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Archive for August, 2020

By Mike Edwards

MikeEdwardsprofilepic125

I swear this is the last time I will write on this subject until next time. There is repetition in my writing because I am always trying to answer the question better.  I named my blog What God May Really Be Like  in search of answers to this question. I am convinced many don’t pursue a relationship with God because of mistaken beliefs claimed about God.   

The truth is we can’t prove that God exist or doesn’t exist. Either belief takes faith. If a Creator does exist, most agree only a perfectly good or loving God is worth believing in. Such a statement is nonsensical if we are clueless about perfect love. A Creator surely loves in ways God’s creations sense they ought to love others.

God and perfect human love must be the same.

The Bible even suggests perfect human love and God’s love are the same: “Be perfect, therefore as your heavenly Parent is perfect” (Mt. 5:48). “Follow God’s example…” (Eph. 5:1). We may not always know what perfect love entails but at least we always know the question we ought to ask ourselves – am I loving others perfectly or am I loving others like our Creator loves. God is often claimed a mystery because one’s interpretation of Scriptures makes God seem evil. Such interpreters sense intuitively God and human love are the same.

Moral intuitions are a guide in what true love is.

It is plausible a universal compulsion to treat others like we want to be treated is how a Creator communicates how to treat others if in that person’s shoes. I don’t know any reasonable God or non-God believer that doesn’t respect the golden rule in relationships. Rational people don’t always agree what is our moral obligation concerning immigration, climate change, abortion, health care, taxes, or responding to evil dictators that murder their own people, but civil dialogue allows evaluating the challenges we encounter and finding what different views have in common.

But, what about the Bible?

We can’t prove if biblical writers were made to understand God perfectly as opposed to being on the same spiritual journey all are on – discovering what God is really like? Even if God inspired every word of the Bible, we can’t always know what the writers meant. Scholars disagree on the meaning of the same biblical passages concerning significant matters such as hell, women, gays, etc. Sick and weak minds carry out immoral acts contrary to common moral sense according to their interpretation. We must use our moral brains when reading ancient literature.

What About Jesus? 

It is argued, because of the challenges understanding God and violence in the Old Testament, that Jesus is the final word in understanding God. Jesus claimed to be God and His moral legacy seems undeniable. But God-followers don’t always agree what Jesus taught because of transmission, translation, and interpretation. People who love Jesus with all their heart don’t agree if Jesus’ teachings allow or rule out war when evil is rampant and victims can be saved. It is an illusion to claim we can know for certain what God would do because the Bible or Jesus says so.

What does God really think about women, gays, and non-Christians? 

Most intuitively question if a loving God really favors men over women in leadership roles which has encouraged centuries of domestic abuse and other atrocities women face. Most intuitively question if a loving God really condemn gays, who have to hide their sexuality because of bigotry and hostility, when gays can no more choose who attracted to than straights can.  Most intuitively question if God would torture infidels forever for beliefs while on earth only for a short time. Humans wouldn’t even create a place such as Hell for their worst enemies. Such beliefs may only be held because of one’s interpretation of a supposed inspired Book.

Uncertainty may be better than certainty.

Certainty has led to forcing “supposed” truths onto others. It is universally accepted that it is evil to kill or behead someone because of their beliefs, unless you are a terrorist, but it is not a universal belief that God condemns gays. God may not communicate more directly, because God’s awing or overpowering presence may only lead to fearful obligations to obey. The Bible was more direct communication, but it has been used to force beliefs on others despite subject to interpretation. The road traveled of learning and reflecting may best lead to lasting convictions. Different opinions communicated respectively can stand together as we continually evaluate the most loving.

It matters what we think God is like!

Our mental images of God shape our relationship with God and how followers might treat others. The more you respect your earthly parents or God, the closer you are to them. We can’t claim with certainty, which may not be a bad thing, what God would do in every situation but human perfection is our best starting point for discussion. We can’t know what God is exactly like, but continually evaluating the most loving approach openly with others is better than claiming certainty and being wrong. Imagine what God is like. You may be right!

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by Jim Gordon

So many followers of Christ today live like they are under the old covenant. Most traditional churches seem to place more emphasis on the old covenant and rule following.

We have been brought up in the religious system that seems more like a corporation rather than a community where the priesthood of all believers should be the norm. The church has a pastor, elders and deacons just like a corporation has a CEO, board of directors and operating committee.

We still have the mind-set that we are living in the old way of doing things. A lot of us still think the church is a building we gather in and listen to a ‘chosen few’ tell us what God is saying.

We tell each other to ‘have a good Lord’s day’, thinking Sunday is the chosen day to set aside to worship God and to rest.

We look to the bible like it is part of the trinity and we worship it and use it for all kinds of rule keeping, judging and condemning others.

We tithe ten percent to the church, thinking God requires it from us and if we do not give the tithe we are robbing God.

Jesus completed the old covenant and brought it to an end. He made a new covenant with his creation, which we are now living under.

Jesus is building his Church, which is made up of people not brick and mortar. It is a community of believers with Christ as the head and each of us are equal, participating members. Now that may happen anywhere and anytime, in a building, in a house, in a park, a restaurant and so on. The fact is that Church is not an organized meeting in a set place at a set time, but it is a fellowship and relationship among fellow believers, no matter if there are only two or three.

Each and every day is the day the Lord has made. Every day is holy and for resting in the work God has already done. The idea that the seventh day is holy is just not true in the New Covenant.

The bible is the inspired by God. Although God inspired men to write, it is still a book written by men. It is the Spirit that gives life and meaning to those words. If the Spirit is not enlightening us and teaching us the words do not have life.  Jesus is the living, all powerful, inerrant Word of God and he lives within us by his Spirit.

Tithing was a law given to the Jews in the old covenant. It is no longer part of the new covenant. Giving out of love as the Spirit leads is the way we now live. God does not need our money, but giving to those who do, out of love is a way that is pleasing to God and a help to others.

It is disappointing that many continue to teach the old covenant way to believers today, although it is understandable. All of us alive today do not know anything different since this has been taught for hundreds of years. Not until the Spirit opens our eyes and leads us in His truth do we see this new way of living by his grace.

Seek God’s truth, ask the Spirit for guidance. Do not be condemning and argumentative towards fellow believers who see things differently, but be open to what God shows you. Do not be close-minded and continue to do things just because that is the way we have always done them.

The Spirit is within us and he is our guide into all truth. Be open to hear his voice and follow in the way he leads you. Do not be condemning towards your brothers and sisters in Christ who follow a different path. It is the same spirit that leads us, and we are all called to love one another.

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By Mike Edwards

MikeEdwardsprofilepic125

I have written on this topic several times. See here. There may be thousands of reasons people believe or not. One may believe just because their parents do. One may not believe because God seemingly intervenes little when there is so much evil in the world. I have decided over the years to focus my writings on one main reason people may not believe but wanna.

I am convinced many may not pursue a relationship with a Creator, that they are convinced exists, because they believe lies others claim about God. I know “lies” is a strong word, but no one can claim with certainty their view of an invisible, inaudibly God is TRUTH!

I may be wrong, but I am convinced the following beliefs perpetuated about God are not true. See here.

A God who isn’t perfect isn’t worth believing in. We can only compare God’s love to perfect human love. We all must decide what a perfect, loving God would be like and whether to pursue a relationship further.

Are we better off with God?

  • If a Creator exists, they may know a thing or two about life and purpose for living
  • Parents and friends often don’t love us for who we are but what they want us to be. God can often fill a void that humans can’t.
  • I am not the man I want to be. I have desires and thoughts that I know are wrong. I need guidance and encouragement in refusing them and knowing they are not in my best interests

Do you want to know God better? Find someone who seems to have an open relationship with their Creator and ask for help. If they want to give a lot of advice and act like they speak for God all the time – run! Challenge God to help you find answers to your questions. Seek a rational view of God rather than some pie in the sky God.

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by Jim Gordon

Did Jesus teach from the Old Covenant? Was not the birth of Christ the beginning of the New Covenant? When does the Old Covenant end and the New Covenant begin? We tend to forget that the Old Covenant does not end with Malachi and the New Covenant does not start with Matthew.

Even though Jesus came to fulfill the old agreement through grace, the first thirty-three years that Jesus walked the earth He lived under the Old Covenant. He was required to follow all its rules and regulations. He even taught from those rules, yet those rules are no longer intended for us. ‘But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons’. Galatians 4:4,5

The New Covenant began when Jesus was crucified. When He said ‘It is finished’ He was talking about the Law, the Old Covenant. Upon His resurrection the New Covenant began and we are no longer required to try and live under the Law and the way of the Old Covenant. It is finished!

The old agreement was made with the Jewish people because they desired to have a set of rules to show God they could please him by their obedience. It turned out to be a way God used to show them they were unable to live a perfect life on our own. Jesus came to show us the true love of the Father and to restore our fellowship with him. Jesus came and fulfilled the old agreement and upon his resurrection made a new agreement of grace. ‘Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill’. Matthew 5:17

Now that the Law has been fulfilled in Christ, we are no longer required to try to live by the ten commandments and the rules and regulations of the Old Covenant. So often we seem to forget that because of grace we now live by faith in Christ. We are no longer slaves to sin, we are no longer just a poor sinner saved by grace although we were sinners and we are saved by grace. We are now the righteousness of God through Christ. God no longer calls us slaves but He calls us Sons. We are seated in heavenly places in Christ. This is not to say that we should go out and do whatever we want, right or wrong. We do have freedom in Christ to do what we choose, but there are consequences if we choose things that God has warned us to stay away from.

Today we choose to live a life pleasing to God because of love, not due to obligation by a set of rules. Godly love is the fulfillment of the Law. We love God, we love others and we have been made righteous through Christ. He sent the Holy Spirit to dwell within us and we are now the temple of God. It is the Spirit who guides us, teaches us and gives us strength. We do not love or please God out of obligation. We do not love him because we are trying to fulfill a set of rules and Old Testament laws that we could not live up to anyway. We do what is pleasing to God because we choose to do so because of our love for Him.

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By Mike Edwards

MikeEdwardsprofilepic125

Victims can feel more victimized, and feel God must not understand their pain, when told to forgive their abuser no matter what. What is there to forgive when one denies wrongdoing? Easy forgiveness can allow a husband’s abusive behavior to continue. When a sexual abuser doesn’t acknowledge their actions, secret behaviors continue. Isn’t the whole point to do whatever helps control bitterness and stops more victimization, though forgiveness doesn’t wash away memories.

The Bible surprisingly says to not forgive sometimes.

Most would agree the Bible says to forgive. To one’s surprise the Bible can also be interpreted to suggest forgiveness requires regret. God is said to forgive if we forgive others (Mt. 6:14-15). Forgive if they repent (Lk. 17:3). God in the OT is often said to not forgive the rebellious (i.e. Josh. 24:19). God wouldn’t ask us to do something God doesn’t – forgive the unrepentant? It’s complicated!

The Bible isn’t a question and answer Book.

My point is not to insist one should or shouldn’t forgive in their circumstances. Usually, there are difference opinions on meaning and application of the same passage. The Bible was never meant to be a rules book; the Bible was meant for reflection in one’s circumstances. Who ridicules the example Jesus set? The Bible is valuable because it suggests not always handling our circumstances naturally, humanly-speaking. Bitterness or revenge can worsen a victim’s circumstances.

But Jesus said to turn the other cheek (Mt. 5:39).

Some scholars suggest Jesus advising to “turn the other cheek” (Mt 5:39) was illustrating how to respond to insults, not that we can never respond to violence against us or others. Other scholars have suggested a possible literal translation of Mt. 5:39 is “do not resist by evil means.” This doesn’t mean partners or soldiers can’t protect themselves and others.  Jesus often used hyperbole for emphasis without stating exceptions.

When do we forgive?

For some forgiving can cause feelings of further victimization and bitterness; for others forgiveness can control bitterness and possible acts of revenge. Many may be haunted with thoughts whether they must forgive their violator at the urging of others. Not forgiving doesn’t mean you are full of bitterness or you wouldn’t forgive if one admits guilt and seeks to make amends. Whether a future relationship is possible depends. Seek the mind of God what actions in relationship difficulties lead to your best interest in the long-run in a world full of disappointments. God may not be as non-empathetic as thought. We are free to make the wisest choice we know without being guilted by others about God.

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By Mike Edwards

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This is a longer Post. Feel free to read sections below that interest more. I will make each section as brief as possible. You can go Here for more Posts on the Bible. I sat down to write a book on the Bible and decided instead to summarize my main thoughts in hopes it may lead to civil, fruitful discussions with others and ultimately to less judgmental actions.   

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 biblical writers always had. One can still be a devoted God-follower though they don’t believe God inspired every word in the Bible. God may have intended the Bible simply to be viewed as recorded experiences of a nation’s beginnings with God culminating with the life of Jesus. God didn’t necessarily intend for the Bible to not be questioned. Not reading the Bible with an open mind has led to sick minds carrying out immoral acts in God’s name contrary to common moral sense.

Does God ever control human cognitions that would guarantee an inspired Book?

The presence of so much evil in this world, contrary to God’s wishes, suggests that God seeks to influence than dictate beliefs. An uncontrolling God cannot guarantee a perfect Book, but God can enter our world with the communications means available to help reflect on what God is really like. God’s freedom-giving nature doesn’t support God performing a lobotomy on biblical writers or editors and controlling the canon process. The Catholic Bible has seven additional books in the Old Testament than the Protestant Bible. We can’t be certain our books of the Bible are the ones God intended to convey truth. There may be other books excluded that convey truth about God.

It is circular logic to suggest the Bible is infallible or inspired by God because biblical writers make such a claim. No one can prove that the biblical writers always understood God perfectly. They may have grown in their understanding over time. It is perfectly normal to think that when the Bible records “God said,” it was the writer’s impressions of God. Writers didn’t claim they were always hearing an audible voice. When the words infallible or inspired are used about a Book, many assume the words penned by the writers either came from God or have God’s approval. I doubt many things said about God in the Bible are true. See here.

Even if the Bible was inspired by God, we can never say “The Bible says…”

One may believe the biblical writers/editors always understood God perfectly, but the Bible as literature requires interpretation of a writer’s meaning and the writer isn’t around to ask what they meant. No Book can be proven to be supernaturally controlled, much less be perfectly interpreted. Biblical scholars who respect the authority of Scriptures interpret differently what God thinks about critical matters such as divorce, gender roles, homosexuality, and the afterlife.

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? See here. Isn’t it shocking one country only recently loosen restrictions on women’s ability to travel without male guardian permission? Do you doubt God condemn gays when gays can no more choose who they are attracted to than straights can, and they have to hide their sexuality because of bigotry and hostility? See  here.  Do you doubt a loving God tortures anyone forever, when humans wouldn’t even create a place such as Hell for their worst enemies? See here.  Many biblical scholars that have a deep respect for Scriptures have the same doubts.

Assuming the Bible is inspired leads down dangerous, slippery slopes. 

People often abandon common moral decency because of a supposed inspired Book. Inspired Books, as opposed to possibly fallible Books, has led down the slippery slope of justifying one’s interpretation as the Word of God. Many fail to acknowledge literature requires interpretation, and their interpretation may be wrong. Was God really the kind of Warrior described in the Old Testament? Since we are to emulate God, war is often justified in the name of God and justice. War may be necessary at times, but don’t hide behind the Bible as your only justification.

Only terrorists, because they don’t question a Book, believe a good God encourages beheading for unbelief. Common moral sense is demonized! Terrorists or extremists seldom admit all believers don’t interpret the Koran or the Bible the same. Terrorists aren’t the only ones who don’t question if God inspired the writer’s thought or if their interpretations are correct. It is seldom admitted that biblical scholars, who believe in the authority of Scriptures, do not agree on God’s views toward non-Christians which impacts billions of lives. How could a loving God approve only Christians go to heaven, when the majority of people born into this world rebel or adhere to the religion where born. Is God a God of chance? We must be guided by love, not just a Book!

So, how can we know what God is like?

If God exists and wants us to know Her, God may have provided other ways. After all, the majority of people born into this world from the beginning of time never had a Bible or had heard of Jesus. Even the Bible claims we best know God through the influence of God’s Spirit than the written word. Universal moral outrage toward murder, stealing, lying, etc. hints of a Creator’s influence through our moral intuitions. It is universally known how to love others – like we want to be loved! Moral intuitions are fallible but at least they should join the party of fallible interpretations for civil discussions. 

The main way to understand God’s love is to compare to human love. This is why many claim God is a mystery because their interpretation of Scriptures suggest God appears evil from a human perspective. It is often said the central message taught by the Bible is clear and the rest is nit-picking. Not true! We don’t agree what God thinks according to the Bible about women, gays, divorce, hell, etc. We may not always know what perfect love is, but surely God’s love and perfect human love are one and the same.

Does uncertainty make God a hidden, unloving God?

Let’s dispel the myth that anything goes when we can’t claim certainty. Who doesn’t know physical or sexual abuse is evil? Direct communication isn’t always magical. God supposedly spoke audibly when giving Moses the Ten Commandments. Some misunderstood God by not helping an injured soul on the Sabbath. Good thing there is no magic book to definitively tell us what God is like. We would just use it as a club to beat people into believing.

Certainty about God has led to justifying slavery, killing infidels, denying women, condemning gays, and other atrocities in the name of God. Open-minded uncertainty rather than “supposed” certainty could go a long way to healing national and personal relationships! Imagine if all marriages adopted this attitude. God’s awing or overpowering presence may only lead to fearful obligations to obey. If God communicates in less demonstrative ways, this may allow for heartfelt choices. The road traveled of learning, reflecting, and non-coerced choices may best lead to lasting convictions. Moral knowledge isn’t hidden. Amoral decisions are open. Maybe God speaks to us in non-dramatic ways out of love!

Read the Bible in a creative and fun away! 

Have fun discerning the moral of the story regarding the Tree of knowledge of good and evil in the Garden since so many interpretations exist. Was God warning us to keep out of God’s business since we can’t understand God? Was God trying to protect us by encouraging trusting God’s way than our own ways sometimes? Those not growing up in church don’t understand all the fuss. Who thinks literature subject to interpretation should be read so dogmatically? Read the Bible with an open-mind motivated by love rather than with blind obedience.  Discern a takeaway how to be more the person you deep down desire to be. That may be God’s Spirit talking to you.

It matters what you think God is like!

God is accused of being many things because of the Bible: sexist, homophobe, controlling lover, hellish sadist, hothead, egomaniac, etc. Most are convinced an unselfish than selfish life lived is a better legacy. What I believe is morally true about God intuitively is a far better version of God than what many claim according to the Bible. Most of us are decent people to begin with. Personally though, I am a better partner, father, and friend than I would be because of the insights, encouragement, and forgiveness that I sense from my Creator when reading the Bible. A right view of God may be the help our world needs in loving others like we want to be loved.

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by Jim Gordon

We have talked about discrimination in regards to racism and women’s rights. Today we finish up by talking about another form of discrimination. The violation of LGBTQ rights and the hateful way many are treated.

Growing up in the church, I was always taught that the bible clearly stated that homosexuality was a sin. The thing with this was that I never questioned it or did any further study into it on my own. I just accepted what the pastor said, as I did most of what I was taught.

Over time I began thinking about the love of God. The bible said that God is love. Jesus told us to love God, love one another and love our enemies.

Throughout the gospels I read of the way Jesus lived on earth. He loved people. He never condemned, never judged, never played favorites. He treated people with respect and was inclusive of all. That made me begin to question why so many of his followers today act with such hatred and malice toward those they see as different than themselves.

I began reading books and listening to other views and realized there were other interpretations of the few verses I was always told condemned those who are LGBTQ. Such books as ‘Torn’ by Justin Lee, ‘God and the Gay Christian’ by Matthew Vines, ‘Unashamed’ by Amber Cantorna, ‘Is God a Gay Basher’ by Jan Liebegott and ‘Unclobber’ by Colby Martin. I read blog post by James Finn, Susan Cottrell and others who know what they are talking about and offered other explanations and interpretations of difficult bible verses.

Keith Giles published an article I found interesting entitled The word “Homosexual” does not appear In the Bible [Pre-1946]. Thus insinuating that there was another word and meaning in regard to homosexuality up until 1946 when the term was added.

Interpretations and beliefs aside, just reading about the nature of God as presented by Jesus, I could not understand nor believe that those who were born as LGBTQ were not loved or accepted by God. And if God accepts those who are LGBTQ, the rest of us should also.

After all, we are all human beings. The labels are added by groups of people and not God, labels which cause division, exclusion and people being treated as second-class citizens.

It is hard to believe that still today, LGBTQ people are so often discriminated against just because of who they love or how they feel they were created. Now, I am against lust and open sex just because it feels good whether it be between straight or LGBTQ people. I believe in committed, loving relationships between two people either straight or gay. I believe all the different gender identities covered as LGBTQ+ are people just wanting to be happy and accepted for being who they were created to be.

To be treated with hatred, to be looked down upon as sub-human beings, to not receive the same equal treatment and basic human rights as every other human being is just wrong. To be denied health care, housing, jobs, cakes, adoption privileges and being able to serve in the military just because of their gender is a terrible disservice to people that are loved by God. People who are loving, smart and capable of fulfilling their desires but are unable to do so because of all the unloving discrimination in our world.

What really gets me is that many times, not always, the most discriminatory actions and hate filled treatment comes from those who claim to be christians. Those who claim to represent God, who is love. They seem to show more hate and unacceptance than others. Those of us who follow the example of Jesus and who love God should be the biggest supporters, showing the love of God and being inclusive of all. Yet due to the mistranslation of some bible verses and due to taking what we were told or what we read without further study and follow-up, many choose to judge and condemn those who are LGBTQ without any further question.

As mentioned in my previous articles, those who are black/brown, female, and those with various religious and nationality backgrounds all deserve the same treatment and opportunities as anyone else. God did not make any mistakes or second-class human beings. All deserve the same human rights and equal treatment no matter what they believe, what they look like, who they love or how God created them.

It is time to forget the labels and see people as human beings. It is time we love God and love all people without the judgment, condemnation and hateful treatment we so often see in our world. It is time to follow the words of Jesus by loving God and loving one another.

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