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Archive for the ‘Acceptance’ Category

by Rocky Glenn

One weekend, late March of this year, we awoke to a house twelve degrees colder than the preferred temperature of our home. With assistance diagnosing the issue from a friend, we determined it was very likely time to shell out the funds to replace the furnace. While the timing of the news was unexpected, the news itself was not a complete surprise to us. When we purchased the home in 2015, the home inspector informed us of the HVAC unit’s age and advised replacing it would soon be on the horizon. We got another four years out of the system. After all, why replace something that is working and meeting your needs? It was mid-March when the heat quit working and temperatures in East Tennessee were starting to warm up. Given the fact the cooling functions would continue to operate normally, could we delay the expense for another four to six months until fall just before onset of winter? We made the attempt. The very next morning we awoke to a cooler than normal living quarters and made the trek to purchase a couple of space heaters and make our best efforts to live without the benefit of central heat. While not entirely unbearable, it was unpleasant. We watched the weather forecasts closely to see exactly what we were in store for. Temperatures were warming up with the onset of spring, but as lifetime residents of the region we were very aware they generally do not remain warm for the season until after Easter. Sure enough, freezing temperatures were coming within the next three to four days and we were all silently dreading it. Silently? I must pause here to commend my family of four. All of us were colder than we wanted to be, but never once do I recall anyone complaining, whining, or grumbling about the situation. Though it was never really a stated discussion, all of us seemingly set our mind we were going to make the best of it.  The space heaters were spread strategically throughout the home to accommodate our most common resting spots and we learned very quickly exactly how many it would take to kick the circuit breakers!!  Within seven days of the unit breathing its last, the aforementioned friend had not only secured a new furnace for our family, but it was installed and heat was restored to our home. It was only at this time did we all admit to each other how cold and frustrated we truly were during the week. The sense of relief flowed through the four of us like the warm air through the floor registers.

What’s the point of this? I’m not simply telling a story to share what happened and I’m certainly not trying to buy your sympathy or make you feel sorry for us. I am well aware heat is not necessary for survival and am not so callous as to disregard those living among us who are unable to afford the comfort of climate-controlled living. My reason for sharing this tale is to illustrate what happens when we end up in situations where our comfort is lost.

Comfort can be defined as a state of freedom from pain or constraint in which you are relaxed and do not have any unpleasant feelings.  We are all born with a natural instinct and desire to seek comfort.  From the newborn baby crying to be held to the rebellious teen seeking to break free from the constraining demands of an overbearing parent to the newlyweds seeking to establish a home and financial security for the future, we are all striving to live relaxed in our own space shielded from the pain and unpleasantness of life.  We strive for comfort in every part of who we are: our physical being, our mental being, our emotional being, and our spiritual being.  The only issue is there are times, many times, when comfort is lost and simply can’t be found.  What happens when you or those you love are faced with an unexpected death, tragedy, loss of income, or threat to your security and well-being?

A loss of comfort can be a conflicting time.  What is going on?  Why is this happening?  How can I fix it?  Often there is nothing to be done to remedy the situation, but there are times when a loss of comfort is the motivating factor to affect change.  Regarding my family’s furnace failure, I mentioned we knew four years earlier something needed to be done; however, we waited until our comfort was lost to actually do something about it.  Although the furnace is a very practical example, reluctance to relinquish the comforts we are accustomed to can cause us to remain in places maybe a little longer than what is ideal.  With the knowledge hindsight is twenty-twenty, we often look back and wonder why it took so long to take action when we knew in our hearts change was needed weeks, months, sometimes years before we were willing to move. A little more than ten years ago a career change from a job which drained me of who I was and stole my mind from my family even when I was home would have never occurred if I had not been presented with a decision from my employer which greatly threatened my comfort.  Through much discussion, tears, and prayer, the decision was made to leave the company I had been a part of for thirteen years in hopes of a better quality of family life.  Honestly, it was a decision my wife had come to months earlier, but it took the loss of my personal comfort to drop-kick me into action.  The twelve to fifteen months which followed that decision were very uncertain and uncomfortable, but I can now say I am a better man and my family is in a better place because of it.

I believe it’s in those uncertain and devastating situations we learn the true meaning of comfort.  To limit the definition of comfort as freedom from pain and unpleasantness is short sighted and shallow.  Comfort is best described as a feeling of being less worried, upset, or frightened during a time of trouble or emotional pain.  Synonymous with security, this is the kind of comfort Jesus came to bring us.  We will not prevent the ups and downs, ins and outs of life but we can experience peace when such situations arise.  John records Christ as saying, “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart cause I have overcome the world.”  Knowing He has overcome the world and knowing nothing will ever separate us from His love, we can live at peace and in true comfort despite our circumstances.  Paul describes this as a peace that passes all understanding.

Stepping out in that comfort Jesus offers is what finally gave us the ability to pursue living life outside the institutional church after years of discomfort feeling like square pegs being forced into round holes.  Much like the decision to leave a long-time employer, the departure has made me a better man, but it did and has produced more uncertainty than certainty.  The journey over the last few years has been at times lonely, at times confusing, and even painful as we have been forced to answer questions and inquiries from friends, family, and lifelong relationships which we may not yet have answered for ourselves.  We are coming face to face with our beliefs and why we believe them instead of simply accepting what’s been force fed and handed to us.  Only by living in the peace which defies understanding and realizing it was the Father who placed these desires in our hearts as our Creator have we been able to fully embrace who we truly are and continue on this path.

I have no idea what the road ahead looks like or where it may take us.  It would be foolish and naive to expect it to be free from pain or any unpleasant experiences, but I do believe as we live in Jesus we can live less worried, upset, and frightened during those times of trouble or pain.  Circumstances may affect us externally and cause a loss of external comfort, but they should never threaten our true internal comfort.  Returning our focus to Him is a choice we must make when comfort is lost.

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By Mike Edwards

This is a two-part Post. First part here.

Most God-followers get their understanding of God from the Bible. Non-God followers often understand God from what people claims about God according to the Bible. Readers may be aware of arguments suggesting dangers when assuming the Bible isn’t entirely inspired by God. I wish to address dangers when not questioning if the entire Bible is inspired by God. When the Bible is said to be infallible or inspired by God, most assume the words penned somehow came from God and thus approved by God. Few suggest God dictated the entire Bible word per word, but a dictatorial style is implied if God somehow prevented biblical writers from having less than perfect views of God. It is very different to approach the Bible from the perspective that God acts uncontrolling but continually seeks to influence for one’s moral good.

The danger of destroying souls and families because the Bible supposedly says so

Ever moral fiber in a parent’s body doesn’t wish to condemn their child for feelings they can no more control toward those of the same sex than heterosexuals can control their feelings toward the opposite sex. Biblical passages that condemn homosexuality are highly debatable which should lead us to listen to our moral senses. God surely supports all loving, consensual, caring relationships to avoid heart-break. Family members and friends no longer need to be broken-hearted by thinking their devotion to God requires them to reject their loved ones.  Scientific knowledge available suggests sexual orientation isn’t a choice. Why would anyone choose to be gay based on the condemnation and bigotry they face? It just isn’t possible to be told “I love you but I hate your sin” and not feel unloved and rejected. We know the psychological harm done when one must hide their sexuality because of bigotry and hostility. We must be guided by love – how should I treat others if I had the same non-choices?

The danger of valuing right beliefs or interpretations at the expense of loving others

We must prioritize love over the right interpretation because interpretations could be wrong. It isn’t godless to approach Scriptures openly questioning with the aim to love others like we want to be loved. Different opinions can stand side by side as we continually evaluate the most loving approach, rather than forcing our opinions on others in the name of God. Jesus didn’t always answer questions directly because He sought to change hearts which influences solving problems with the interests of others in mind. Love others like they want to be loved because you could be wrong.

The danger of making assumptions about God’s actions if controlling

God’s freedom-giving nature doesn’t suggest God is capable of performing a lobotomy on biblical writers’ impressions of God. An uncontrolling God cannot guarantee a perfect Book, but God can enter our world with the communications means available so we can grow in our understanding what God is really like. If God’s nature allows this kind of control when it comes to the Bible, why doesn’t God control so much evil prevalent in this world? Doesn’t God care? God’s loving nature doesn’t allow God to control. God much less humans know beliefs are only genuine and lost-lasting when freely chosen.

The danger of using the Bible as if a rules or answers Book

Jesus didn’t always answer questions directly because circumstances vary and the issue is our heart in solving problems. Imagine a world where all looked out for the interests of others and not just themselves during difficult times. The Bible is quoted that we must always forgive, but God is often said to not forgive the rebellious (i.e. Josh. 24:19). It’s complicated. Easy forgiveness can allow a husband’s abusive behavior to continue. When a sexual abuser doesn’t acknowledge their actions, secret behaviors continue. Victims can feel more victimized, and feel God must not understand their pain, when told to forgive despite their abuser denying any wrongdoing. Isn’t the whole point to do whatever helps control bitterness to stop the victimizing?

Read the Bible for what it is. Use common moral sense 

Those not growing up in church don’t understand all the fuss. Who thinks literature subject to interpretation should be read so dogmatically? When one fails to acknowledge their interpretation could be wrong, this can lead to forcing personal convictions on others in God’s name. A fallible Book can lead to listening to different opinions as we continually evaluate the most loving approach. God doesn’t get enough credit for communicating through our moral senses (how we ought to treat others). The Bible wouldn’t be God’s main communication anyway, because the majority born into this world never had a copy.

Let’s err on the side of God that seems morally correct to most, to not turn people away from God for the wrong reasons. Would you desire to pursue God and spirituality more if you knew God was the kind of God you imagine according to how they have created you? The Bible is still valuable as it lets us know God seeks a relationship with all individuals in all nations as evidenced by Jesus’ message and life. Read the Bible with an open-mind motivated by love rather than with blind obedience.  Use common moral sense as you consider what a loving God is really like.

 

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By Mike Edwards

We could change a nation and relationships if opposing sides did not demonize one another by declaring their view the only and right view. Maybe you weren’t as stupid as I was when getting married. The wife and I didn’t have much conflict in dating so I assumed my wife’s love and respect pretty much meant agreeing with my point of view. I learned the key to a great marriage is accepting differences and finding ways to be happily incompatible. Best friends do it but we tend to take the gloves off inside the walls of marriage.

God-followers must approach the Bible the same way they do marriage. We can never claim our view of God according to the Bible is correct. Imagine how many wouldn’t be turn away from God if all had such an attitude. Literature requires interpretations and even those who respect Scriptures as authoritative disagree.  Even if we could prove the Bible was infallible, we still do not know which interpretation is the infallible view of God.

The infallibility of the Bible is a non-starter because we don’t have the original manuscripts and then interpretation is required. We must avoid dogmatism that often drives people away from than toward God. The Bible has inspired millions to lead a less selfish life. The problem isn’t the Bible but how the Bible is represented. The Bible is simply a recording of Israel’s understanding of God, which we can’t prove were perfect, that God can use in understanding what God is really like.

Examples below help support the importance of not claiming we can assume the Bible we possess is infallible or entirely inspired, which often leads to claiming interpretations are inspired. Just one example of later biblical writers/scribes contradicting or adding additional thoughts to earlier biblical writers makes claiming the Bible is infallible or inspired a problem:

  • Karen Keen in Scripture, Ethics, And Same-Sex Relationships points out that a scribe added sentences to the oldest manuscript we know of on Isaiah 2: 9-11. Our current Bibles read (The italicized words added to the original): “So people will be brought low and everyone humbled— do not forgive them. Go into the rocks, hide in the ground from the fearful presence of the Lordand the splendor of his majesty! The eyes of the arrogant will be humble and human pride brought low; the Lord alone will be exalted in that day” (p. 59, 126). Later scribes intensified God’s anger which may or may not best portray God’s true nature.
  • Keen provides an example where the writer in Deuteronomy 15 alters slavery laws from Exodus though the original slavery law was given by God to Moses directly on Mount Sinai (Ex. 19:18-21:11). The updated law in Deuteronomy applies freedom also to female slaves not just male slaves, improves circumstances for slaves, etc. (p. 60-61). The writers of Deuteronomy had no problem updating supposed spoken words from God to Moses best for their circumstances. We have to be open-minded which laws are wisest in our circumstances.
  • It would seem throughout the OT that animal, blood sacrifices are necessary for God to forgive. But, why did later OT writers over time begin to write that God doesn’t like animal sacrifices but contrite hearts (Ps. 51:16-17, i.e. Jer. 7:22, Amos 5:21, Micah 6:6)? Why wouldn’t writers at least say both animal sacrifice and contrite hearts are necessary? This leads to very different interpretations of the Cross and view of God for many – did Jesus die to appease God’s wrath and need for sacrifice or to prove God’s amazing love so we might follow in Jesus’ footsteps.
  • Keith Giles points out in Jesus Unbound: Liberating the Word Of God From The Bible that 2 Sam 24:1 says God incited David to take a census of Israel which lead to massive slaughter. But, I Chron 21:1 says Satan incited David (pp. 136-37). Did NT writers understand God better by writing that God, no matter how Holy God may be, never tempts anyone to do evil (James 1:13). What many assume of a good God doesn’t always match what the Bible says!
  • Deut. 28:63 says God takes pleasure in destroying. But, Ezek. 33:11 says God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked. So, which view portrays God most accurately? Paul says the Spirit helps us make final judgments (I Cor. 2:15), but we must respect one another’s opinion.
  • NT writers relied on a Greek translation of the Hebrew OT called the Septuagint. This is an older version of the Hebrew Scriptures than the Masoretic text which came later and from which most of our OT Bibles are translated today from. There are many differences. In the story of David and Goliath, the Masoretic text our Bibles use has many more details and it twice as long as the Septuagint version (Giles, p. 139). Thus, the version we read in our Bible is an expanded version of the original, supposed inspired version. Later biblical scribes felt completely free to update earlier scribes, perhaps to make their point.

My point is not to emphasize that our Bibles are full of errors but to encourage us to change how we read and represent the Bible to others. Uncertainty is not the problem! Uncertainty can lead to more loving actions by accepting one another’s differences. Certainty often leads to opposing sides demonizing one another by insisting they are right and the other side is wrong. Can you imagine if couples acted this way when disagreeing? God-followers and religious leaders seem hell-bent in telling people what must be believed about God according to their understanding and interpretation of the Bible. Certainty rather than open-mindedness about God has led to justifying slavery, killing infidels, condemning gays, and other atrocities in the name of God. Let’s have a discussion than demonize one another and turn others from God when we could be wrong.

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By Mike Edwards

Most agree an evil or less than perfect God is not worth believing in. We all assume One who dares calls themselves God must be perfect. We mostly get our ideas of what a good God is like from either a Book such as the Bible or from thinking alone or discussing with others what we imagine a good God is like. The majority born into this world only has the latter option because they never had a Bible. It is possible God’s Spirit communicates to all somehow, with or without a Bible, due to the universal belief that we ought to treat others like we want to be treated.

Moral intuitions or imagination are often downplayed based on assumptions about the Bible.

Many of us has been taught that God inspired every word of the Bible, so that is our definitive source for knowing what God is like. Many theologians today, who respect the Bible as authoritative, are advising the final word on what God is like is through Jesus’ eyes than Old Testament prophets because of OT challenges. Even if you believe the Bible is inspired, a Book cannot be the only or final word. Literature requires interpretation. Scholars disagree what the Bible says about homosexuality, gender roles, the afterlife, etc.

Even the Bible implies we can know God without the Bible.   

The Bible says we are made in God’s image or are God’s representatives here on earth. This implies we have much in common with God or can have some understandings of God. Parent is the most common analogy to describe God in the Bible. Godly and earthly parents must have traits in common. The Bible says to be perfect like God (Mt. 5:48). The Bible doesn’t spell out what total perfection is but assumes we know. When two plausible interpretations exist, chose the view of God that seems more loving humanly-speaking.

Does anything go just because the Bible isn’t the definite source for who God is?  

The truth is there is agreement on most moral matters such as murdering, lying, stealing, or not treating others like we want to be treated. It is universally accepted that it is morally wrong to behead people for their beliefs unless you are a terrorist. You can’t debate with a terrorist because their source is inspired by God thus the supposed truth. Terrorists won’t admit their interpretation is debatable, or they can’t prove every word by a prophet was inspired by God. We will always have to work with one another about what we think God is really like, and stop claiming we are right and others are wrong.  

How do we proceed when there are differences?  

Assumed certainty covers up what we all know – there will always be disagreement whether about God, politics, or marriage. You handle differences in any arena like you would in a partnership. Don’t assume you are always right. Don’t violate anyone’s physical or emotional rights. Find common grounds. Learn to live together happily incompatible. Not taking these steps means you think you are morally superior. 

What do you imagine a good God is like?   

Chances are you are right, especially if told something about God that suggests you treat others better than God. God is Perfect Love. This is very good news if told something about God you heard you knew couldn’t possibly be true. The other good news if you are already a God-follower, you don’t have to convince others what God is like. Let God do their own work. My views of God have changed from what I was taught growing up. My views now match more what I knew deep down to be true about love. Turns out that God is understandable and not some mystery.

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by Rocky Glenn

My thoughts going into Easter this past weekend were a mixed bag of criticism, questions, and self-analyzation.  Although this wasn’t the first year we have not actively participated in any church based Easter activities, ghosts of special sermons, carefully selected worship songs, newly purchased clothes, and orders of service timed to the minute haunted my mind.  I have actively, willingly, and intentionally played a role in times past of ensuring Easter Sunday morning service is meticulously planned and flawlessly executed.  Every effort was made to make the right impression on the countless visitors we were certain would be in attendance.  After all, if the plan was executed perfectly it would draw people to join our congregation and our attendance would increase showing how great of a place we were.  Heck, if we performed well enough, visitors might even make a decision to follow Christ!  Oh yeah, I guess we were actually celebrating Christ’s resurrection as well, but, despite being repeatedly mentioned throughout the course of the service, it never seemed to be the real focal point.  There was more concern taken over the timing of every agenda item and every detail of cleanliness and structure rather than celebrating the day for what it was to represent.  It was the biggest Sunday of the year and was treated as such.  It’s the institutional church’s Super Bowl!

Late last week I had a conversation with a long time friend via text and we discussed the subject.  Having walked together through many different courses of life, and many changes in beliefs for each of us, I knew he was someone safe to talk to and would not return any judgment if I shared my true feelings.  I mentioned my disdain for what it has become and how I referred it to as the Evangelical Church’s Super Bowl.  The response I received was a simple, “It’s pretty much all Christians’ Super Bowl,” and he went on to explain it should be a cause of celebration.  He mentioned the resurrection should truly be the one thing in the world we have reason to celebrate and the manner in which we do so should inform people of the power of the resurrection.  I pointed out my problem is it’s the one day of the year we talk about the resurrection and we then live the rest of the year forgetting  it.  We celebrate and look forward to the day itself and gloss over the event.  The next response I received was significant and gently reminded me there were three fingers pointing back at me on the same hand with which I was pointing at others, “Most people are very inconsistent.  I know I am to an extent . . . I say that to seem somehow piously humble, I mean it. I’m an inconsistent mess sometimes.”  The conversation which followed took us everywhere from the prodigal son and his older brother to being focused solely on our own salvation to the true purpose of our faith being faith itself and not our eternal destination.

As I reflected back on the conversation over the next two days, I believe he hit the heart of the matter with the word inconsistent.  If we are all honest with ourselves, we are all just a giant bundle of inconsistencies. Paul stated this in his letter to Rome as simply, “I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate.”  To live a human life is to live a life of inconsistencies.  Inconsistencies appear in both our actions and beliefs and become glaringly obvious when the two do not align with one another.  What we believe as absolutes today are the very things we may question tomorrow.  Theologies and beliefs I would have once defended I now despise and detest.  Though I lived a life once grounded in rules, regulations, and expectations, I strive now to live with an open minded letting Love be my guide.  Yet, in the very same breath with which I proclaim to live in Love I often find myself judging and looking harshly at those who choose to remain in the path I traveled for many years.  Despite striving to live freely in grace and seeking to show grace to others, my back still stiffens as my blood pressure raises when I’m cornered about why I walked away from the life I once lived.  I find it difficult to not respond in anger when being accused of leaving my faith and when I am judged as sliding down a slippery slope to damnation.  The churchboy I lived as would never openly admit to living such a life of inconsistencies no matter how true it would have been.  His life was all about maintaining the perfect image of what he believed a Christian should look like.  I would like to believe the churchboy I once was is dead, but as I shared recently I am forever recovering.  

Brennan Manning admitted his inconsistencies like this:

“When I get honest, I admit I am a bundle of paradoxes. I believe and I doubt, I hope and get discouraged, I love and I hate, I feel bad about feeling good, I feel guilty about not feeling guilty. I am trusting and suspicious. I am honest and I still play games. Aristotle said I am a rational animal; I say I am an angel with an incredible capacity for beer.
To live by grace means to acknowledge my whole life story, the light side and the dark. In admitting my shadow side I learn who I am and what God’s grace means.”

I’m at a point in my journey where I can truly recite Brennan’s words as my own.    Brennan captured what I now believe a Christian truly is as he concluded his statement above with the words of Thomas Merton, “A saint is not someone who is good but who experiences the goodness of God.”  This goodness of God is found in returning to Paul’s letter just a few sentences after his admission shared above, “Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Paul’s words bring us back full circle and return us to Jesus and his resurrection which is where our discussion began.  In pondering and reflecting on Easter, I found I was not alone in the process.  One friend spent the week on social media questioning if our obsession with and promotion of holy days had gotten in our way of enjoying the blessing we have in Jesus Christ each and every day.  On Easter Day itself, he gracefully summed up the week with the following sentences:

There is nothing wrong when we celebrate a certain day as “holy” when it is an option you choose in your own conscience before God.

At the same time, there is not a single instance in the grace portion of your and my bible where a holy day is presumed true and where celebrating a certain day is ever mandated.

Whenever and wherever a mandate to observe a holy day is present, it is a violation of God’s grace who cleansed our consciences and who liberated our minds and our consciences to enjoy him free of manmade ritual and tradition.

A life of grace is a life free of manmade mandates of ritual and tradition.  It all comes down to your own conscience before God.  To share grace with others is to refuse to view them through your own personal mandates which arise as result of that conscience between you and God.

Inconsistencies will arrive and plague us as long as we live but as Paul, Brennan, and Thomas all point out, it’s through Jesus we overcome them.  His consistency overcomes our inconsistencies just as His perfection overcomes our imperfection.

Rocky

 

 

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by Jim Gordon

So often when I mention that my wife and I have left the organized church, people assume something happened to hurt us or make us mad or we were abused in some way. Just to be clear on this subject neither one of us have ever been abused or hurt by the church. Neither one of us are mad about some event or some person at church. I know there are people who have had bad experiences which sometimes includes abuse and I think that is terrible. Fortunately for us that is not the case.

Today we seem to hear much about sexual abuse and the catholic church although this can happen in any church system. We hear of people in power within the system taking advantage of their members for various reasons. Fortunately this is not the norm in most churches but is a real and terrible thing that happens way to often.

I actually had some very good times while within the church system. I made many good friends, learned about God and his love for me and had many fun and enjoyable experiences with the people who were part of the church system.

It is certainly not out of abuse or being hurt that my wife and I decided to leave the system. After nearly sixty years in the organization and after the last fifteen of those years feeling that something is not right with the system, we made the decision to leave and follow Christ outside the walls of religion. To be clear, this was our decision and we certainly do not expect everyone to agree or do the same thing. Many people are part of the organized church who truly love God and want to serve Him. After all, the religious system we know as church is all we know.

We believe the Church is a community of people and not a building nor a service held one day each week with paid professionals leading the service. We believe the Church is each of us who follow Christ and see him as the head. We are the temple of the Holy Spirit and each of us are equally functioning members making up his body.

WhatisChurch

We believe forsaking not the assembling of yourselves means we need one another. We live each day having fellowship with those God brings our way no matter where it happens. We never truly found real fellowship when we sat in an organized service for an hour looking at the back of the head of the person in front of us. We believe true fellowship is not just sitting together with other people in a room but it is daily loving, encouraging and praying for one another and meeting the needs of those we are able to help.

The temple in the Old Testament was only a shadow of what was to come in the New Testament. God now lives in us as his temple and he is our leader rather than another human being we call pastor. The only mediator between God and man was Jesus. He repaired the separation between God and man and we now have direct access to the Father without anyone in between. There is no hierarchy in the Church. Each of us are equally important parts of the body and able to teach, encourage, build up and pray for one another. It is truly a priesthood of all believers and not a one person show. Those with specific gifts for helping the Church are not better or more spiritual than the rest. They are brothers and sisters who walk along beside those who need encouragement. They are those who have learned a spiritual lesson and are there to help those who are still learning. They are servants among the body of Christ who are there to help and encourage.

So when I say that we have left the church it is only the building and organization I am talking about. We left not because we were mad, hurt or abused. We left because we believe the religious system most people call church is flawed and far from what God is building. He is building a group of people who will daily follow Him outside the walls of religion and organizations of men, loving God with all their heart, soul, strength and mind, loving their neighbor and accepting all they meet along the way.

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By Mike Edwards

I don’t have to convince anyone that God does or doesn’t exist. God can speak to the hearts of individuals on their own. That billions are convinced there is a loving God cannot be declared definitely irrational or delusional. It is not irrational either to ask if God is real, why doesn’t God clinch the argument by making their Presence obvious? I would encourage those who believe in a relational God to not stand in the way of others and speak for God declaring any beliefs are required by God to consider a relationship.

God doesn’t require any belief!  

I am convinced God only wishes for all to consider the possibility of a loving God who desires to help you in your journey of becoming the person deep down you want to become. Loving, human parents don’t require certain beliefs from their children before hoping they will consider if they love them. Are we better lovers than God? 

You certainly don’t have to believe in magical trees and talking snakes.

No one was there with Adam or Eve to know literally what took place. Genesis isn’t necessarily a scientific explanation about Creation but about a relationship with the Creator. Flood stories appeared in ancient literature before Genesis. The global flood story could describe a regional flood in hyperbolic terms to convey moral, spiritual food for thought. God doesn’t require literal belief in any event in the Bible or else! Now if God physically appears raising your friend from the dead, you may want to consider!

You don’t have to believe Jesus resurrected from the dead.

I know the above statement is extremely offensive to many, but I care more about those who want to believe in a God but struggle with certain requirements as opposed to those who are already convinced a loving God is real. Jesus told followers He was coming back from the dead and they didn’t believe Him. And they supposedly witnessed miracles beforehand to have less doubts such a claim was possible.

I would like to think more of us if we witness a man or woman coming back from the grave after being killed that we would think their message such as claiming to be the son of God would be believed. But, none of us lived during biblical times so we will not have such an opportunity. I happen to believe the historical evidence is credible that Jesus rose from the grave, but God can handle doubts or skepticism.

You don’t have to believe that Jesus was the Son of God.

Many insist that Jesus was both God and man. Some can’t logically wrap their heads around Jesus being both man and God. Exactly how does one do that chromosomally? Isn’t it logically impossible to be God and not God? Some may be willing to accept that Jesus was an extraordinary man who epitomized who God was. Why can’t we begin there as a discussion as to what teachings and actions of Jesus seem to represent what a loving God is like?

Doesn’t God at least require the Law of Love?

I have written before that the only belief God requires is love. I would say that differently now. God doesn’t demand love but only seeks to encourage unselfish love which leads to personal freedom. God know what we know – the road traveled of learning, reflecting, and freely choosing convictions over time is what leads to genuine, lasting love.

Didn’t Jesus require belief for eternal life?

When Jesus was asked directly by a religious expert how to have eternal life, Jesus didn’t talk about escaping torture after death. Please see HERE that the Bible says nothing about the traditional understanding of Hell. Jesus replied to simply love God and your neighbor (Lk.10:25-37). Jesus’ focus wasn’t on quantity of life after death but about a life worth living here on earth. Jesus’ message wasn’t about requiring certain beliefs but avoiding consequences in life here on earth through destructive choices. This is the message of any loving parent!

What beliefs about God are worth insisting upon to others?  

There is no belief about God you should impose upon others. You could be wrong. God is big enough to prove themselves to those interested. You don’t even have to insist God is loving. A tyrannical God isn’t worth believe in. I surely am not as perfect or loving of a parent as God is, but even I don’t require my children accept any of my beliefs or else. Even I understand controlling through fear than proving my love doesn’t lead to true change and intimacy.

 

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