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Archive for the ‘Acceptance’ Category

by Cindy Felkel, Guest Blogger

Religion Seeks to Manipulate People

I sat through the Sunday morning service in disbelief. The preacher presented his plan for a huge building project to the congregation. Everyone was all caught up in his dream. His incredibly expensive, massive building project, dream, that was supposed to be supported by our tiny working-class congregation.

The sermon he preached was about when Jesus called Simon Peter to be his disciple. The preacher talked about how Peter caught the biggest catch of fish in his life and just left it to rot on the beach so he could follow Jesus. I wanted to stand up and shout about how illogical and emotionally manipulative the pastor was being, but I settled for exchanging eye rolls with my husband, followed by the heavy despairing sigh of “this is what church does”.

It makes no sense to think the other fishermen just cut Peter out of the profit, after all, it was Peter’s boat. But the pastor’s twist on the story fit his agenda. Thinking Peter left wealth on the beach to rot seems extreme and calls religious followers to pious extremes like digging deep to support this pastor’s vision. It makes us feel good about ourselves to think we are doing something similarly extreme to please God. It just isn’t what the story is actually about.

The real story is much harder to wrap our brains around and it’s much more freeing!

Peter Was A Religious Follower of Jesus Before he Became a Disciple

Before the catch of fish, the first encounter that is recorded between Jesus and Peter is when Jesus went to Simon Peter’s house. In the ancient world, going to someone’s house was a huge deal, it was a sign of acceptance. The people you ate with were the people you were associated with.

While Jesus and Peter were hanging out at his house. Jesus started healing people. He healed Simon’s mother in law who immediately got up and started waiting on everyone, because there was a crowd of people in the house to see Jesus. Peter was using providing for all of them.

The story goes on to say that Jesus stayed up all night healing people of various sickness and casting out demons. Peter had a front row seat to all of this.  He was obviously impressed with Jesus. At this point in the story, he was already serving Jesus by having him in his home and letting people visit Jesus there.

In the second part of the story, Jesus walks up to Peter after Peter had been up all night, fishing. He was washing his nets. He had worked all night and caught nothing. He was tired, discouraged and still had a lot of work to do before he could go home and rest. Jesus asked Peter to take him out in his boat so he could preach to the crowd of people on the shore.  Peter shows a tremendous amount of devotion to Jesus by taking him out in the boat and staying with him while he preached.

HOW IMPRESSED WAS SIMON PETER?

Chew on this for a minute: I’ve never heard any preacher that I’d stay up for after working through the night. Why? Because I can hear preachers whenever I want. America is inundated with preachers. I have gone to church most of my life. However, my exposure to religious teachers is probably nothing compared to how much Peter heard. His whole culture was built on the Rabbi system. So, he was surrounded by religious teachers and wannabe teachers. And generally, hard-working men who are tired, don’t want to hear someone preach…I can’t say how much Peter’s heart was in this particular act of service, I can just tell you, it was indeed an act of service.

THE OVERWHELMING TRUTH OF JESUS’ LOVE

After Jesus finished preaching, he told Peter to take the boat out into deep water and fish some more.

I love Peter’s reaction of explaining the obvious to Jesus: He basically said, “So, yeah, about that. See all my fishing partners over there, washing their nets? That’s what we do after we’ve been fishing all night, you know, when fish are feeding! (I imagine him speaking loudly, so everyone would know that it was Jesus’ idea.) I will do this because you told me to.”

Then Peter went out, threw his nets out and caught so many fish that he had to call to his partners (the ones who took care of the fish later in the story!)  for help. His fishing business partners brought another boat out and they filled both boats so full of fish that they were about to sink.

When they got to shore, Peter looked at the huge, miraculous catch of fish and then fell to his knees in front of Jesus.  Peter, freaked out. He said, “Get away from me. I’m unclean.

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Before this, Peter had witnessed miracles. He hung out with Jesus. He served Jesus, He obeyed Jesus. He seemed to be ready to follow Jesus.  Peter witnessed multiple demons come out of people and declare that Jesus was the Messiah only to be silenced by Jesus. That had to be more impressive than a big catch of fish.

So, what happened? Why did Peter react in such an extreme way? Why did he fall at Jesus’ feet and beg him to get away from him?

 

THE OPPOSITE OF WHAT RELIGIOUS LEADERS TEACH:

In order to understand why Peter was so completely freaked out by the catch of fish, you have to consider what Jesus actually did for Peter.

Before he called these fishermen to follow him, Jesus provided for their needs. The story clearly indicates that they had partners working with them. James’ and John’s father was one of the people working with them. Obviously, the partners took the fish and sold them. The huge catch of fish was a blessing for Peter, James, and John. It freed them to follow Jesus.

BUT WHY DID PETER TELL JESUS TO GET AWAY FROM HIM?

Because when Jesus provided for Peter personally, it changed everything.  Jesus entered into Peter’s life and cared about his needs. Religion finds it easy to follow Jesus when he is fixing everyone else. It’s easy to want to serve him when he’s making the world better. It’s comfortable to follow rules. Religion gives us security.

But for some reason, truly letting God love us is scary! As soon as we realize we have right standing with GOD, we know we don’t deserve it. The second we realize that he actually cares about us. He cares about you, as an individual, reading my blog, looking for freedom from religion. He isn’t a celebrity to entertain, or a deity to control, he is GOD and he wants to walk through your life with you.  That is a truth that we can’t handle. If you begin to glimpse it, there can be no response except an overwhelming sense of how much you don’t deserve it.

But that is the beauty we find when we free ourselves from religion and start to see who Jesus really is. He loves us so much that in Ephesians 3:17-19, Paul prays for believers to have POWER to comprehend this truth.

I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

When we truly see who Jesus is and how much he cares for us, as individuals, it’s overwhelming. If we actually understand it, there is no response possible except: I don’t deserve this!

MAKING IT PERSONAL…

I still get uncomfortable with the reality that Jesus is with me and wanting the best for me in everything I do. I constantly battle my own religious tendencies to try to gain control in this world. I want safety, comfort, and fame. But when in those moments when I  grasp just a little, that Jesus is with me, I am overwhelmed with how much I don’t deserve his presence and I’m extremely grateful that he gives it anyway. The more I see this, the more it frees me from my religion and the more it makes me want to know God’s love and share it with others.

MY PRAYER FOR YOU…

I’m praying for everyone who reads this that you understand a bit of how overwhelming Jesus’ love for us is; that you understand why Peter said, “Lord, get away! I don’t deserve your care.” I pray that you allow this love to heal your heartaches and give you purpose, joy, and peace. I hope it frees you from the control of religion. I pray that you grow in this love every day. I pray that we all represent this love well.

Blessings,

Cindy (rumandcolaforthesoul.com)

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By Mike Edwards

It doesn’t matter if you believe the biblical writers/editors didn’t always understood God perfectly, or whether you believe God inspired every word of the Bible. Literature requires interpretation of a writer’s meaning and application to personal circumstances. The greatest sin among Bible people may be the sin of biblical certainty.  Scholars who respect the authority of Scriptures don’t agree on major concerns. Some believe the Bible teaches God elects certain people to go to heaven while damning others; others believe the Bible teaches God eventually saves all to enter Heaven and the traditional understanding of Hell isn’t biblical.

Does the Bible really declare some are in danger of going to a fiery pit such as Hell after death?

If such a place exists why did Paul, who wrote the majority of the New Testament, never once warn this dire fate? Why didn’t Noah who had to warn of tragic consequences for evil inform people at least once of the danger of Hell? It is questioned by scholars whether there is any Hebrew or Greek word translated as Hell that pictures what our word Hell suggests.

Does the Bible really teach that God proclaims leadership roles are based on gender than gifts?

When the Bible says: “Women should remain silent in the churches” (I Cor. 14:34), maybe the writer would encourage men to be silent in certain situations for the sake of peace. Why did the Apostle Paul say practically in the same breath that women could prophesy just like men during worship (I Cor. 11:5)? Is prophecy not speaking?

Does the Bible really teach God condemns monogamous gay relationships?

It is not natural to think a loving God condemns gays who can no more choose who they have feelings for then straights can. Scholars who respect the authority of Scriptures don’t agree God condemns same-sex relationships which don’t violate anyone’s rights. It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t feel natural to you. You aren’t gay! How we think we ought to treat gays is how God thinks about gays. Take the more loving road? Don’t push people away from God when you could be wrong.

Does the Bible really say that God is coming again to destroy the word in the future?

Why did Jesus tell his audience that supposed predictions about the world ending would happen in their lifetime: “Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass way until all these things have happened” (Mt. 24:34)?” If Jesus is coming again down from the sky why did the disciples ask Jesus: “what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age” (Mt. 24:3)? Only non-visible, spiritual comings are missed.

Does the Bible really teach God only lets certain people get into Heaven?

Why does the Bible say: “For as in Adam all died, so in Christ all will be made alive” (I Cor. 15:22)? That would only exclude those who have never died, but last chance I checked all have or will die. The Bible clearly teaches forgiveness is unlimited (i.e. Mt. 18:21-22), but is that not true of God? Might there be second chances after death where one wishes to spend eternity?

I can’t claim because the Bible says so but personally, I am convinced Hell doesn’t exist; God wants women to pursue any role their gifts allow; God doesn’t condemn gays; God isn’t going to destroy the world; and we don’t know if there may be second chances after death when one meets their Creator and all misconceptions are done away with.

When our views of God are stumbling blocks for others, let’s admit we could be wrong. Let God work in the hearts of individuals to reveal what God is really like!

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By Mike Edwards

I hope this brief review encourages you to read Karen Keen’s valuable insights for how we must treat same-sex relationships regardless if you a Bible person or not. I am convinced you will not find a more distinct, readable, non-judgmental, insightful book on same-sex relationships and the Bible. Keen doesn’t simply offer her interpretation of debatable biblical passages; her insights take the discussion to another level. Scholars who respect Scriptures don’t agree so interpretations only of difficult passages don’t move us forward.

Science isn’t conclusive why we have desires for the same or opposite sex. Sexual choices aren’t always the result of some trauma or rebellion in our lives. Keen points us to resources for such considerations in Chapter 7. Why would a loving God condemn gays if they can no more choose who they love than straights can? Please read this book and consider if the biblical writers had in mind loving monogamous same-sex relationships. If you believe same-sex relationships are condemned in the Bible, such relationships seem clearly motivated by lust not love. If this is even a remote interpretative possibility, we mustn’t dogmatically say the Bible and thus God condemns loving, same-sex relationships.

No one can accuse Keen of not having a high view of the Bible. Many God-folks only condemn same-sex relationships because of the Bible. Intuitively, that may not be their moral inclination but they do so out of supposed devotion to God and the Bible. If Keen’s below insights are a possibility after reading her book, we must seriously consider that the Bible doesn’t condemn faithful, same-sex relationships:

Chapter 3 challenges us to seriously consider if biblical passages typically used to clobber same-sex relationships condemn same-sex relationships because of unrestrained lust rather than faithful love. We must consider if biblical writers had in mind certain procreation expectations and gender norms that no longer exist today. Many passages are assumed to condemn same-sex relationship because of the creation account and the differentiation of the sexes, but it is also possible the context of many passages emphasize the importance of faithfulness not gender.

Chapter 4 and 5 offer convincing arguments that “God’s law is made for humankind, not humankind for God’s law (Mk. 2:27)” [p.65]. Laws are not written just as rules to keep blindly but to guide us in loving others. Keen provides examples where even Old Testament writers updated previous laws given by God to make relevant to their circumstances.  In Chapter 5 we see where Jesus puts love in action over law. Jesus didn’t necessarily dismiss the Sabbath (Lk. 4:16), but Jesus did teach more important than keeping the Sabbath is helping someone in need. If our actions don’t convey loving gays, we aren’t keeping God’s law.

Chapter 6 challenges readers it is not enough to consider if the Bible doesn’t condemn same-sex faithful relationships, but whether it doesn’t condemn same-sex marriages as well. Who are we to deny the hope and joys of marriage if God doesn’t? The Apostle Paul who wrote most of the New Testament doesn’t encourage celibate life as some holy grail. It is hard to deny most of us wish to enjoy the pleasure of marital sex and have a hard time being faithful otherwise. If celibacy and singlehood isn’t a command for opposite-sex relationships, why do we think God condemns same-sex marriages if the Bible doesn’t condemn or consider same-sex, faithful relationships?

I will end with Karen Keen’s hope and mine: “I firmly believe it is possible to imagine a new response to the gay community – and do so with faithfulness to God’s Word.” (114)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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By Mike Edwards

The Synchroblog is where bloggers write on spiritual topics – often different perspectives. This month we were challenged to write on How Churches Can Work Toward Unity and Peace. Links to other articles will be put at end of this Post November 28

Our country is obviously divided but since when does love always require agreeing. Marriages couldn’t last if they had to always agree. Churches usually desire to lead by example in promoting peace but they must “walk the talk.” Helping the less fortunate can be accomplished by a gathering of people focused on loving others as themselves. Unity by all gatherings who believe in such love surely could accomplish even greater good.

Keep in mind Church in the Bible isn’t a building but individuals.

In the Bible “Church” was not a building or a place attended once a week. Jesus referred to His followers as being the Church and to encourage and care for one another.  The Bible doesn’t tell the Church to go to church.  Jesus said “Where two or more are gathered in His name” God would be present. Jesus did not specify where they must gather, what they must do or how they must do it. Simply find environments to encourage and be encouraged to radically love as Jesus did.

When are churches with the same message going to unite over the Bible?  

Churches will remain divided, despite a common message of love, when insisting on their version of “because the Bible says so.” Books, since literature, require interpretation. Even biblical scholars who respect Scriptures disagree what the Bible says about divorce, gender roles, homosexuality, hell, etc. Terrorists justify killing infidels because they worship a Book at the expense of common moral sense inborn in us.

Atrocities such as slavery, condemning gays, denying women equal roles as men, etc. have been justified because the Bible supposedly says so. Let’s listen and express ideas openly in love which may lead to new understandings. The overall message of the Bible seems clear – love others unselfishly. Churches can unite by not declaring the certainty or morality of their opinions according to the Bible. For elaboration see: http://what-god-may-really-be-like.com/rethinking-the-bible/

When are churches going to unite over titles?  

New Testament followers of Jesus did not refer to themselves as Baptists, Methodists, Protestants, Catholics, or even Christians. Paul warned of the harm of divisions among followers: “I follow Paul; another, I follow Apollos; another, I follow Cephas; still another I follow Christ” (I Cor. 1:12). If we got rid of titles people might seek more WHO we follow than what we believe in.

Less titles means more money to help the less fortunate. If anyone deserved to be paid in spreading Jesus’ message it was the Apostle Paul who wrote most of the NT. But, Paul was a tentmaker (Acts 18:3). How much more money could be used to feed the poor if salaries didn’t have to be paid and elaborate buildings didn’t have to be erected? 

When are churches going to unite by listening not preaching?

Going to church typically involves sitting and observing than participating. The implication is that some are more spiritual and smarter about God than others! God speaks to individuals not just preachers. When you don’t agree with those in authority, you are seen as divisive. This hardly inspires unity despite differences of opinions. Churches understand going to a church doesn’t inspires connection. That is why they organize community groups outside their buildings. AA seems closer to God’s wish for gatherings for encouragement (Heb. 10:24-25).

So, how can churches unite around the message they exist for?  

I have my doubts buildings called churches will change. They would have to change their view of the Bible. They would have to drop their non-unifying titles. Thus, there would be less of a need to spend on constructions to remain separate. Their teachings methods would have to demonstrate that God speaks to all and not a few. This would create genuine intimacy thus greater inspiration. All churches supposedly exist to encourage loving others like you want to be loved. When will they unite around such a message leading to greater peace?

Here is the list of other writers and authors who contributed to this month’s Synchroblog. Go read them all to see what others think about church unity.

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I would like to take a minute and thank each one of you that takes time to read my articles. I am certainly not a professional writer but I do enjoy writing. I do not expect to get thousands of followers, but when you enjoy writing it is rewarding when you know a few people take the time to read what you wrote.

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I know we are not all going to agree on what I write. Everything I write is just my opinion. My opinion has changed over the years and it will change again. We all have opinions and viewpoints on things and it is good to hear what each other has to say.

It is encouraging and much appreciated when someone reads what I write and then makes a comment. I enjoy hearing from you and reading different views. As I said, opinions change and many times what we learn from others has a hand in the changes we make.

What I do not like is to debate over the issues. I feel debating is just trying to prove a point. In regard to living for God and the many views, opinions and interpretations there is no way to prove many of those things. We cannot prove nor disprove God. It is all a matter of faith and belief. For that reason, I do not see much good coming from debates. Usually all that causes are hurt feelings and many times arguments.

So again, thanks to each of you for taking time out of your busy schedule to read what I write. I read each comment and try to reply to everyone in reasonable time. You are all appreciated.

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Romans 12:18 – If possible, so far as it depends on you be at peace with all men.

This sounds like an impossibility in our world today, to be at peace with all men including non-believers and believers. Sometimes it seems harder to be at peace with other christians due to the various differences in beliefs and interpretations.

denominations

Thinking of all the different thoughts and ideas, different denominations, interpretations and beliefs and different religions how could it be possible to be at peace with everyone?

The dictionary says of peace: a state of mutual harmony between people or groups, especially in personal relations: cessation of or freedom from any strife or dissension.

I think this is what God is saying, that we are to live in harmony with our brothers and sisters in Christ, not allowing any oppressive thoughts or emotions to take control of our feelings towards others. In other words, we live in love. Just because someone does not interpret the Bible the same way we do, or go to the same church we do, or does not go to church at all we still have the common bond of being one in Christ. We are to accept one another in love and respect the fact that God works differently in each of us.

loveandpeaceIn regard to non-believers, we do not need to condemn them or force our beliefs on them. They do not need someone judging and condemning them or trying to force them to believe like us. We are to love them and let the Holy Spirit do the work that needs to be done in their lives.

If we believers could just understand that God speaks to each of us in his own special way. We do not have to live the way others live or based on what others think. We do not have to force our beliefs on others or argue with people who see things differently. We are to allow our Father to work in our lives and follow Him on the path He has for us.

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 their lives. Living in this manner would accomplished much more in showing the love of Christ to all of those we meet.

 

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Kindness is something you do not find very often in our world today.

The Bible speaks about kindness many times. Kindness is one of the fruit of the Spirit mentioned in Galatians 5:22.

The dictionary says kindness is being considerate or helpful. I think the world would be a better place if everyone treated each other with kindness. Being kind and accepting others does not mean we are always going to agree, yet we can be kind and respect each other in our differences.

It usually does not take a lot to be kind. Sometimes I think we make it too hard, especially when something so simple and easy as a genuine smile can brighten someone’s day. Being polite and kind to others can sometimes be just what they need to make their day. Holding the door for someone, letting them go ahead of you in line, smiling and saying hello, you never know.

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The little everyday things we can do to show others kindness can be an encouragement to them and a way of living out the love of Christ.

These days it seems we even have a hard time with Christians treating each other with kindness. We want to fight and argue over our views and interpretations and forget that as Christians, we all have the common ground of faith in Christ.

A friend of mine recently talked about relationships and how they seem to come to an end. He said it is based on what the relationship is about. If it is based on some thing or some activity, once we get tired of that particular thing and move on, the relationships based on that activity willl usually come to an end. Only the common ground of faith in Christ and His grace is what does not change and the one thing that can hold together a friendship.

Let’s see if we can make a point to do one act of kindness each day. You never know where it may lead.

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My Journey

Welcome. My blog is a place where readers will find writings of personal experiences, thoughts, and the peace that the Lord provides throughout my walk. I intend to bring inspiration and insight, as well as providing a very personal and transparent view into my life, in order to help others see their own lives in a different perspective. I strongly believe that we all need a different view at times, in order for our own personal growth to take place.

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