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Archive for the ‘christian living’ Category

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

In the organized church system we are taught that the pastor is head of the church. He has all the answers and so much more knowledge than anyone else in the church. I mention the pastor as a ‘he’ because when I was young and growing up it was unheard of to have a woman pastor. It is sad that this is still the case in so many churches today. Women are still looked down upon and not given the full acceptance they should have.

I remember scheduling meetings with the pastor so I could ask him questions and find out all the answers to Christian living. It almost floored me one time when I asked the pastor a question and he actually said he did not know the answer.

Looking back, I can see that I certainly looked to the pastor rather than looking to the Spirit. I was putting my hope in a man who I thought could tell me everything about God, yet I was not seeking to know God himself.

Next in line were the board of elders. I thought each of them were so much more holy than I or anyone else in the church. If they were not they certainly would not be in that position of authority. Boy was I wrong. I have a friend who thinks prayers have more authority when she goes to the board of elders and has them pray.

Questioning Christian Leadership

The longer I was in the church the more I began to wonder about things. Of course, I did not dare ask the questions I had since people would start questioning my faith or think I was questioning the pastor.

When I read that Christ was the head of His church, I wondered why the pastor seemed to get credit for that position.

I read that we should call no one father (or pastor) other than God, and I again wondered why people in position of leadership and authority in the church wanted to be called pastor or apostle or elder.

We are told that the Holy Spirit is our guide and teacher and we do not need anyone other than him. Yet, we look to the pastor or an elder or some big name evangelist to find all the answers to our questions.

I began getting dissatisfied with having these questions and not letting them surface enough to come out and be asked. I began to realize I had more and more questions and less and less answers.

I finally started coming across books and websites of people who seemed to be in the same boat. They were wondering and questioning and being open with their questions. Some of them seemed to actually come up with some answers that made sense to me.

The more I thought, questioned and read the more I began to realize that our traditional church system is really not what God intended for the church. I also realized that questioning is not a lack of faith. God can handle our questioning, in fact, most of the time Jesus taught more with questions than answers. He wanted people to question and reason over things.

True Christian Leadership

The true Church that Jesus is building is not a brick and mortar place. The head of the Church that Jesus is building is not a pastor, pope, elder or apostle. In fact, the head is not a man or woman at all.

Leadership in the Church of Jesus is not what we have always thought of either. When we realize Christ is the head and leader of his Church, we begin to realize that man has no business demanding or expecting people to follow them and put them in the place of Christ.

True Christian leadership is not an office of authority. It is not a place for only a few who are specially trained at a man-made Bible school. True Christian leadership is for all of us who are members of the Church God is building. We are all kings and priests, we are all holy and righteous because of Christ. To be clear, when I say Church I am not talking about any denomination or physical building. The true Church is a community of people who are following Christ and He is our head. All the rest of us, men and women alike, are equally functioning body parts of his Church.

No person has a place of authority over another. That is the world’s way of doing things. That is the business way of doing things. Needless to say, there are a lot of churches and religious organizations that are acting like big business with their presidents and CEO’s, but that is not how it should be.

Christian Leadership as God intended is the Spirit working through the different body parts, leading by example. Leaders are those who encourage and teach from a place of love and experience, not a place of authority and power. Each of us are leaders at one time or another in the sense of leading by example, experience and love. We come in contact with those who need encouragement or a little guidance, not from someone who thinks they know it all but from someone who has been there. A person who, out of love, wants to see the best for everyone.

True Christian leaders will not demand your loyalty. They will not want your allegiance to them. They will not rule over you with authority and expect you to follow them no matter what. True leaders will want to lead you to the head and true leader of the Church, Jesus. It is time we stop looking to men and women as our main guides and leaders and look to Jesus. We need to listen for the leading, guidance and teaching of the Holy Spirit who is actually God within us, rather than seeking the knowledge and wisdom of mere men.

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By Mike Edwards 

Did OT writers always understood God perfectly, or were they influenced by surrounding cultures as to what an all-powerful God should look like? The OT frequently records “God said” but God wasn’t speaking audibly. The writers could have simply been conveying figuratively an inner conviction that God was revealing themselves. Jeremiah 1:8 says: “But the Lord said to me, ‘Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I commend you.” I doubt that Jeremiah always waited for some magical inner voice before speaking for God.

Did God really always do things the biblical writers claimed?

God supposedly denies Moses entrance into the Promised Land because Moses strikes than speaks to a rock (Num. 20). God supposedly kills Uzzah for touching the ark of the covenant as it was falling to the ground (2 Sam. 6). Even in the New Testament God supposedly struck dead Ananias and Sapphira for lying how much money they donated to the church (Acts 5). God is said to kill some for celebrating Communion without examining their heart (I Cor.11:30).

Did the writers always understand God perfectly?

We often attempt to rationalize how a loving God could be responsibilities for deeds that seem evil from a human perspective. Some explanation is needed when evil according to the brain God created us with is good sometimes. Rather than justifying it is also possible actions were wrongly contributed to God. Even today people claim God causes certain disasters in judgment. We have every right to question when God’s love doesn’t match how God created us humans to love.

What use is the Bible if the writers didn’t fully understand God?  

The Bible will always be valuable whether the writers always understood God perfectly or not. The Bible records experiences of beginnings with God and Israel culminating with the life of Jesus that we don’t possess in any other documents. Writings about God keep us talking and reflecting what God is like. God didn’t necessarily have in mind that recordings would not be questioned.

Then, we can’t know God if the Bible can’t be trusted?

C’mon! Who doesn’t know God hates murder, sexual abuse, beheading people because they don’t share your beliefs, etc.? The Bible doesn’t even claim to be the specific guide to Truth. Jesus when leaving this earth said His Spirit, not some Book, would guide us in truth (Jn. 14:16-17; 16:13). Jesus didn’t worry Truth requires discernment. Different opinions standing side by side, as we continually evaluate the most loving approach, is better than claiming certainty and being wrong. 

We can know God is relational.

Why would God even bother to create if not to share life together? He had enough angels for worship. God is often described as our heavenly Father/Parent. Our only analogy is human parents. I rather be challenged or questioned, than feared, if it will lead to more of a relationship. Love out of fear only leads to brief obligations. God’s uncontrolling nature, because of the freedom to oppose God, suggests God’s desire for authentic relationships. My prayers don’t begin: “Dear God, the Holy One, the Feared Creator of the Universe…” I talk to God as if a close Friend, and I haven’t been struck dead yet! God didn’t create us to give God the glory and shut up.

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by Jordan Hathcock

“A priest once quoted to me the Roman saying that a religion is dead when the priests laugh at each other across the altar. I always laugh at the altar, be it Christian, Hindu, or Buddhist, because real religion is the transformation of anxiety into laughter.”– Alan Watts

When exploring the comedic landscape, be it stand-up or just laughing with buddies, what we discover is total-unsaturated freedom. I mean, come on! You know you cannot deny when a good joke hits your soul, you become overpowered with joy and bliss. The endorphins hit an all-time high, and you bask in the comfort of hilariousness. When swimming in the Christian tradition, I think “busting-up” is a vital prophetic practice to have if we ever want to see restorative justice and mercy flow through our current social landscape.

How do we experience this through the Christian tradition? Well, unfortunately we don’t see to many preachers at the pulpit preaching “go out and watch some comedy”, but this does not mean that from the broad scope of things, the Christ-trajectory hasn’t journeyed out to this particular new endeavor. Yes, I get it. When we see how uncomfortable someone’s sense of humors can make us feel, its hard not to react in disdained. I find it interesting that a sermon kind of has the same kind of effect on us. Comedian Pete Homes says it best:

“The skill set of pastor and comedian are incredibly similar. You want to affect people. You’re good at reading rooms. You’re persuasive, and you’re likable.”

Now, I am not saying that we are just to be entertained in our seats while watching the “pastor” make us laugh. That is not the point. The point, I think, is we might have to find ourselves in uncomfortable spaces to be able to stretch us to encounter different perspectives. We are seeing some truth spoken to power being projected out of the stand-up scene, which if we listen closely and take some pointers, it might just help us over here in the Christian world.

The prophetic is used not to just expose the injustices, but also to bring about liberation. We must see that when we laugh, it is a way for us to heal towards a better way of living for ourselves and the community we relate to. Likewise, as the medical research shows:

“There is growing evidence that laughter as a physical activity can additionally produce small but quantifiable positive physiological benefits.”

The physiological also plays a huge part in the spiritual. When we step into the realm of expressed humor, we find ourselves in a place of peace. It is peacemaking that brings us into the “reign of God”. There is hope for this Jesus tradition and it is finding our sense of humor! Yes, the current divide and injustices that is currently happening within our current American culture is ramped.

It’s easy to get to serious with ourselves with all the bullshit running amok! Believe me, I am guilty of it! Please understand, we are not to ignore the racism that is happening within the police force across the county, school shootings, the Trump impeachment scandal, etc. The list can go on and on.

But we must admit, when things to get a little out of hand, the only medicine is to laugh that shit off! Like good old Sarah reminds us in her time of utter disbelief in the insanity: “So, Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I have grown old, and my husband is old, shall I have pleasure?” (Gen 18:12) Pleasure? In all this mess? Is it possible? Don’t know (like always) but I do trust in the gift of laughter. From this ancient tradition, its time to let go of the long faces and step into the vibrant space of comedy…

“When I opened my eyes and saw the real world, I began to laugh and I haven’t stopped since.” – Soren Kierkegaard

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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 Rocky Glenn

I’ve written recently how my son’s involvement in marching band the last four years has reignited the love and interest I once had for the sport. During this time, we’ve enjoyed the four shows his band has performed over a dozen times each at multiple football games and competitions. If you were to watch the performances I’ve recorded, despite my best efforts to capture the whole band, each recording contains multiple zoomed in shots of the sideline percussion ensemble my boy has been a part of. With over sixty kids on the field, whether recording the show or not, my focus nearly always remains on my son. It has taken a conscious effort to take my gaze away from my boy and his performance to observe the other performers, including the children of close friends with whom we have had the privilege of sharing the stands. Even when my eyes would drift, it would be only a moment before I would return to focusing on who I knew on the field.

As we’ve attended the various competitions the last four years, we always planned to arrive earlier than our band performed, and generally stayed later, to enjoy the other performances and, in all parental honesty, “size up the competition!” Being a former percussionist, during the performances of the other bands I could not help but focus on the drum line and sideline ensembles. I have an appreciation for the skill a drum line possesses to perform rudiments and visual stick drills in synchronization. When my son was called upon to master the art of holding multiple mallets in each hand to execute chords on a vibraphone, I understood the practice and preparation required to accomplish the task. Due to my conditioning and training, I am rarely able to not fix my attention on the percussion section of each band we observed. This was never more evident than last weekend at the final marching competition of our boy’s high school career as my wife, a former color guard member, leans over to me while watching a competing band and says, “Nice peel-off!” I was so attuned to my beloved former instruments I responded with the ever so elegant, “Huh?” “Color guard . . . nice peel-off?” “Oh, I missed it!” I honestly had no clue what she was referencing!

We focus on what we know and what we’ve been conditioned to follow. This was my life growing up and life as a churchboy. I was taught the requirements of being a Christian and conditioned to behave as a Christian should. Christians don’t drink, don’t cuss, attend church, read the bible daily, spend hours in prayer, pay tithes, boycott movies and organizations opposed to their individual beliefs, and insist their way is the only way and all others are doomed to an eternity in hell. What a load of crap!! All of this and more is done and adhered to not necessarily because you believe it or even because you want to, but simply so you can please God and be assured He loves you. The irony is none of these things, regardless of how closely followed, truly bring assurance of either. It saddens me to admit I followed and focused on such garbage. What an amazing and humbling thing it is to realize we can be reconditioned and unlearn what we have been taught. Reconditioning occurs when old ways or methods are found to be ineffective or no longer applicable. True reconditioning for churchboys happens as their eyes are opened to the unconditional love of God Jesus came to reveal which we did nothing to deserve and can do nothing to lose. With his death and resurrection, Jesus shifted the focus from the conditions required to reach God to simply, “Come.”

One of the friends I referred to in attendance at band events earlier is a former schoolmate I spent three years marching with in high school as part of the drum line. We’ve shared memories, laughs, and critiques over a couple of the last seasons of how “things weren’t that way in our day.” (Our wives have gotten quite tickled at the curmudgeonly old men we’ve become in our early forties!) A former percussionist himself, he was reconditioned to focus elsewhere as his daughter performed as a member of the color guard. Conversations following performances revealed he no longer focused exclusively on his former instrument of his choice as his gaze was now fixed upon a greater source of love and joy.

Such is the life of a recovering churchboy. No longer focused on do’s, don’ts, rules, and conditions, I’ve now been reconditioned by a greater source of love and joy, the unconditional love and acceptance of the Father which is not dependent on anything I may have done or not done or could ever do or not do.

Rocky

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