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Archive for the ‘Acceptance’ Category

by Mike Edwards

Freedom by God is necessary for perhaps the highest good in relationships – authenticity. Not even God can force true love. Freedom has possible consequences such as suffering, but if God didn’t create freedom we could accuse God of not creating the “most loving” world. So, freedom must exist here or earth and freedom surely exist in heaven.

Freedom requires that God can’t know the future.

The future must be open if we are truly free and God is truly loving. There really isn’t freedom if the future is already known thus determined. The good news about God not knowing the future is that we can feel God truly want us to feel free without strings attached. Is that what we desire to feel from our human parents when making decisions?

Why it matters that God doesn’t know the future.

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

We don’t have to live in fear of making “right decisions” or missing out on God’s will. We already know the mind of God when it comes to moral decisions; otherwise, God supports us in making best decisions at the time that make our lives and the lives of others better. There isn’t one correct decision. Joy and good is achieved by taking any number of paths and avoiding immoral paths.

Even the Bible suggest an all-powerful God can’t know the future.

Hundreds of biblical passages could be cited to defend either God does or doesn’t know the future. For example, in the beginning the writers suggested that an all-powerful Being doesn’t know much less control the future. Genesis 6:5-6 speaks of God regretting decisions: “God saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on earth…God regretted that he had made human beings on the earth and his heart was deeply troubled.” If God knew the outcome of decisions, why did God make regrettable decisions? Many biblical passages refer to God changing their mind depending on what choices humans freely make.

What About Freedom In Heaven Then?

It would not be loving for God to force others to accept God’s ways even in heaven. Perhaps character developed on earth may eventually lead to seeing no good reasons for doing bad in heaven, which surely is the highest form of freedom. If one wishes to entertain the possibility of sin in heaven because of the presence of freedom, we can at least hope God’s presence will have a greater impact than earthly, human authority to dissuade selfishness. We thrive more under certain types of parental love and leadership because of their qualities such as integrity and understanding. Also, we can hope heaven will not have certain negative temptations.

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by Jordan Hathcock

Without order nothing can exist-without chaos nothing can evolve. Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing. – Oscar Wilde

It is a hard thing to grasp when one comes to the threshold of an unknown road. Do we panic? Do we push back? What do we grab on to when experiencing this unfamiliar and turbulent route? I don’t know for sure, but it does seem like the more we experience the chaos, the more we scramble for answers. Maybe instead of demanding answers, we start asking questions that are more relevant with the path in front of us? Specifically, within the American Christian landscape, we cannot deny that we are at a critical crossroad. Are we going to listen to the petitions that are being proposed or are we just going to seek the more familiar and accessible remedies?

The “answers” might seem finite and foundational–but in the end–the order we want will end up being of no value. This “abyss” seems unpleasant (maybe unbearable at times), but what if we can learn to abide through it, to better heal and liberate as a community? What are the questions and answers I am referring to? Well, if I had all the prevalent questions with the damaging responses in this blog, it would be a million-page novel. But I did come up with four main ideas which seem to shed some light regarding the current church vs the world problem we are experiencing. Look, the “church” is supposed to be leading in example on how healthy community is done. Unfortunately, it seems to be doing the opposite. I believe these ideas play a huge role in why this is the case.

1. Culture Irrelevance

Wait, hold the phones?! As Jesus-followers, aren’t we supposed to be the called-out ones that are “not of this world”? How can I say culture irrelevance is part of the problem of the current state of American Christianity? Easy. Throughout the Abrahamic faiths and Jesus tradition, all the players who had a role in bringing this movement into fruition, worked and lived within their own cultural context. You cannot have the prophetically justice stance of Moses without having a dictator like the slave-driving Pharaoh. Or the “rags-to-riches” story in the journey of Ruth through the perils of a patriarchal society. Its relative for all these characters when they engaged in the culture of their day. From politics, earth-care, education, traditions, and entertainment, all these cultural aspects play a role when shaping and forming one’s Jesus community. To place the church “outside” of the culture of the day, is to put it in a stale and unproductive state. This does nothing in bringing about the earth as it is in heaven admonition from Jesus. It only brings about an escapism which never produces good fruit.  

2. Consumer-Oriented Platforms

We want it all, we want it with ease, and we want it NOW! This is the modern era of consumer Christianity. The bigger, stronger, and faster consumer minded motif we find ourselves in is becoming more of a game than a gift. Our easy access to goods is bringing about those lovely seven deadly sins we all enjoy so much (tongue and cheek, hehe).  Instant gratification is so nice, isn’t it though? I love having access to so many goods from just the tip of my fingertips and the scroll of my smart phone. Our technology driven society is helping the insta (haha get it?)cause for sure (plug in and stay tuned). Yes, technology has done some great things for human civilization. But we cannot deny the negative side of it as well. I get that we all enjoy some type of “retreat” from the woes of this world so we can encounter God. This is all well and good. You want rock stages, fog machines, Starbucks coffee and strobe lights, knock yourself out. I am not trying to say to stop doing these types of practices. The problem I am seeing is, instead of getting disciples, we might be getting fans. Hey, but fans are the ones that keep this consumer machine rolling…we need fans, right? Economies based on exchange will need some admirers if we are going to keep this merry-go-round operational. Entertainment can be intoxicating along with being detrimental when it comes to participating in the Jesus Way. Look, we all are going to be within the non-dualistic tension of being consumers and lovers (1 Cor 13:4-8). Its what we do with this tension that matters.

3. Exclusionary Campaigning

Factionalism has been the new trend within the American church today. Looks like we are joining the American polarized political divide. Yes, we are supposed to act within our current cultural issues, but what is to be our tactics? It cannot be one that causes divisions and strife (Gal. 5:20) but one that produces LOVE, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. That is what we are called to participate in. This is what produces the fruit that Jesus spoke of. Don’t get me wrong. It’s a crazy time to be alive in the USA. Tensions are high (so much so people are throwing out possible civil war). We are going through extreme social unrest from pandemics, racial injustices, economic disparity, and political strife. The divide is obvious and deep at the moment. But no matter what, the church is to be the example of love above all else (i.e., Shalom). This love may look like a “dividing sword” (Mat. 10:34) to “others” who might just not have a vision of a justice (love in public) rolling down like a river through our American streets. Regardless, we are here to love our enemies (which means we have no enemies) and be a people of inclusion, hospitality, and generosity.

4. Doctrine Certitudes

Jesus was about the Gospel, not doctrine. The Gospel should always be seen as a way to bridge the gap between the outcast and the conformed, the poor and rich, the black and white, the gay and straight, the man and woman, the transsexual and the heterosexual, the child and adult (Gal. 3:28-get the picture?). We cannot be bamboozled by this notion that the Gospel is just one tight net idea that once examined and believed, no other type of suggestions or behaviors can stem from it. The Gospel is a plethora of creative and innovative ways of being in the time and place we are given.It is not just a set of beliefs (atonement theories) to believe in, nor is it one certain type of action within one’s culture (social justice). The Gospel involves those ideas and actions, for sure! But it’s really just simply good news, which everyone needs nowadays.

* * *

Well, what do you think? Again, if we are looking to bring about the cross-like, forgiving love that Jesus brought, what do we do in the chaos and orderWE ABIDE (uh oh, I just gave you an answer haha)! We breathe. We seek. And maybe, just fucking maybe, we will find…

Just as the Father has loved Me, I also have loved you. Abide in My love! 

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by Jim Gordon

In our world today, there are certainly many things that distract us and draw our attention away from our daily life. A world-wide pandemic, terrorism, racism, equality issues, conspiracy theories, these can all draw us away and cause strife, worry and depression.

I like to concentrate on a verse we all have read many times, but it is so easy to pass over how important this verse is for each of us. In John 15:5 Jesus said “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing”.

Jesus is our life source. It is in Him that we live, move and have our being. He supplies all we need. He provides us daily with the requirements for life and what we need to truly live. We cannot do anything worth doing or that makes a real difference apart from Him.

Jesus has done all the work that is needed for us to be forgiven, made new and have a loving relationship with God and with our brothers and sisters in Christ. All the spiritual things we think we need to do to put us in right standing are so unnecessary. Jesus is the one who has done everything needed to fulfill the law and put us in right standing with the Father. All we need to do is accept his work and rest in Him.

Our main focus should be on Christ, not on things about Him. He is our life. He is to be our all in all. We need to give Christ the preeminence in all things. He is the Vine and we are the branches. Apart from Him we can do nothing. He lives within us in the form of the Spirit. Remember to focus on the Spirit that is within to teach, lead and guide you each day.

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by Jim Gordon

Here in the United States, things have seemed to be pretty weird this year. Just with the COVID-19 pandemic, a presidential election and all the strange events with demonstrations, hurricanes, forest fires and such, it really makes a person wonder what is happening. I have to say, what we see going on in the world and especially in the USA is quite disturbing.

Many people like to blame politicians and political parties, a president, police, militant groups and many other reasons. I am not sure any one person or group can be blamed for everything, yet I personally do not put any faith or trust into any politician or political party. I do not think any of them are the answer.

It makes me angry that here in the US, so many people would rather focus on a politician or political party and fight and argue, even ruining friendships and separating families over people who do not even know or care about us. Politics will never be the answer for the world’s problems. I believe if we would stop putting our entire hope and trust in any political party or politician, things would be better. Politicians do not care for the people. They say they do, but they really only care for their party and their interest in gaining power and money.

I do believe if we human beings could look past the labels and differences of opinions and work together, care for one another and look for what would be the best for everyone, things would improve.

Jesus said his kingdom was not of this world. Jesus was more concerned in the heavenly kingdom of God than he was in any political party or kingdom of this world. We would be so much better off if we could do the same.

Nothing wrong with being actively trying to improve your country through political action. Yet to put your complete hope and confidence in a political party is futile.

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by Mike Edwards

Keith Giles suggest another interpretation of Jesus’ teaching on divorce in Matthew’s Gospel that perhaps you haven’t considered. See here. It is a very realistic interpretation. Keep in mind no one can claim their interpretation is the correct one. The author isn’t available to ask what they meant nor is God writing in the sky lately. We would just twist the words in the sky to mean what we wanted them to mean than using loving sense.

Which interpretation on an issue may be best? See here.

“Anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.” [Matt. 19:9]

Jesus was speaking to men who had all the power. They could divorce women for whatever reason whenever they wanted. Women basically had no rights. Women were even more powerless when it came to opportunities to support themselves.

Jesus said what he did to protect women! Jesus was saying: Men, you can’t just do whatever the hell you want when getting married. This is why the disciple responded to Jesus’ statement – then it might be better to not marry (v. 10). Men, start acting like true lovers and not looking for ways out of your commitment if not for the right reasons!

My point is not to suggest the Bible should be read as a rules book or condemn those who have regrets in their past. Just don’t use the Bible to lead to further abuse of women at the hands of men. Don’t advise as if all relational circumstances are the same. Use loving sense! God may be speaking to you. Women, if in danger by all means run! Take care of yourself.

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by Jim Gordon

Many of us go through life with a very low opinion of ourselves. Often it is due to what we hear others say about us. What actually is our identity in this world? Many of us as christians are told that we are just poor sinners saved by grace and that we are no more than a worm deserving of hell.

Yet Jesus has something very different to say. It is time to ignore what people tell us we are based on beliefs, or a label we wear or for whatever reason people come up with and listen to what is written in the bible. Stop listening to others and focus on what Jesus tells us we are. Following are some verses that tell us what we are in Christ:

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God (John 1:12)

Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you. (John 15:15)

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:1)

For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ! (Romans 5:17)

For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin (Romans 6:6)

Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 6:11)

For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8:2)

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. (Romans 8:37)

For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he will instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:16)

Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? (1 Corinthians 3:16)

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?  (1 Corinthians 6:19)

Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. (1 Corinthians 12:27)

Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us [a]diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. (2 Corinthians 2:14)

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.  (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:20)

For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him (2 Corinthians 5:21)

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (Galatians 2:20)

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 (Galatians 3:13)

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28)

So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir (Galatians 4:7)

Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.  (Ephesians 1:4)

In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace (Ephesians 1:7)

But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:4-6)

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10)

And to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:24)

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13)

Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son (Colossians 1:13)

He has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him (Colossians 1:22)

And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power (Colossians 2:10)

We have been set apart as holy because Jesus Christ did what God wanted him to do by sacrificing his body once and for all (Hebrews 10:10)

You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 2:5)

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9)

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by Jim Gordon

We talked about discrimination in the form of racism in my last article. This article talks about another form of discrimination, the unfair treatment of women. It is hard to believe that only a few years ago women could not vote or hold certain jobs.

As we look back over history, we see women have always struggled. They were looked upon as property back in biblical days and had no say in anything. Even today in some middle eastern countries women are treated as property rather than a human being.

Speaking of biblical times, it seems to me at least Jesus treated women on an equal basis with men. We often read that he spoke with women, respected and cared for women and had many friends that were women. That was unheard of in those times. We read of many women who supported Jesus and were part of his ministry. Yet today it is still common for women to be rejected for ministry such as being pastors or church leaders.

So often, especially in religious circles, women are treated as second class citizens and as unequal’s with men. They are supposed to wear certain kinds of clothes, they are supposed to stay in the home or only work certain kind of jobs. Fortunately, things have been changing but there is a long way to go yet.

I remember growing up and getting my first job. I was amazed when I learned that I got paid a certain amount for my job yet later on found out that a woman doing the same job got less pay. I could not figure out why that was the case.

As I mentioned in my previous article, working as a firefighter I saw more fairness and equal treatment than I did in my first job. The position of firefighter received a certain pay and it was the same if the position was filled by a man, a woman, someone who was black or white, gay or straight. And as firefighters we gave the same equal service to all human beings no matter who they were.

I hear complaints about women’s lib, equal rights and feminism from time to time and it makes me mad. Why do so many of us men think women are not as equal as us? I believe women are just as smart, strong, capable and able to do anything that anyone else can. I believe what a person does in life depends on their qualities, training, capabilities and desires and not on whether they are male or female.

I believe all human beings have the same ability to accomplish the desires God put within them. Men and women have differences in that it takes both to create a new life, yet other than that we are all basically the same and are deserving of equal treatment.

In Galatians 3:28 it is mentioned in part that there is neither male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. This is not to take away the importance of men or women but to say we are all human beings, equally important and loved by God.

I pray that we come to fully accept and appreciate women as equal human beings just as I pray we come to fully accept brown and black human beings as equals. It is time discrimination and unfair treatment of others comes to an end. It is time we are all accepted as human beings who are loved and accepted by God and by one another.

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by Jim Gordon

Recently, my fellow blogger Mike Edwards made a statement that I think is so true. He said it is not enough to say I am not a racist. It is easy to say I am not a racist, but saying and doing sometimes are two different things. I have never thought of myself as a racist. I felt I always believed all people were equal and loved by God.

Yet there were times I would find myself thinking about different situations and then realize I am coming from a racist perspective. When I catch myself doing that I get upset with myself and realize I am wrong.

I believe God created us all equally, but we all are not equal in regard to our opportunities or the way we were raised. I certainly do not believe any particular group is dumb or second class citizens, but due to some of our upbringing and the areas we lived or the financial situation we were in, some do not have the opportunity or chances that others have.

What I feel is needed more now than ever is not just a listening ear but a speaking mouth. I think a lot of people over the years listened….for a while, but never put any action into what they heard or what they felt should be done.

It is not enough to just say I am not a racist. It is time for action, for listening, learning, speaking out and standing up for equality for all.

I think the black community wants us white people to listen, to take a stand, to speak out and to promote and demand change. I like this quote by the late John Lewis: “We need someone who will stand up and speak up and speak out for the people who need help, for people who are being discriminated against. And it doesn’t matter whether they are black or white, Latino, Asian or Native American, whether they are straight or gay, Muslim, Christian, or Jews”.

I always enjoyed my job with the fire department and felt it was more like all jobs should be, equally fair to all people. It was not perfect, but at least everyone was tested with the same test, everyone was given the same pay, everyone was given the same tests for advancement. Women were paid the same as men, blacks were paid the same as whites and each were respected in the community. All citizens were treated the same and offered the same help when in a time of trouble.

I can only imagine how a young black man would feel being pulled over by the police. Or how a mom and dad of a black child would worry about their child when they go out. I cannot explain why things we have been hearing happen. It does not make sense to me. I know several police officers and they are not even close to being like some of the police we have heard about recently. It is sad and terrible that there are some bad people in every walk of life which unfortunately includes the police.

All I know is that everyone, black or white, male or female, gay or straight, christian, muslim, atheist etc. should be treated respectfully and given the same rights as anyone else. Each should have the same opportunities to enjoy life, love their families, pay their bills and be treated kindly no matter who they are.

I do not know all the answers but I do hope this time will be the time things start to change for the good. Maybe this time people will listen and stand up to take action and make this country a better place for all people.

It is time to stop just listening, time to stop just saying I am not a racist and begin to do what is necessary to make the changes that will make a difference. I certainly pray that is the case.

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By Mike Edwards

I grew up attending church often more than once a week. I referred to myself as a Christian because that was the common label used in the institutional church. I can remember not liking the label early on because people often associated it with being religious, and there is a lot of bad religion out there. I have grown uncomfortable with the label for myself for a long time now.

Christianity has become associated with beliefs about God I reject.

I don’t believe for a second Hell is real and God tortures forever those who don’t believe. This makes God terrorist-like – only God waits until life after death and keeps you alive forever to torture. I don’t believe women are second-class citizens. You can dress it up all you want in “loving leadership,” but I don’t want a man being my daughters’ go-between with God. I don’t believe God condemns gays for attractions they have no control over any more than straights do their attractions. There are many beliefs about God associated with Christianity that I reject. See here.

I don’t refer to myself as a Jesus follower.

I think many associate Jesus with the Bible which has been used to makes some claims I don’t accept what a loving God would be like. It’s okay to doubt claims made about Jesus. Jesus’ followers witnessed miracles by Jesus and still initially doubted He was coming back from the dead. It may be a little easier to believe once you are an eye-witness to a resurrection. Some can’t logically wrap their heads around how chromosomally Jesus can be both man and God. We can respectfully and openly discuss Jesus’ actions and claim made about God to discern if Jesus represented what a loving God is like.

Why I am a God-follower!

I don’t know all the reasons why some are inclined to believe there is Creator or God and why others aren’t. I know it isn’t because of moral superiority. I have my failures to prove that. Due to the complexities of the created world and humans, I just am convinced there is a God who created and loves each one of us like no other. A common Creator also explains best for me how humans seem to have an inborn feeling that we “ought” to treat others like we want to be treated. I have never met anyone who doesn’t want to be treated with love and kindness. I follow God because I am convinced God can turn bad people into good people and good people into better people.

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By Mike Edwards

Many grew up with a view of God that encouraged fearing God. The threat of Hell was used to encourage such fear. Who doesn’t want to avoid being kept alive to be tortured forever? Good news! Hell doesn’t really exist. See here. So, since Hell doesn’t exist maybe God didn’t create us to whip us into submission.

What does the Bible really say about God? 

I am not going to quote you Bible verses to defend God is loving or wrathful. Verses can be quoted to suggest God is an angry son-of-a-bitch and you better get in line. Then, I could quote you bible verses that defend God is merciful, graceful, and loving. I am appealing to your common sense about love. Why would a Creator desire anything different relationally that what we were created to desire from others in relationships? 

Why would a loving God desire fear?

How do you want to be treated by your parents? Do you want to visit a parent who demands or instead seeks to earn respect? Do parents want us to fear them and visit out of obligation or like just hanging out. Do you want to be able to go to your parents for support or rebuke when you continue to mess up? I have a hunch God knows also fear doesn’t lead to change.

Where does fear get you?

Fear doesn’t work in spiritual or human relationships. People may suck up to you because you have something over them. They need a job, they need money to survive, whatever. Good luck when they don’t need a job or money. Genuine relationships happen not in an environment of fear but mutual respect.

Fear of God doesn’t make you a better person. 

Do you every think God needs a break from you at least for a day or do you think God can’t possibly forgive you for the 10th or 100th time? Guess again! God’s love and mercy, not gloomy uncertainty of God’s favor, is our necessary nourishment for breaking free from habitual habits or bad behaviors. God isn’t looking to pile more guilt on us. God already knows we heap enough guilt on ourselves. God seeks to continually assure us of God’s mercy, forgiveness, and love so we don’t every give up no matter how demoralized we may feel. 

But, don’t we need fear to control selfishness?

Has fear of consequences always stopped your selfishness? Fear only leads to trying to not get caught or doing enough to soothe others’ feelings. A great advantage in being a God-follower is being secure in knowing good enough isn’t enough. Relationships aren’t about just being good enough or not as bad as other partners. I have the “want to” to be perfect. My God allows me to pursue perfection while not being paralyzed by guilt when failing.

God’s approval can be a breath of fresh air.

Some parents beat down their children all their life, reminding them constantly how worthless they are. You aren’t thin enough. You aren’t pretty enough. You aren’t smart enough. You aren’t successful enough. You are worthless! God will never betray us like parents or partners can. A relationship with God always entails mercy, acceptance, and encouragement when seeking change.

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