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Archive for the ‘Acceptance’ Category

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

MikeEdwardsprofilepic125

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

MikeEdwardsprofilepic125

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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by Jim Gordon

My wife and I often discuss using the word Christian these days. We wonder whether we should describe ourselves by the word Christian or not. We think it all boils down to what we mean by the word Christian.

So often the word means many things we are not. Say the word Christian and many people automatically stereotype you to basic beliefs and doctrines of the religion of Christianity and not necessarily to what we truly believe.

If being a Christian is being part of a religious organization that meets in a building on a particular day and follows set doctrines based on a particular denomination then no, we are not Christians. If being a Christian is being part of a group that is opposed to all other people and religions and only accepts those who believe like we do then no, we are not Christians. If being a Christian has anything to do with man-made religion, exclusion, hatred, following old covenant law then no, we are not Christians.

In Acts 11:26 the disciples were first called Christians by people in Antioch. I always heard that they were called Christians because they were acting like Christ. The people there were calling them little Christ’s because of the way they showed the love and power of Christ. Now, if that is what is meant by being a Christian then we are all in.

There are many ways we can described ourselves…believers, Christ followers, disciples of Christ, followers of the way, and even Christians. Yet the term itself really does not matter. What matters is how we live our lives. Is Christ preeminent? Are we living as one with him? Are we allowing the love of Christ to live through us, accepting others, loving others and being little Christ’s to all we meet? If not, whatever word we use to describe our religious belief does not make any difference.

When people see us, they should see Christ. When people see Christ, they should see God who is love. He lives within us and we should be known for the love we have for him and for the love we have for our fellow human beings. Do not worry so much about the label we use. Follow the leading of the Spirit of Christ who lives within us. Share the love of God with each and every person we meet. Be known for sharing the love of God rather than for what religious word we choose to use.

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by Jim Gordon

I remember when I was a little boy waking up in the middle of the night and calling out in the dark to my mom. I could not see her but I knew she was there. If I went by sight, I would never have called out to her and I would not have received the help I wanted.

The same with God, we cannot see Him but we know He is there through faith. We must realize that we live by faith or we will never call out to Him.

In certain ways, I see all people as people of faith. That is not saying that all people have faith in God but all have faith. Some people have faith in science, some in various religions, some in humanity and others have faith in God.

God loves each one of us no matter what we put our faith in. He calls us to himself, he accepts us and loves us.

None of us can prove there is a God or that there is not a God. None of us can prove heaven or hell. Many things in which we believe in this life are all by faith.

Just as it is by faith that we flip a light switch and expect the lights to come on, or sit on a chair and expect it to hold us. It is by faith we accept God and know He is there to listen and watch over us.

Do not worry about trying to prove God to everyone. Live your life daily by faith in God. Allow Him to live through you to touch others with love and, in his way and time, prove himself to you.

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by Jim Gordon

War, terrorism, politics, COVID-19 pandemic, how could we possibly be at peace in our world today with all this turmoil?

How can we be at peace with people with all the different thoughts and ideas, the different denominations, interpretations, beliefs, different religions and ways of life?

The dictionary says of peace: harmony in personal relations; freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions. We certain have a lot of strain in personal relations and much unrest and worry in thoughts and emotions about events going on in our world today.

Romans 12:18 reads, if possible, so far as it depends on you be at peace with all men. To me this means we are to live in harmony with others, not allowing any oppressive thoughts or emotions to take control of us. In other words, we live in love. That does not mean total agreement, but love and acceptance of who the other person was created to be.

Jesus told us we were given the peace of God by saying “peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid”. It is a peace that we, in our finite human minds cannot make sense of or understand.

Jesus also said “in me you will have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” This world will provide plenty of worrisome events, plenty of turmoil and plenty of things to worry about each day. Yet Jesus said by putting our trust and hope in God we can overcome the worry and fear we have in the world.

The Kingdom of God is not like the kingdoms of this world. Our world is a temporary home, yet the Kingdom of God is now. It is within us. The Spirit of Christ is within us. Our spiritual home right now is in the Kingdom of God. We do not recognize all the effects because we are to accustomed to the ways of the world. Jesus said the ways of the world have been overcome by the Kingdom of God.

The more we can focus on the Spirit and the Kingdom within, the more we can enjoy the peace Jesus provides. The peace of Christ works within our spirit, much different than the peace we think about in our world system.

Remember that we are responsible for ourselves in the way we live and trust God. We are not responsible to live as others do or think we should. We are not responsible to tell others how they should live. We are to allow the Spirit to work in our lives and follow the Spirit on the path we are following. Our responsibility is to love God and love everyone we come in contact with, accept them for who they are and pray that the Holy Spirit will work in all our lives. Living in this manner would accomplish much more in showing the love of Christ and allow us to live in peace amidst all the turmoil in our lives.

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by Mike Edwards

MikeEdwardsprofilepic125

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

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

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

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

Women, Gays, and Hell

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

Which view of God should we lean toward?  

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

 

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by Jim Gordon

— John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.
— John 1:14  And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.
— John 5:39-40  You study the scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.

The Word is not just written words in a book. The Word mentioned here is Jesus, the Living Word.

So many of us focus on which version of the bible is the true word of God. These verses state that the true Word is alive and living within us. The true Word is not a book at all.

If we were never again able to read from the bible or hear it read to us, we still have the Living Word of God within us to teach us and guide us.

It is good to read our bibles no matter what translation we prefer because the written word is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. Yet the bible is not God and is not part of the trinity of God. It is not Father, Son and Holy Bible.

We need to remember that the bible was written by humans who were inspired to tell how they related to God, how they understood God, how they interacted with God and what they thought God was saying to them.  The true Word of God is Jesus who lives within each of us through the Holy Spirit.

We can read the words on the pages of the bible and learn about grace and the love of God, but it is the Living Word within us by the Holy Spirit that brings to life and power the words we read. Jesus, who is the living, inerrant Word of God has final authority over any written words which we call the bible.

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by Jordan Hathcock

Ritual is simply a set of practices in a period of chaos so we can experience the chaos safely.  –Jason Coker

In a time of unrest and chaos, the tool that seems to work most effectively is the practice of rites and rituals. Now, this can be (and most likely is) triggering for most of us who have experienced unhealthy spiritual practices. Religious Trauma Syndrome (RTS) is something more and more people are dealing with and I know its something that is not to be taken lightly. When it comes to the Christian tradition, the “church” has not always been a place that produces healthy rites and rituals to assist us in getting through the ambiguous times in our lives. Instead, church practices often get the process ass backwards: We develop rites and rituals to control and manipulate people to believe and act a certain way instead of creating spaces available for us to grow in these times of pandemonium. Cognitive dissonance is viewed as an issue of faith instead of a step needed to be taken within the spiritual journey.

Deconstruction has been the “new” practice within the religious sphere in the last twenty years or so due to many factors. With the new internet age and the huge amount of access to resources, its been more and more difficult for the “powers that be” to keep a more discrete way of posturing when it comes to past, present and future church practices. Postmodernism has brought a lot of problems to be answered when it comes to religious institutions. When people have these crises of faith, the church is not equipped with the space (rites and rituals) to help heal and liberate those who need it. Deconstruction is a step that should be perceived as a healthy process that helps us mature in our faith. It shouldn’t be perceived as a problem to be solved but as a ritual to be practiced. We must learn to let go of corrosive practices of rules due to fear and embrace a more playful experimental practice of understanding.

How does that look like? Well, there are many ways we can experience spiritual practices that help us through the journey of life. It doesn’t have to be practices in a “brick and mortar” church setting. It can be a nature walk, surfing (my favorite), exercising, playing music, painting a picture, or crafting some good beer (my other favorite). There are various of ways to experience divine guidance. The Christian traditions rites and rituals that have been with us for 2,000 plus years can be practiced in a new light as well. We can always find new ways to interpret and repurpose a practice within a church setting to help us better connect and move to more liberating heights. Traditions are good if used in a healthy and freeing way. We can let go of the damaging aspects of a rite and ritual and still actually practice the act itself. I understand some are unable to ever practice certain rites and rituals within Christianity due to RTS and that is OK! Along as you find some time of ritual to practice to better center you as a human being, I think the world can benefit from it. With that being said, there are still some beautiful practices with this Christian religion that I still find beneficial. An example that I have come to experience when it comes to repurposing a certain spiritual practice is Communion/Eucharist/Lords Table (whatever name floats your boat).

The tradition that I grew up in (L.D.S.) named this practice The Sacrament. It has elements of truth (like all spiritual practices do in a sense) but also some pretty damaging aspects as well. In my opinion and experience (along with many others) the concept of purity codes comes to mind. In order to partake of the sacrament, you had to be “worthy” and “believe” in the church’s teachings. The point of this ritual is to renew the covenant you made at baptism. Unfortunately, this interpretation of the purpose of the Lords Table misses some really important factors to help oneself to become part of the gospel message. Instead of bringing us together with Christ and participating in the way of love, it becomes a rule one must follow in order to remain a “member of a church”. We are not part of some corporation that keeps track of its members “loyalty”. This also brings out zealot faith and judgment on others who do not partake of Communion. This should not be the point of why we partake of the bread and wine of Christ.

Fortunately, I found a Church (Oceanside Sanctuary ) that has taken the practice of Communion to a level of healing and liberation one needs when it comes to healthy rites and rituals (yes, a bold claim I know). We think it is important to take Communion weekly, so we can come to the table of love and mercy despite our differences. Let’s face it, we all have our own views on anything from sex, politics, sports, education and of course on our theological views regarding the Christian tradition itself. But, guess what? Unity is possible within diversity. That is what Jesus came to bring. The commonwealth of God is the reality where love can guide us to true freedom even through our messy differences. If we cannot practice healthy rite & rituals in a church setting, how the hell will we ever expect to see needed results outside the sanctuary walls?…

For Christians, to share in the Eucharist, the Holy Communion, means to live as people who know that they are always *guests*—that they have been welcomed and that they are wanted. It is perhaps the most simple thing that we can say about Holy Communion, yet it is still supremely worth saying. In Holy Communion, Jesus Christ tells us that he wants our company. -Rowan Williams

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