or challenged.

In Genesis 22 Abraham faces the challenge if to sacrifice his son Isaac on the altar. Was God testing if Abraham would question and ultimately tell God NO? (See Matthew Korpman, Saying No To God). Let’s look at some textual clues:

  • If this is a story of God really wanting Abraham to kill Isaac in obedience to God, we must believe God actually would ever approve child sacrifice. God condemned child sacrifice (i.e. Lev. 18:21). Abraham should doubt if God would participate in a practice God abhorred!
  • Abraham tell his servants “we” (Abraham and Isaac) will be back (Gen. 22:5). The concept of a resurrection, after Abraham followed orders, simply didn’t exist during these times. Abraham must have thought God was providing a lamb (v.8), or Abraham was going to say No to God!
  • Abraham takes out a knife as if preparing to sacrifice Isaac (v. 10). Since Abraham doubted God approved, Abraham could have been challenging God to stop all the charades.
  • It seems God intended to stop Abraham if he didn’t take a stand against God (vs. 11-12).

Was God wrong to test Abraham, by challenging him to consider doing something immoral, to see if he truly understood God? In God’s defense, sometimes you can tell people till blue in the face what is right and it goes in one ear and out the other. Different communications may get through better such as a parable or a test. God gave Abraham a moral brain and expected him to us it!

Women, Gays, and Hell

Do you doubt a loving God would favor men over women in leadership roles which has encouraged centuries of domestic abuse and other atrocities women face? Do you doubt God condemn gays when gays can no more choose who they are attracted to than straights can? Do you doubt a loving God tortures anyone forever, when humans wouldn’t even create a place such as Hell for their worst enemies? Different biblical interpretations are plausible. I am challenging any interpretation that makes no moral sense according to the brain God gave me!

Which view of God should we lean toward?  

It seems a universal, inborn desire to treat others like we want to be treated is one way a Creator would communicate what is good versus evil? Choose the claim or interpretation about God that doesn’t contradict your intuitive sense of a loving God. Discuss with others. You are free to choose the most loving way. We don’t always know what perfect love is, but it is better to challenge God than not question God and be wrong. Imagine what God may be like. You may be right!

 

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Mike Edwards

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Bible folks are probably familiar with the Apostle Paul’s saying: “And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith (I Cor. 15:14). Paul of course said this because he heard Jesus’ voice after his resurrection (Acts 9:5). I wasn’t there but I am still convinced God’s message to live an unselfish life is worth it, even if it turns out there is nothing at the end of life.

Who can blame many for lack of belief in God?

An assumption often made about atheists is they don’t buy into God because they are trying to justify an immoral lifestyle. Please! There are many reasons one may not believe in God or any afterlife. One could certainly understand why many reject God based on claims made by Christians– God created Hell, God condemns gays, etc. The good news is that these beliefs are questionable even according to the Bible, much less whether could be true of a loving God.

Do we follow God only for the reward?

Many God-followers rightly speak out against claims that Jesus came to save us from Hell because God is so pissed at us. Turns out such a torture chamber doesn’t exist in the Bible. See here. But, how is obeying God to avoid Hell any different than obeying God to get into Heaven? Genuine relationships aren’t based on fear or reward. What kind of relationship do you really have with a parent when you can’t speak openly for fear of being punished or rejected?

What did Jesus try to save us from?

We humans are always looking for a scapegoat when we fail. Was God really pissed at us and needed to use violence to have his thirst for justice quenched? God could have let his anger go and simply forgiven when one truly regretted their actions. Wouldn’t you? Jesus hoped to work a moral change in the hearts of individuals, trying to save us from ourselves not God. Jesus on the Cross reveals a loving God, a forgiving God, a God willing to suffer with us in a free world where life sucks sometimes and isn’t fair.

Being the person you want to be deep down is worth the journey. 

A legacy of treating others like you want to be treated is worth living! It isn’t useless to go the extra mile in relationships or to forgive others than to exact revenge. A loving God if exists surely desires to empower us to consider unselfish love in relationships. It was this message Jesus was willing to die, rather than save Himself, in hopes to inspire seeking God’s help in following Jesus’ footsteps through expressions of radical love. Changes of the heart are for our own good and for the world. I believe there is something at the end of death but I live the life I do because I got nothing to lose except selfishness and a lousy legacy. A godly life lived is not in vain!

 

 

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by Jim Gordon

It is amazing to me how many different voices there are in the christian world vying for our attention.

Everyone has their own thoughts and interpretations. I think we can learn something from everyone. Whether it is something new, a better way of doing things, a different way of thinking, or just realizing we do not agree with what we heard and it bolsters our own view.

The problem is that everyone has an opinion. That does not mean everyone is right or wrong. God works in each of us in different ways, and what may be right for one person is not right for another.

We need to seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit each day and ask that He leads us into truth.

Our relationship with the Father is a day by day lifestyle. What we know and understand today may be completely different from what we believed when we were younger. What we believe today will probably change in the future. God leads us into His truth in His timing, as we are ready and open to it.

Our goal is to daily seek God’s truth and guidance through the Spirit. We need to focus on Christ. We so often want to put our focus on a man/woman, a popular evangelist or pastor. Obviously, we can learn from listening to others views and opinions, but when we focus on people we can get off track and be very easily confused.

We need to realize that pastors and evangelists are no different than us. They do not have all the answers and they are not super-spiritual like many of us have always imagined. Remember that people are people. None are closer to God or more special to God than another. Yes, some are more knowledgeable due to more life experiences, reading and studying but no one is higher up or more important in God’s eyes than anyone else.

We all have our views and opinions. You can listen to one person or group and hear what they think is the truth, then find another person or group who has a completely different take on the same subject.

The only way to get past all the different views and opinions is to focus on Christ. Listen for the quiet voice of the Spirit from within who will teach us and lead us into truth. That is not to say we are all going to think and feel the same way on everything. God deals with us personally and in different ways. The problem is when we are shown something or led in a particular way, we expect everyone to see it our way and believe the same thing.

It is time we become what we say we are, followers of Jesus. Stop being followers of other humans. Nothing wrong with listening and hearing others views, but take it as that…only their view. Jesus is the one to follow and be our everything. By being followers of Jesus we will hear from the Spirit and will love and accept others with the love of God.

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