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Archive for March, 2022

The Spirit Made Me Do It

by Jim Gordon

Many of us in the Christian world have had questions as to how the Holy Spirit works in our lives. Does the Spirit control us, speak to us, guide us or teach us? If so, how? These are certainly good questions and not always easy to answer.

We read in the bible, that after Jesus ascended into heaven, he said he would send us another Comforter. The Holy Spirit came to live within us, and we became the new temple of God. God’s Spirit now lives within us, his people, and not in a building made by hands.

The purpose of the Spirit is to be our comforter and to remind us of who we are in Christ. For those who are followers of Christ, the Spirit no longer convicts us of sin. Jesus destroyed the sin nature and we are forgiven by his grace. The Spirit is in our lives to teach, guide, encourage and remind us of our righteousness in Christ. The Spirit ultimately leads us to become more like Jesus.

The Spirit can speak to us through many sources. Most people think of the bible first, but we cannot limit the Spirit to only a book. The Spirit can speak through people, dreams, intuitions and common sense. God gave us a mind. The bible says we have the mind of Christ. Do not limit the Spirit to only one way of communication.

We have to be careful to discern what is Spirit and what is natural. Since we still live in an earthen body, we will have thoughts that are natural and some that are spiritual. For me, I have noticed that sometimes a thought will come to me, seemingly out of nowhere, and I have a feeling of peace or a sense of knowing this is not from me.

I also believe there are many instances when we give more credit to spiritual things than we should. How often have we heard someone say the devil made me do it? Or we hear someone tell us that God told them to do this or that, or to tell us something supposedly direct from God?

I do not believe we should say the devil made me do it, no more than we should say the Holy Spirit made me do it. God gave us free will. Free will is an act of love, and God is love. The Holy Spirit guides and teaches us, but does not control us.

If the Spirit controlled us to the point we had no choice, what kind of love would that be? True love of God is done from free will. We choose to love God and we decide to follow him. We are not forced or controlled by some spiritual force within us.

As an example, there are many people who do not even believe in God who are more loving and kinder than some who call themselves Christian. I believe this is due to our upbringing and circumstances that mold us into the kind of person we become. Obviously, the Holy Spirit changes us and guides us, but as mentioned before, we do have free will. What we were taught by our parents, our circumstances and environment while growing up, will still have an effect on the kind of people we are in general. The Holy Spirit is certainly with us, teaching, encouraging, uplifting us in our walk with God. He is our comforter and our guide, yet God has given us free will to do as we please.

Truly loving God is wanting to do what is pleasing to him because we love him, not because we are controlled to do so. Listen for the still, small voice within you as you seek to be guided daily by the Spirit.

Jim Gordon and his wife left the institutional church after spending over fifty years within the system. Jim wanted a way to express his thoughts and concerns about the religious system and why he and his wife decided to leave the institution but not their faith in God. Jim can be contacted by email at: jimgordon731@gmail.com

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by Dan Foster

It has been over three years since I last went to church. For a kid who grew up going to church every week, twice a week, for the first 38 years of my life, this feels like a big deal. Occasionally, I feel like I should get out my Sunday best, dust off my hymnal, and head down to the local chapel for old time’s sake, or perhaps to appease some lingering sense of internal guilt that tells me I am destined for the bowels of Hell — a belief that, ironically enough, I picked up from my involvement in church in the first place.

And that’s a big part of the reason that I walked away from the institution. I couldn’t stand how guilt and fear were used as tools to manage and manipulate people’s behavior. I couldn’t stand the performance-based religion where I constantly strived to receive God’s blessing, acceptance, and forgiveness. Above all, I couldn’t hack the hypocrisy that I observed in certain church leaders. If these men are anything like the God they purport to serve, then I want nothing to do with it!

And so I walked away. But, I am not alone. For example, in the USA alone, around three and a half thousand believers walk away from the Christian church every single day. According to the online publication The Christian Century, in the USA, an average of nine churches per day shut their doors for good. Yet, according to Barna Research, over 70% of Americans still identify as Christians. And so do I. My problem is not with Jesus. So far as I am concerned, he is history’s preeminent teacher of love, grace, and compassion and worthy of being followed. Rather, my problem is with the church. Which left me with a conundrum. How do I follow Jesus now that I don’t go to church, especially when almost every expression of my faith had been linked to the church up until this point in my life? In addition, I have observed that the Bible assumes that all Christians will be part of a faith community of some kind. Christianity has always been and always will be a communal religion, so I knew I couldn’t do it alone. So how do I do Christian faith without being part of the institutionalized church?

And so, I created this online faith community. Welcome to church! The Backyard Church is a safe place for people who still have a faith but can’t, don’t, or simply don’t want to go to church in the traditional sense. Maybe you’ve lost faith in the system. Maybe you’ve been hurt by the church or other Christians. Maybe you find the church is not an emotionally safe place to ask your questions or share your doubts. Maybe you’ve even arrived at a place where you want to grow in your faith, but the church is taking you around in circles. You have come to the right place. Let me tell you what you’ll find here in the Backyard Church.

Here you’ll find a safe place for your faith to fall apart without being judged for it. Here you’ll find people who will walk with you while to try to piece it all back together as well. Here you’ll find a safe place to ask your big questions, share your doubts, talk about your pain, and unpack your religious trauma. Here you’ll have access to thought-provoking and challenging content that will help you move forward. Here you’ll be able to connect with like-minded people from all over the world who are on a similar journey. Here you’ll be able to chat with other church members and leaders openly and honestly. Here you’ll be able to participate in online forums and discussions about matters of faith. No church is perfect. This one won’t be either. But, my hope is that in this church community, we can at least be honest, real, and open.

Everyone’s story is welcome here without judgment. No need to perform. No need to try to impress. If you’re longing for a church community like that, then welcome home! Whoever you are, you belong. I pray that The Backyard Church brings you life, faith, and hope. God bless.

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By Mike Edwards

I cringe when well-meaning people passionate about God say in the public arena “we need a biblical worldview” or start conversations like “according to the Bible.” Are they unaware that their understanding is according to their interpretation of a Book? Those with different interpretations aren’t rejecting God. Besides, God in the Bible sought to convince not force. We can speak of God in our personal lives without implying God commanded a new world order.

Truths aren’t hidden in a Book

No reasonable human being doesn’t respect the universal compulsion to treat others like we want to be treated. Moral truths aren’t hidden in the Bible or any Book. The Bible certainly can be a resource to explore what God may be like, but we were born to use our moral sense whether reading a Book or not. We must be careful what we claim are Truths. Most rational people would surely agree sexual abuse is immoral. We can’t declare certain immigration or climate matters are Truth. We must have open discussions which laws are the most caring for the greater good.

Proclaiming a “biblical worldview” is misleading 

God loving people don’t agree what the Bible says for many moral issues. Your biblical worldview may be wrong. Besides, we can’t prove God controlled the writings of the writers to always portray God accurately. It is just as likely that the Bible is uncontrolled writings in hopes to encourage contemplating what a loving God is really like. Writers may have wrongly contributed certain actions to God. Did God really approve of laws burning alive sexual offenders (Lev 20:14, 21:9)?

It matters what we claim the Bible says 

Biblical scholars don’t agree the Bible condemns same-gender loving relationships. A biblical worldview doesn’t necessarily condemn gays. See here. Many claim the Bible says that women can’t fulfill the same roles as men in the worship or home setting. This mentality can filter down to our wives, daughters, and friends and stifle their gifts. Scholars don’t agree that Paul, a main writer of the New Testament, thought roles should be chosen based on gender than gifts.  See here.

Uncertainty can lead to acting more loving 

Continually evaluate the most loving approach is better than claiming certainty and being wrong. See here.  Stop demonizing by moralizing. God-followers must stop claiming their biblical view is morally superior among the religious or non-religious. God never attempted to force a worldview on all. God may not speak to us demonstratively out of love. The road traveled of learning, reflecting, and not being coerced may best lead to lasting convictions and more meaningful relationships.

Can We Stop Saying “Biblical Worldview”?

Mike Edwards has been writing for Done with Religion for some time and has been a great addition to the site. Mike also has his own site where he writes that can be found at What God May Really Be Like  He can be contacted by email at: medwar2@gmail.com

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By Mike Edwards

I posted last week why we can’t seem to have discussions with others about politics if have a difference of opinion. See here. There are differences in the political and religion arena, but politicians and religious folks have many similarities when it comes to disagreeing.

Is the problem about power and control? 

Some just aren’t prepared to defend their viewpoint or hearing disagreements may undermine what they have believed for a long time. They don’t seek to push their beliefs on others but many seek to influence because they assume their truth, or their interpretation of the Bible, is God’s truth. We know control and power are intoxicating and a part of human nature. Quashing dissent allows one to be more in control which happens to enable job security in the institution. 

We can’t claim our truth is God’s truth 

Religious folks hide behind their interpretation of a Book as politicians hide behind their interpretation of science. Opposing views are said to disagree with God or be immoral. But even if you believe the Bible is inspired by God, the Bible requires interpretation. We don’t all agree if the Bible opposes women priests or preachers or condemns gays. Not all scholars who believe in the inspiration of Scriptures agree that a literal Hell is a reality in the Bible.

Not even God imposes beliefs on others

One might think a God powerful enough to create may annihilate immediately those who oppose God by choosing evil. God hasn’t. God’s love in the Bible is frequently compared to that of a human parent. Why would God act any different than a loving parent? Human or spiritual parents bring children into the world hoping their children freely reciprocate their love for authentic relationships. Forced love is an oxymoron. God doesn’t seek to control beliefs through fear.

This doesn’t mean we can’t cooperate with God in intervening to make for a better world. Jesus’ good news wasn’t to believe or eventually be blown up in Hell. See here.  Jesus only sought to encourage people to shun evil and do good for self-interest and the interest of others. Belief in freedom respects challenges. Meaningful, long-lasting change isn’t reached by controlling love.

There are absolute truths of course!  

Certain absolutes are universal and obvious to all rational beings. Who doesn’t believe physical or sexual abuse is wrong? No reasonable God or non-God person doesn’t respect that we ought to treat others like we want to be treated. Criminals don’t defend their murders or thefts; instead, they deny committing such crimes. Adultery is only not wrong in the eyes of the betrayer. The Bible doesn’t make such offenses immoral. They are immoral due to our inborn sense of good and evil.

We must have rules for conflict

Continually evaluate the most loving approach is better than claiming certainty and being wrong. We must learn to respond not react over our differences. Look for areas to agree first. Both parties must seek to understand before being understood. Stop demonizing by moralizing. Handle differences with physical and verbal civility. Imagine the impact the religious could have if those who believe in God “walked the walk” when have differing opinions. God-followers must stop claiming their biblical view is morally superior among the religious or non-religious.

Why Can’t We Disagree About God And Religion?

MikeEdwardsprofilepic125

Mike Edwards has been writing for Done with Religion for some time and has been a great addition to the site. Mike also has his own site where he writes that can be found at What God May Really Be Like  He can be contacted by email at: medwar2@gmail.com

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by Jim Gordon

In our world today there seems to be a lot of talk in the Christian world of standing up for our beliefs, our doctrines and our rights. It seems we feel this is the best way to show our devotion to God and be a witness for Him.

I am not so sure we are going about this in the best way. As Christians we are getting to be known more for what we are against and being unloving and unaccepting rather than showing the love of God to others.

A lot of us go to a church building on Sunday and sing and smile and listen to a sermon and think we have fulfilled our duties for the week. All day we are feeling good and close to God and think everything is good.

Then Monday hits and we go grudgingly off to work with a frown on our face and feeling down. We may be in a bad mood and snap at our fellow employees and try to make them feel as bad as we do.

It seems we forget that Christianity is not a religious, one day a week life. As followers of Christ, we are to let Christ live through us in the strength of the Holy Spirit. We are to let his love flow out of us to touch those we come in contact with throughout each day.

Rather than try to win people over to our way of thinking by pointing out their mistakes and shortcomings, rather than condemning them and making them feel like outsiders we should be allowing the love of Christ to touch them. We should be accepting, and we should treat all people like we want to be treated.

While Jesus lived here on earth, he constantly spent time with those the religious crowd would not even think of being around. He spent time doing things that the religious leaders thought were wrong and against their religious laws. They could not even accept him as the messiah because he was so different from them and what they thought was a godly way of living.

Jesus loved people for who they were, just the way they were. He did not show judgment and condemnation toward them. He loved them and wanted the best for them. As followers of Christ, we are to do the same. It is not our job to be the judge of others and treat them like second class people. The Holy Spirit will convict the world of sin where conviction is needed. We are here to be Jesus to all people, loving, accepting and treating everyone with respect no matter who they are or what they believe.

In our world today, with all the discrimination and unloving ways of the world and even of the church, we need to allow the Holy Spirit to love through us to touch others and let them know they are accepted and cared for. In God’s eyes they are loved beyond measure. Love is the way of God because God is love.

Stop the unloving and condemning attitudes and let those you come in contact with each day know they are loved and accepted just for being themselves.

Jim Gordon and his wife left the institutional church after spending over fifty years within the system. Jim wanted a way to express his thoughts and concerns about the religious system and why he and his wife decided to leave the institution but not their faith in God. Jim can be contacted by email at: jimgordon731@gmail.com

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By Mike Edwards

Why can’t we have discussions with others about politics and religion when disagreeing? There are differences in the political and religious arena, but politicians and religious folks have similarities when disagreeing. I will discuss religion disagreements more in my next post.

Could the problem be about power and control? 

There may be an elephant in the room. Not all but many seek to impose their beliefs on others without debate. I can’t read the hearts of individuals. I do know control and power are intoxicating and a part of human nature. These internal forces flourish when others are not allowed to discuss alternative opinions in the public arena. When only one side is presented, control and power grow intentionally or unintentionally. A free, democratic society requires debate.

Recognize your opinion may not be the more moral view 

Politicians and religious folks often hide behind either science or a book such as the Bible. Opposing political views are often said to disagree with science or be immoral. But science is not black and white and demands challenge. Most admit science can change, revealing claims should always be open to debate. Refusing challenges can suggest some underlying fear or dysfunction.

Your view of climate control or immigration, whatever side you stand on, must be open to challenge. You may be right; you may be wrong. Yes, expert opinions exist on both sides of the aisle. Different opinions must be allowed to stand side by side as we attempt to come to an agreement which actions may be the most caring for the greater good. Can you imagine how different our nation would be if all politicians were open to such discussions?

Accept disagreeing about most issues is normal

My wife and I didn’t argue much when dating, which 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. Love requires learning to disagree well so to live happily incompatible. Partners begin falling out of love when each assumes their way is right. You don’t have such intense conflicts with others friends because you don’t live with them.

We must stop hiding behind science or a Book. I bet I can get all politicians to agree that murder or sexual abuse is wrong. We make decisions how to punish such offenses, not whether such actions deserve punishment. Science or the Bible don’t make such actions immoral. Murder is immoral due to our inborn sense of good and evil. It is a dictatorship not a democracy when we impose our will on non-moral issues such as health care, taxes, climate change, immigration, etc.

We must have rules for war – I mean conflict 

We must learn to respond not react over our differences. Begin conversations by looking for areas you agree. Both parties must seek to understand before being understood. Stop demonizing by moralizing. Handle differences with physical and verbal civility. It does take two to tango in politics. When the other side doesn’t act cooperatively, one behaving doesn’t always win the other side over in politics. Different actions may be required. Cancelation of different opinions is disastrous and unacceptable in politics or any relationship.

Why Can’t We Disagree About Politics?

MikeEdwardsprofilepic125

Mike Edwards has been writing for Done with Religion for some time and has been a great addition to the site. Mike also has his own site where he writes that can be found at What God May Really Be Like  He can be contacted by email at: medwar2@gmail.com

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See the Human Being

by Jim Gordon

I think that as followers of Christ, we should be able to accept and love everyone. No matter what we believe, what our faith or doctrine is, no matter our religion, nationality, sexual preference or color, we should see each other as Jesus sees us.

Jesus said to love God, love your enemies, love the brethren, love your neighbor….basically, love others. This is a type of love we cannot do on our own. It is only possible by the love of God within us.

We want to love, accept and care for people, yet it is only natural that we will not always agree with one another. We need to look past those areas of disagreement and love each other in Christ. This seems to be the way that others will come to see the love of God, not through condemning and bashing one another. Not in trying to prove we are right and everyone else is wrong. Love does not mean seeing eye-to-eye, it does not mean we agree or even like some of the things people do. It does mean we look past the differences and love each other as Christ loves us.

No matter if we are gay/straight, religious/atheist, American/foreign, whatever label people put on us, the underlying fact is we are all human beings. We all deserve to be treated with respect and be accepted. Each of us should be able to live our life and make our own choices without being judged and condemned by others. We should be able to discuss our differences respectfully, and none of us should try to force our views and choices on others.

How good it would be if we could look past the labels and see each other as people who overall want the same things: to be happy, to be loved, be healthy, get our bills paid and enjoy life. This is not to say we are going to agree with everyone, always associate with everyone and be happy together, that just is not going to happen. There are too many different thoughts, ideas, beliefs, lifestyles and personalities for us to agree on everything and be totally comfortable with everyone. Yet, by the power of the Spirit within us, accepting each other and respecting each other in spite of our differences certainly is a possibility.

Let’s look past the labels and see each other as human beings who have feelings, who want love and friendship. Let’s be people who can get to know one another, learn from one another, share thoughts and ideas with each other. Let’s accept the idea that we all have been created in the image of God.

Jim Gordon and his wife left the institutional church after spending over fifty years within the system. Jim wanted a way to express his thoughts and concerns about the religious system and why he and his wife decided to leave the institution but not their faith in God. Jim can be contacted by email at: jimgordon731@gmail.com

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By Mike Edwards

If you are a butt according to your friends, I highly recommend going all in with God. God is anxious to help you be less self-centered. But we know people who claim to be Christians or God-followers and it’s easy to doubt their depth of spirituality. Just don’t always expect saints. Moving forward is better than backwards. We know those who don’t consider God a part of their life and they treat others as well or better than us God followers. Are there good reasons to follow God anyway?

Following God has never been about avoiding Hell and getting into Heaven

Many of us who grew up and attended the institutional church were taught that God main mission was to save us from hell so we could go to heaven after death here on earth. All we had to do was say a prayer: “Thank you Jesus for dying on the cross for my sins. Please forgive me. I receive You as my Lord and Savior. Help me to live for you.” I can find no place in the Bible where Jesus advised such a prayer or demanding certain confessions to follow Him. The Good News couldn’t be about escaping a fiery, torturous God if such a hell isn’t biblical. See here

What was the Good News claimed by Jesus?

Mark 1:14,15 says “Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. The time has come, he said. The kingdom of God has come near. Repent, and believe the good news.” Repent refers to a changing of your mind, not dropping to your knees and never sinning again. The kingdom of God “has come upon you” (Mt 12:28) and “is in your midst” (Lk 17:21).  God seeks to empower one to live a life worth living. When Scriptures talks about being saved from sin, it is not referring to escaping hell and going to heaven when we die, but God helping to avoid the devastating and destructive consequences of sin in this life.”  See here.  

Whether you want to follow God may depend on your view of God 

Atheists and believers agree. The only God worth believing in and following is a perfect, loving God. Such a statement is nonsensical if we are clueless what perfect love it. Can a loving God really condemn gays for a choice they don’t feel they can control any more than straights can control being attracted to the opposite sex; can a loving God really create a literal Hell to burn non-followers after death for their decisions while living a short time on earth; can a loving God really encourage women to be more submissive to men than men should be to women when the dangers are obvious? God may be the God you think worth following. Beliefs About God

What do you have to lose taking the leap of faith?

I dare you to challenge God. If God claims to love us and guide us, God should be able to convince you over time They are worth following. I suppose if you aren’t interested in being the person you want to be deep down, bag it. You may be able to love others perfectly, but I need all the help I can get. The only God worth believing in surely seeks to influence to do all the good we can, in all the places we can, at all the times we can, to all the people we can, as long as we can. God through their influence has made me a better man, husband, father, and friend or at least better than if on my own. I have experienced God’s encouragement to continually strive to be better. I got nothing to lose except selfishness and a lousy legacy. A godly life lived is not in vain!

MikeEdwardsprofilepic125

Mike Edwards has been writing for Done with Religion for some time and has been a great addition to the site. Mike also has his own site where he writes that can be found at What God May Really Be Like  He can be contacted by email at: medwar2@gmail.com

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If So, We Live Under A Curse

by Jim Gordon

Many Christians today seem to live in two different worlds. Not only the spiritual world and the earthly world, but the Old Covenant and New Covenant world.

The problem with the Old and New Covenant combination is that we already know we cannot live a perfect life and keep every law God gave. We are told that trying to following the Law is living under a curse.

Galatians 3:10-13: For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, to perform them.” Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, “The righteous man shall live by faith.” However, the Law is not of faith; on the contrary, “He who practices them shall live by them.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us, for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”.

The Law was originally given to the Jews, not the Gentiles. The Law was given to the Jews mainly for the purpose to show them that in their own strength, they could not measure up. The Law was also a tutor to have guardianship, care of and instruction for the Jewish people until the Christ came.

We all know that we cannot live a life acceptable to God and the perfection He desires in our own strength. Righteousness does not come through the Law, and if it did then Christ died needlessly. Jesus came into this world born under the Law, and He lived and taught the law for the first 33 years of His life. When He died the Old Covenant came to an end. When He said it is finished, everything was complete and the Old Covenant was fulfilled. When Christ arose from the grave the New Covenant began, which is a covenant of grace and it was given to the whole world, not just the Jewish people.

By accepting his grace, He provided us the ability to live a life pleasing to God by the power of the Holy Spirit within us. We now have fellowship with God through Christ and we are now counted as holy and righteous in His sight because of His work.

The Law is no longer needed for those saved by grace. We are free because Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law. We now live under the New Covenant, one that is a free gift provided to us by Jesus. We now live by Christ’s grace. We are now free to love God with all our heart, soul, strength and mind, and to love others as ourselves.

Jim Gordon and his wife left the institutional church after spending over fifty years within the system. Jim wanted a way to express his thoughts and concerns about the religious system and why he and his wife decided to leave the institution but not their faith in God. Jim can be contacted by email at: jimgordon731@gmail.com

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