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Archive for the ‘Acceptance of Others’ Category

By Mike Edwards

A God who bothers to creates surely wants us to know what God is like. Atheists and believers agree. The only kind of God worth believing in is a perfect God. A Book can’t be the only way to know God because even scholars, who respect the authority of Scriptures, don’t agree on whether Hell really exist or God condemns gays. Most believe we ought to treat others like we want to be treated. We can only know what such love is through our own moral notions.

God and human perfect must be the same.

If God exist most would agree with the Bible’s exhortation that we should strive to: “Be perfect, therefore as your heavenly Parent is perfect” (Mt. 5:48). It is intuitive that human and godly perfection are one in the same. We may not always know what perfect love entails but at least we always know the question we ought to ask ourselves – am I loving others perfectly? It is only natural to think a Creator would love us and others how we were seemingly created to love others.

We cannot know definitively what God’s perfect love is according to the Bible.

Literature always requires interpretation, thus why scholars disagree on the meaning of the same biblical passages. You are currently interpreting whether I am saying none of the Bible is inspired or that every word of the Bible may not be inspired by God. It is normal to question interpretations. Interpretations that don’t seemingly lead to loving your neighbor more may be amiss because they are contrary to our moral intuitions and understandings of perfection. We cannot avoid using our moral brains when reading ancient literature. 

We cannot know definitely what God is like according to Jesus.  

It is argued, because of the challenges understanding God and violence in the Old Testament, that Jesus is our final destination for fully understanding God. Jesus claimed to be God and His moral legacy seems undeniable. God-followers though don’t always agree what Jesus taught because of transmission, translation, and interpretation. People who love Jesus with all their heart don’t agree if Jesus’ teachings allow or rule out war when evil is rampant and victims can be saved. It is an illusion to claim we can know God would do because the Bible or Jesus says so.

Uncertainty can be a good thing.

Even if God is Truth we still have to discern what is Truth. Many leave the institutional church because of the lack of honest, open dialogue. Certainty has led to forcing “supposed” truths onto others. But c’mon! We don’t have to make laws against murder, sexual abuse, etc. Admitting uncertainty, unless beheading people for beliefs, allows different opinions to stand side by side as we continually evaluate the most loving approach. Problems often begin when we stray from common moral sense and insist on our understanding from a Book.

God surely is not a mystery but understandable.  

The idea of a mysterious God may only come from one’s understanding of a Book about God. Biblical interpreters will often play the mystery card when their view suggests God’s morals are not the same as human morals. They understand some rationalization is needed when views of God are incompatible with human ideas of a loving God. If God isn’t understandable, why does the Bible ask us to imitate God (Eph. 5:1)? We may not be able to comprehend all plausible moral reasons how suffering and a good God can co-exist, but that doesn’t make God a mystery.

God surely isn’t a moral hypocrite humanly-speaking.  

An evil God isn’t worth believing in. Language breaks down if we say God’s evil sometimes is mysteriously good. The Bible encourages us to be perfect like God, but we can’t be like God if God’s love isn’t what we know love to be. A Creator surely loves us and others how we were seemingly created to love others. God is neither mysterious or a moral hypocrite humanly-speaking. 

So, for example how does God really feel about gays?  

Many only condemn gays because they are convinced the Bible does. I have written here to please reconsider that the Bible doesn’t condemn gays, even if you believe every word is inspired by God. Some condemn gays because it doesn’t seem natural to them. Why would God condemn gays when they can no more choose who they are attracted to than straights can? We know the psychological harm done when one must hide their sexuality because of bigotry and hostility. Loving others like you want to be loved is true, human, godly love! See Here

Human perfection is our best starting point for knowing what God is truly like.

We often think of God according to what we have been taught. We may imagine God, most often referred to Father, is like our earthly father or parent. We may think God is like what is claimed by others according to the Bible. Our understandings about God shape our attitudes toward God. The more you respect your earthly parents or God, the closer you are to them. We can’t claim with certainty, which may not be a bad thing, what God would do in every situation but human perfection is our best starting point for discussion.

 

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by Jim Gordon

Have you noticed how often people get offended and feel they need to prove their point on so many topics and posts online? It usually does not go well once that starts. Especially when it comes to spiritual and biblical topics.

We fail to realize that not everyone has the same interpretation as another. We also fail to realize the fact that we cannot prove most of what we believe.

We can fight and argue between christian and atheist, one christian denomination and another, among Jewish, Christian, Islam and a host of other religions. We can argue about whether there is or there is not a God, is there a hell or not, what this verse means or what that verse means. We get mad and defensive when someone goes against what we believe and do our best to prove our view is right.

Thing is, we cannot prove our point. We cannot prove God exists, we cannot prove there is a heaven or a hell, we cannot prove any other aspect of the spiritual existence. This life is a life of faith and belief. As christians, we have faith that God is there and he loves us. We have faith in the guidance of the Spirit within us.

On the other hand, no one can prove there is not a God, there is not a heaven, or there is not a hell. Yet we will fight and argue until we almost hate each other trying to prove our way of thinking.

I think God can take care of himself. We do not have to fight and argue to defend Him. Rather than making ourselves look like mean, hateful people who have to be right we should be showing the love of God to everyone. Show his love to those who agree with us and also to those who are a hundred percent sure in their minds that we are wrong.

To be sure, we cannot have this kind of love and acceptance in our own strength. God says we are the temple of the Holy Spirit, and it his love that flows out of us. Through His power, we can love those who live differently, who think differently, we can love our enemies and those who want nothing to do with God.

We can have our own way of thinking, our own beliefs and interpretations, knowing that God created each of us differently. Yet we need to remember we are not totally right on everything, and for sure we are not always going to agree with one another. We can all learn something by listening and communicating with others.

We all have a right to believe what and how we want to believe. People can put their faith in God or not. We can have completely different lifestyles. We can have a completely different interpretation on bible verses or we can completely reject the bible and not believe anything about it, and it is OK. Jesus did not tell us to judge and condemn others for what they believe. He did not say to force our views and beliefs on others. He did say to love one another.

We are not called to make people believe like us, or believe in God at all. We are called to go into the world and live the gospel message that God loves and accepts us. Jesus came to restore fellowship between humanity and the Father. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we are to love and accept others just as they are.

We can have our individual beliefs and interpretations, and we do not have to agree with everyone. Love and acceptance do not mean agreement. We can love and accept others just because they are loved by God. We were all created in His image. We can have our differences and still accept and care for those God brings into our lives each day.

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by Jim Gordon

We often talk about being like Jesus, or living a Christ-like life. What does that really entail?

My first thought is being like Jesus does not necessarily mean imitating Jesus. I think that is something that is close but a little different. Imitating, according to the dictionary means to mimic; impersonate; to make a copy of; to have or assume the appearance of. Some of this can be understood to be good, but I feel it takes away from our own identity and the way we were made as individuals.

I do not think being Christ-like means we are going to do everything we read in the gospels just like Jesus. It may mean we do things that are not popular or accepted by everyone, but we do them as the Spirit leads us, not because we are imitating exactly what Jesus did.

Most of us probably will not go to a Jewish synagogue and overturn tables. We may not walk all over the country healing people and raising the dead. We may never face being stoned and we may not have to deal directly with the spiritual or political leaders of our day.

What it might mean is, some of us may leave the church system because it is man-controlled with its doctrines and various interpretations of the bible. This will cause us to walk in the wilderness outside the walls of religion. It may mean being shunned by those still within the system. Yet we still have the Spirit living within us and who will never leave us.

Some of us may disassociate ourselves from politics. In the U.S.A. many people think being christian means being republican. Jesus did not seem to associate himself with any political party of his time. He respected them by saying give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s. Yet, Jesus goals and purposes were far beyond anything political.

Some may join an LGBTQ organization to show support, or work with race, gender or nationality relations. It may mean participating with and helping people that others would rather ignore. We want to help provide understanding and acceptance among people no matter what label they wear. Doing so may be misunderstood by others and may cause us to be cut off from friends or family who see things differently.

No matter how the Spirit leads us, I believe being like Jesus will be going about the Father’s business. That is to show love and not judgment and condemnation. It is encouraging, loving, building up and accepting people just as they are. Jesus came to our world to show us that God is not a God of hate, condemnation, murder and exclusiveness. God is love and a god of acceptance, inclusiveness and a god that walks side by side with us through everything we go through in this world.

We are all different. We each have our own personality, interests and special ways of living life. I think being like Jesus will be different as God works in the uniqueness of us. Being like Jesus will be different things to different people, but it will all be done by following the Spirit of Christ from within us. It will be a life of love for God and love for people each and every day.

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By Mike Edwards

If you read the Bible closely enough, who blames those who challenge God morally. Did God really kill all but eight in the world by a global flood because God couldn’t handle rejection? We condemn people drowning a litter of puppies in the river. Other ancient literature spoke of local floods. Perhaps the writers use hyperbole to make a point, but that doesn’t explain all of the OT.

I Sam. 15:3 is only one of many passages that reports God commanded the destruction of innocent women and children in war: “Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them…put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.” God orders killing non-virgin women but not virgins: “save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man” (Num. 31:18). Really God! Exodus 12 claims God intends to kill firstborns without lamb’s blood on their doorframes (Passover).

How one views the Bible leads to different explanations.

Did God control or guide the writers’ thoughts to perfectly represent God which then requires explaining certain actions by God, or did God not interfere with writers misrepresenting God at times? OT writers could have been influenced by surrounding cultures as to what an all-powerful God should look like. When the OT records “God said,” this isn’t audible speech but could be a figure of speech conveying figuratively an inner impression felt from God – right or wrong.

We can’t prove God did or didn’t inspire the Bible. The Bible can be viewed as recorded experiences of beginnings with God and Israel culminating with the life of Jesus that we don’t possess in other documents. God didn’t necessarily have in mind recordings wouldn’t be questioned. Writers may have contributed actions to God that weren’t true. This explanation can help Scriptures not being used blindly to justify violence God supposedly approved.

Is violence explained because God can do whatever the Hell God wants?  

It is normal to feel compelled to justify passages above because God’s actions in the OT don’t always seem moral from a human perspective. So, it is suggested God’s ways don’t have to be fair because God is God. Yet, the Bible encourages us to be perfect like God or imitate God (Mt. 5:48, Eph. 5:1). If God’s actions don’t seem fair at times, should we imitate such actions? If human and God’s perfection are different, how can we know how to be perfect like God? We don’t always know what perfect love is, but I doubt God is the parent that says “do as I say not what I do.” 

Is violence by God simply warfare exaggeration?  

Warfare rhetoric was common in ancient literature to induce fear and victory. A US leader may say we will completely destroy ISIS. But, even if God didn’t mean to be taken literally, why would God inspire such violent metaphors in I Sam 15 to include women, children, infants, and animals? Humans leaders don’t even use such language against terrorists. I question if the writers heard God correctly.

Did God approve certain violence to bring the Israelites freely along to the truth?

It is argued that Israelites laws were a step up from other ancient near eastern laws. At times maybe they were, but it is rational to question many of the laws set forth. Did God really approve a woman being required to marry her rapist (Deut. 22: 28-29) as if this was a step up to protecting victims from a life of shun? Did God walk on eggshells because the Israelites couldn’t handle the truth that requiring a woman to marry their rapist is just further victimization? I am convinced only humans, not God, thought this was a good law at that time.

I know, I know. If you can’t trust the Bible what can you trust!

Who doesn’t know God hates murder, sexual abuse, stealing, adultery, even not treating others like you want to be treated? Terrorists rationalize forcing beliefs about God on others, or be killed, because God supposedly inspired such thoughts recorded in a Book. Total certainty about God according to the Bible is an illusion. Biblical scholars, who respect Scriptures, don’t agree what the Bible says about hell, women, gays, etc. Different opinions standing side by side, as we continually evaluate the most loving approach, is better than claiming certainty and being wrong. 

It matters if the Bible is viewed as inspired by God or not.  

The idea of an infallible Book has led to assuming God’s view on morality only come from a Book such as the Bible or Quran. It is seldom admitted interpretations of a supposed infallible book could be wrong which has led to justifying slavery, killing infidels, and other atrocities in the name of God. Fallible books can’t hide behind assumed infallible interpretations, which lead to misunderstanding or rejecting God for the wrong reasons. We can’t prove when the Bible records “God says” that God really inspired such words. Questioning leads to less justification of violence.

 

 

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by Jim Gordon

I grew up in the institutional church and was always of the persuasion that being gay was a sin. I felt I was pretty open since saying I hated the sin but loved the sinner, I was doing better than most. Yet, either way I was saying being gay was a sin.

I never treated those who were gay in a bad way. I never treated any of my friends or relatives who were gay any different than I treated anyone else. I saw them as normal everyday people….but with a great sin in their life.

Things changed on this subject, and amazingly it was after leaving the institutional church. I started to see that God loves people, all people. There was no ‘I love you but’ when it came to God. I started to read some on the subject (something I never dreamed of doing before). I read Justin Lee and Matthew Vines. I really thought about a God of love and how could that God condemn people for the way he made them.

I finally began to see the LGBTQ community for who they really are….people. Take away the labels and you have human beings like everyone else. Just because they were born with different sexual views does not make them second class citizens and does not make them deserving of the awful ways they are treated, especially by the christian world. They are doing nothing more than being themselves the way God made them.

Today I seem to have a special sense of wanting to show those who are LGBTQ that all christian people are not the same. I want to help promote information and acceptance between christians and those who are LGBTQ (1). I know many who are LGBTQ (a few personally but most online) and who are christians who love God and serve him. I can no longer say I believe being gay is a sin. I think there is a lot of misunderstanding and misinterpretation by the church and evangelical christians.

I do admit I do not understand the attraction of two men or two women. Of course, that is because I am straight. I bet those who are gay or lesbian do not understand me and my attraction to the opposite sex (well, just one person of the opposite sex, my wife).

I recently read a book by Amber Cantorna called Refocusing My Family. It is such an interesting read, telling of her questions, struggles and hardships in her walk with God and her family. Her traditional christian upbringing and her dad being an employee of Focus on the Family made it extremely hard on her when she realized she was gay. What terrible struggles and treatment she received. It is so hard for me to understand how parents can disown their children, yet I know it happens all the time.

I also believe that the christians who do believe being gay is wrong, they are still handling it all wrong. Whether you agree or disagree, our instructions from Jesus are to love God, love our neighbor and love our enemies. We are to love, not judge and condemn. I have read so many articles about the abuse the gay community takes, beatings, exclusion, disowned by their family, suicides. It is terrible. No matter what stand we take on the issue we are not to judge and condemn. As followers of Christ we are to be known for our love and treating everyone equally.

I personally am tired of the way the christian church has treated those who are LGBTQ. Whether they agree or disagree they should be treating everyone with love. For me I have concluded that being gay is not a sin and I fully love and accept all people just as they are. I hope I can show that love and acceptance to others in some way.

I do not completely understand it but for some reason this topic has taken on a new meaning for me. I am tired of seeing the abuse, the exclusion and the discrimination against those who are LGBTQ. Not sure where this will lead but hopefully, I can be a help by showing love and acceptance to those I meet who are LGBTQ.

(1) https://www.reddit.com/r/LGBTQ_Acceptance/

** UnClobber: Rethinking Our Misuse of the Bible on Homosexuality by Colby Martin

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By Mike Edwards 

Some rightly may discount the Bible because there are some pretty crazy laws in there. Did God really think rebellious teenagers should be stoned (Deut. 21:18-21)? Maybe we don’t have to figure out if God really commanded such a law or the Israelites were influenced by other cultures in laws written. Justin Lee gives a framework for knowing which laws to follow if a God-follower (Torn: Rescuing The Gospel From The Gays-Vs.-Christians Debate, Chapter 13).

What are laws good for?

It is argued Old Testament laws only served as a guide to establish a moral society until Jesus came along and thus laws aren’t needed anymore. Laws or rules aren’t all bad. Laws help hold the lawless and lawgivers accountable. The wife and I knew we couldn’t smack each other when frustrated, but I felt it necessary to spell it out for the young-ins. I told my kids in no uncertain terms they couldn’t hit, kick, or push each other. Rules have limits though. If their younger sib wandered into the street and a car was coming, I could care less if they kicked their ass to the curb. 

Do we follow the moral laws but not the cultural laws in the Bible?

It is suggested the Bible is divided up into cultural and moral laws with moral laws being relevant for today. The Bible though doesn’t make such a distinction. Most wouldn’t argue God still forbids tattoos (Lev. 19: 28), but in the very next verse the Bible says don’t make your daughter a prostitute which is morally universal forever. Ask any parent including terrorists. The Bible never says some laws are moral and others are only relevant to that culture.

Paul and Jesus in the New Testament hint which laws to follow.

Honoring the Sabbath by not working must have been a big deal because it made the top 10 list. Religious folks freaked out when Jesus said it is good to feed the hungry or help the hurting on the Sabbath (Lk. 6:1-11). Jesus didn’t dismiss the Sabbath, but sometimes laws are meant to be broken. Which ones though?

The Apostle Paul who wrote much of the NT spoke of an instance where the Jews were disturbed when certain dietary laws weren’t followed (Rm. 14). Paul suggested the Jews shouldn’t impose on the Gentiles who weren’t raised like them; Gentiles shouldn’t try to tell the Jews what violates their conscience. Some go to a church building on Sunday; others don’t go to avoid being divisive.

The sniff test – do actions smell of love.  

Jesus said all the laws hang on loving God and your neighbor (Mt. 22:37:40). Loving God is loving your neighbor. The Apostle Paul said the same thing – all laws are summed up by loving your neighbor (Rom. 13:8-10). When Jesus said He didn’t come to abolish the law but fulfill (Mt. 5:17), He didn’t mean throw out all the laws. Don’t kill but sometimes we may need to defend our family. Honor your parents but sometimes we may need to disagree or even break ties. Laws are not written just as rules to follow blindly but to guide us in loving others.

Love rules. Love is more important to follow than the actual law. How do we know when love is better than the law? God’s spirit can guide us. Sometimes we need the help of others to discern God’s voice clearly. Lie if you might save a life from a ruthless dictator. Regardless of whether you think the Bible and God condemns gays (See Here), love rules. If you aren’t loving straight or gay people, regardless of what you personally believe, you are breaking God’s law!

 

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by Jim Gordon

As a person that has grown up in organized religion, I can honestly say that the church today has fallen way off course. What we call church today many times seems more like a large corporation. We seem to be more focused on our programs, building bigger buildings, having a bigger and better worship band, getting on radio or TV and being a step ahead of the church down the street.

Our churches today are so divided by denominations and doctrines that it makes me think of Heinz 57 Varieties. It seems like there is a church building every mile or two from each other, yet they cannot seem to come together in unity. We are all brothers and sisters in Christ, yet we continually divide ourselves and fight and argue amongst ourselves. Those outside the church can only look on and laugh.

It amazes me how upset and defensive people can get when you mention that going to church is not a requirement. They seem to forget that the church is not a building and is not a place we go too. The Church is the body of believers no matter when and where they get together.

Usually the first verse that is quoted when we talk about not going to church is Hebrews 10:25 – not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near. Nowhere does this verse say that we have to assemble in a building on a certain day at a certain time. Nowhere does it say we have to have a pastor to teach us, or a worship band to lead us in praise and worship.

I feel so often that we christians want to be entertained and told what to believe, then go home feeling satisfied that we have fulfilled our duty until next Sunday. We have become lazy and do not want to spend the time hearing the Holy Spirit teach us. As 1 John 2:23 states, as for you, the anointing which you received from Him (talking about the Holy Spirit) abides in you and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him.

Jesus said where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them. That can be in a restaurant, in a home, in a park or anywhere. So many people put more emphasis on where we meet and not enough emphasis on spending time with the one we love. Why is it we feel the need to go to a building anyway? God said we are the temple of the Holy Spirit. God told us that He is always with us. So why is it people say they are going to the house of God to meet with Him. We are the house of God, and He lives within us.

Going to a building to meet with other believers is not wrong, but let’s start calling it what it is. The building that people go to on Sunday morning is only a place where the members of the Church sometimes get together. The Church are those of us who are following the example of Christ, and that is done on a daily basis not a one-day event.

How many times do people get more involved with the things about Christ, the services, the meetings, the up-keep of a building and the money to keep the bills paid, that they lose sight of their first love Jesus. He is to have the preeminence.

We are to follow the example of Christ by loving God and loving others as ourselves. Let’s be clear that we are to love all people, not just those who believe like us, agree with us, look like us or are of the same faith.

Stop the arguing over different interpretations and denominational doctrines. Stop the judging and condemnation of people and start loving others no matter what. It is then that the world will know we are His disciples and see a difference in the way we live as Christians.

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