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Archive for the ‘christian living’ Category

by Jim Gordon

Have you ever passed a church building and saw a sign out front that says ‘Everyone is Welcome’? When I see one, I always wonder if they really mean what they say. I have seen so many congregations over the years get set in their ways and enjoy the people who are regulars, but what would happen if everyone did come to their church?

What would the thoughts and feelings be if a gay couple walked in, or if a group of homeless people came to hear the Sunday morning sermon? What if an atheist or muslim group decided to stop by and join the service? Would everyone be truly welcome?

We know that Jesus literally welcomed everyone and mostly those who the religious world did not want to have any association. Jesus met with and cared for the people who probably would not go to a church, either because they would not be truly welcome or because they just did not think they would fit in.

everyoneiswelcome

Maybe that says something about our organized church of today. Maybe we have become so involved with religion and the denominations way of doing things that we have lost our first love. Could we be so caught up in the trends of modern religion that we forget our relationship with God?

Maybe we need to concentrate more on living in fellowship with Christ on a daily basis. More of loving Him and loving others and less about what building we go to on Sunday morning, if we go at all. The true Church is not a building and it does not matter which day we meet or where we meet. The Church is a community of believers. Those who live for Him each and every day. We are the temple of the Holy Spirit. We should not be focused on a building but on a daily walk with Him.

To love God with all our heart, soul, strength and mind, and to love others as ourselves fulfills the law. We no longer need to worry about obeying the old covenant law. Jesus has fulfill the law and we now live under a new covenant of grace. This covenant went into effect at the death and resurrection of Jesus. We now have the Living Word with us through the Holy Spirit. We no longer need any man to teach us the ways of God, because the Spirit lives within us as our guide.

It is time to put our focus back on our first love, Jesus. It is time to live out our relationship with God on a daily basis, not just on one day we call the sabbath. As followers of Christ we walk with him daily, loving God, loving others and being prepared to give an answer of the hope that is within us to those who ask us. I pray we all let the love of God show through us so that others will be drawn to Him.

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By Mike Edwards

A God whose focus is saving people from the threat of burning forever after death is about fear not a relationship. Fear often leads to hiding stuff; a loving relationship leads to life changes. Adult children don’t respect and devout themselves to their parents’ guidance because they fear them. It may surprise many that the traditional understanding of Hell isn’t in the Bible. The Bible also doesn’t talk a lot either about Heaven as an escape from earth. What is God’s good news?

The Bible says nothing about the traditional understanding of the word Hell.

Humans wouldn’t even create a place to torture their enemies after death. The only place we would get such an irrational idea of a supposedly loving God is from a Book. Gehenna, the Greek word translated as Hell in the New Testament, was the name of a real valley nearby Jerusalem with a history of terrible slaughter.  Gehenna is best translated Gehenna. There is no word in Hebrew or Greek for “hell.” Jesus used Gehenna to illustrate that spiritual death is as tragic as physical death. The Apostle Paul who wrote most of the NT never refers to Hell. Noah, or any prophet in the OT, never warned of Hell as a consequence for behaviors here on earth.

If there is no Hell, was Jesus main message to get the hell away from earth to enter Heaven?

The word “heaven” appears the most in the Gospel of Matthew. The Kingdom of Heaven isn’t talking about going to a place after death. Jesus speaks of bringing heavenly love to earth – “on earth as in heaven.” Jesus said nothing about dropping to your knees to avoid Hell to go to Heaven after death. But, didn’t the Apostle Paul say “the wages of sin is death” (Rm. 6:23)? Paul is speaking of spiritual death because Paul is still alive though sin has put him to death (Rm. 7:11). Romans is Paul’s longest and most theological letter and when Paul mentions Heaven twice, he says nothing about Jesus dying so we can go to Heaven (Rm. 1:18, 10:6).

What does the Bible say God is saving us from?

When Jesus was asked by a religious expert how to have eternal life, He simply said to 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. Jeremy Myers says it best that the Bible isn’t about escaping Hell but being delivered from consequences of sin: “When Scripture teaches about being saved from sin, it is not referring to escaping hell and going to heaven when we die, but to the deliverance from the devastating and destructive consequences of sin in this life.”

https://redeeminggod.com/confess-jesus-romans-10-9-10/

God has a dream! 

God hurts because we are hurting ourselves and those around us. On this day as we celebrate Martin Luther King’s life and message, God too seeks to convince us of the evil of bigotry. Jesus came to earth to convey God seeks to empower us to constantly shun evil and do good. Seek and experience God’s help in being more the person you know deep down is in your and others’ interest. Consider misbeliefs about God that hinder that pursuit. Share with others such a God when they inquire.

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by Rocky Glenn

When Jim Gordon invited Mike Edwards and I to join him as coauthors at Done With Religion, I don’t think any of us anticipated the bond and brotherhood that lie ahead of us.  The three of us have spent the last six months getting to know each other discussing what we believe and why we believe it as well as what we used to believe and why we believed it at the time.  The conversation below is an excerpt of one of those discussions as we speculate why it took so long to arrive at our current beliefs if we truly believe we have become more Christlike as we grow more open-minded and less dogmatic.  Our hopes in sharing this discussion is to encourage those who may be wondering the same and perhaps feeling the same regrets expressed.

Mike:  We believe the way we do now. But we use to believe another way a while back.

I know there aren’t answers but how do we explain to ourselves and others if asked – why doesn’t God show us the light sooner. I know I am assuming we are more enlightened now than years ago. I am assuming it is more Christlike, unless clearly moral like bullying, to come off open-minded than dogmatic.

I think so many more may be open to God if there was so much less dogmatism. I know God isn’t controlling but so many well-meaning leaders and laypeople seem misguided (or perhaps we are the ones wrong) and all of us are simply trying to be faithful to God. I truly think so many are intending to be faithful to God. I dread to think how I would have responded 30 years ago if social media was around.

I’m not convinced it’s because some of us are more moral than others. If we are more enlightened, why weren’t we more enlightened years ago? I must admit watching all this on Facebook, etc. is discouraging, especially when it is Christians. So many of them seem hopeless.

Rocky:  I think your thoughts capture what is possibly my greatest regret . . . the amount of time and number of years I spent not only misbelieving but also misteaching others.  To me the best analogy would be Jesus’s parable of the tares and wheat.  If you remove the tares before it’s time you will remove the wheat also.  Although as we first come out of it our tendency is to discard anything and everything related to what we are leaving behind. The further I am away from it the more I realize there are some foundational truths planted there that remain.

Jim:  As far as why God doesn’t show us the light sooner, I surely do not have the total answer. I do believe it is the timing thing. I think God teaches us and brings us to new understanding only as we are ready for it. I feel there is a reason for the things we go through and I am thankful for the time in the church system. I guess I would not have known the difference if I had not been a part.

So many people in church today are there because they truly believe that is the right way and they truly love God. I know the many years I was a part of it I felt I was doing what God wanted and was learning about him. Really, that system is all we know. That is what we were brought up in and felt was what God intended.

I am thankful that the Spirit lives within us and does not give up on us. I know I had questions over the years but was afraid to ask or just figured there was a reasonable answer that was more than I could understand.

Fortunately, in time those questions and many more came up again and I started thinking and debating with myself about them. It still took years of this plus feeling so unsatisfied at church that caused us to come to the point of leaving. It is all a timing thing.

One thing the three of us are certain of is we are likely not alone in our questioning.  If this is a conversation you find yourself identifying with, we welcome your feedback and would love to hear from you.  What are your thoughts and experiences as you’ve walked out the journey of your faith?

If you would like to read more of each of our thoughts on the subject, here are related articles from each of us:

 

 

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No matter what your lifestyle, what you choose to believe, how you accept things none of us will ever completely agree with anyone else. As believers, we would not expect those who do not follow the christian faith to agree with everything we think and say. Yet, we also know that other christian people will not agree with everything either. We have so many denominations in the christian world and none of them can agree completely. But this is all OK, we are all individuals who see things differently. The last thing I want is to make people feel I expect everyone to see things my way.

I think those of us trying to follow Christ should be able to accept one another, believer and non-believer alike, talk with each other about how we see things and still be respectful and kind. We are to be known by our love, but unfortunately, that just is not the case most of the time.

No matter if we are gay, straight, christian, muslim, jew, hindu, atheist, asexual, baptist, methodist, charismatic or whatever label people put on us the underlying fact is we are all human beings. We all deserve to be treated with respect and be accepted. We each should be able to live our life and make our own choices without being condemned by others. We should be able to discuss our differences respectfully, and none of us should try to force our views and choices on another.

Unfortunately, there has been a lot of name calling and disrespect among different groups of people over time. Christian people saying God hates gays, and atheists are of the devil, people being afraid of muslims, one denomination wants nothing to do with another denomination…this is all sad and wrong.

If we could look past the labels and see each other as people who overall want the same thing, to be happy, to be loved, be healthy, get our bills paid and enjoy life I think things would be better even with our differences. This is not to say we have to agree with everyone and associate with everyone and be happy together, that just is not going to happen. There are too many different thoughts, ideas, beliefs, ways of life and personalities for us to agree on everything and be totally comfortable with everyone, yet accepting each other and respecting each other in spite of our differences certainly is a possibility.

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When you read about the life of Christ in the gospels, you see someone who loved people. He did not disassociate himself from any particular group, nor did he turn away anyone or think he was better than others. Jesus showed the love of the Father by caring for people, talking with people, eating together, healing people and not condemning them. The only crowd he had a problem with was the religious leaders of the day who thought they were so much better than everyone else because, in their view, they kept the rules. Their reasoning was they did not do the ‘wrong’ things and they did the ‘right’ things. They did not associate with the type of people they thought were less religious and unworthy of God’s love. Jesus was always getting on their case for being so religious they were of no earthly good to the Kingdom of God.

Speaking of all the different views and ways of life, I can remember when I was young and growing up in the organized church how I always stayed with people of similar belief. I do not know for sure if I was actually taught this or it was just a common belief I picked up, but I felt I needed to stay away from people of different views and ways of life. I thought it would be great to work in the church system or for a christian bookstore as a job, then spend my off-time in church services and doing church work. That way I would always being around someone who saw things pretty much the same as I did.  This way I would not have to be around ‘those’ people, whoever ‘they’ were. I still see this in the church today, a separatist mindset.

Sound familiar? So much of the traditional church setting is based on separation from those who think differently. This usually brings a feeling of superiority, being separated from those who need to see God’s love in action and living a Pharisee-type lifestyle. (Pharisee: strict observance of religious ceremonies and practices, one who adheres to laws and traditions, self-righteous or hypocritical person).

Compare that to the life of Jesus we read about in the gospels, a person who loved people, was not condemning or unkind, hung out with those who the religious crowd did not want anything to do with, spent time eating and drinking with the non-religious crowd and truly cared for others.

I know we all see things differently. We will not all agree on things and we have no way of proving our point in regard to spiritual matters. Yet I think it is time the christian ‘religion’ comes to an end and Christ-like people begin to daily show the unconditional love and acceptance of God to everyone.

Jesus said to love God and love one another. He did not say love only those who live in a way you think is right or with who you completely agree. Love people the way God loves them and agree to disagree rather than judge and condemn.

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By Mike Edwards

There is so much civil unrest because both sides demonize 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. Open-minded uncertainty rather than supposed certainty could go a long way to healing our nation and personal relationships!

Certainty about God because of the Bible

It is circular logic to suggest the Bible is infallible or inspired by God because biblical writers make such a claim.  Writers could have clearly misunderstood God. God’s nature is not to control thoughts and words of writers. Besides, the Catholic Bible has seven additional books in the Old Testament than the Protestant Bible. Which books are supposedly infallible? The Bible isn’t a question and answer book. Jesus didn’t always answer directly because the issue is our heart in solving problems. Can you imagine a world where all looked out for the interests of others and not just themselves when facing difficulties?

Certainty about our interpretation of the Bible

It is not often admitted one’s interpretations may be wrong but instead emphatically stated “the Bible says…” Literature always requires interpretation of a writer’s meaning and application to our personal circumstances. Scholars and laypeople, who even respect the authority of Scriptures, frequently disagree on the meaning of the same passage. Turning the other check is interpreted to claim Jesus never advocated violence, but the possible literal translation of Mt. 5:39 is “do not resist by evil means.” Is violence never desired but necessary sometimes?

Certainty about what is best for individuals about their relationships

Bible folks and non-Bible folks frequently talk as if knowing what is best in one’s circumstances, whether about personal or work relationships. It is easier giving advice than listening and helping one make their own decisions. Bible-folks claim one shouldn’t divorce because the Bible supposedly says so. It’s complicated. A partner may respond with gratitude for a second change or another chance may simply enable bad behaviors to continue.

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?

Certainty about what is best for a nation

God-followers must stop implying or claiming moral superiority because of the Bible for reasons stated. Thankfully, we live in a democratic society. We don’t have to vote if murder should be a law because one’s physical rights are clearly violated. Physical violence when disagreeing is obviously wrong and must be condemned, but it isn’t obvious if building a wall is right or wrong. Discussions best start with what parties agree on. Until we stop claiming morality according to a Book or our own intuitions, we will never be able to solve our differences. It is a dictatorship when we impose our will on non-moral issues such as health care or taxes.

Uncertainty, not certainty, can lead to creative solutions not chaos.  

  • We must first stop claiming our views are morally superior to those we disagree with
  • We must handle differences with physical and emotional civility
  • We can begin conversations by looking for areas we agree
  • We can discuss differences by defending our reasoning, respecting the opinions of others, and committing to growing in understanding
  • In a democratic society the vote of the majority must be followed until voted on again

 

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God Our Father

by Rocky Glenn

I was raised with a father and mother who loved my sister and me and were not shy about letting us know it.  Does this mean they were perfect and didn’t mess up?  They would each be the first to admit that’s not true, but as I get older and learn more and more about being a parent myself I can look back and see many instances of their love shining through.  As a boy, I struggled immensely with fear to the point of hating nighttime and going to sleep because my mind would simply not turn off and I would lie in bed traumatized by the nightmarish images running rampant through my head.  It was not uncommon for me to lay in bed and scream to the point of echoing through the house.  To overcome these fears, my mother taught me, “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind.”  For a brief period of life, I lived alone with my dad.  We spent many days after school throwing frisbee in the front yard, flipping a paper football across the dining room table we had lined with masking tape for yard lines, or leaving the television screen turned on to prove to the other their previous high score playing Donkey Kong had been broken.  I never realized until becoming a parent myself how tired mom must have been dealing with a scared kid night after night each night hoping maybe tonight would be the night he finally rests or how many other things dad could have been doing instead of spending time with me.  I have been blessed by two wonderful people to call mom and dad.

Over the past week, through the writings of Anabel Gillham I have been reminded of the fatherhood of God.  Prior to 2016, I was unaware of Anabel, but during that year I discovered a collection of writings from her and her husband organized into the Lifetime Daily Devotions reading plan in the YouVersion bible app.  It’s a year long plan, so I followed the plan daily in 2017 and have since restarted the plan for 2019.  Several of the writings for the year thus far have discussed the nature of God as a father, and recently I shared Anabel’s words below on social media along with the accompanying image:

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Do you know what Abba means? It’s the Greek word for “Father.” It “approximates to a personal name,” kind of like “Papa.” It is “the word framed by the lips of infants” and by older children “expressing [their] love and intelligent confidence” in their father.* Jesus came, talking to God and about God. But He didn’t call Him Jehovah. Or Elohim. Or Adonai. Or El Shaddai. Or any other of the names that the people called God. No, Jesus came and called Him Abba, Papa, Daddy, Father.

In the book of Matthew, Jesus addresses God 43 times as Father. He took an awesome God, a fearful God, an unapproachable God, a God who was known to strike out when He was not obeyed, the God of the Old Testament . . . and He introduced us to a loving Father.

God is a loving Father and that’s what Jesus came to show us.  He reminds us of this on multiple occasions by addressing him as such.  To further emphasize this, he plainly tells us that us in Mark 10:15, “I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.”  To understand what Jesus was saying, we must clarify the phrase “like a child.”  Here’s how Anabel describes it:

With no reservations, no preconceived fears or doubts.

“Looking up” to Him — from a child’s perspective. He is big and I am little. He is strong. I am weak. He will hold me in His arms. He will hold my hand. He will know what to do. . .

Ready to listen and to ask questions, but not to express her views or to argue with Him about His views. Giving Him the responsibility of caring for her. Indeed, expecting Him to care for her. Trusting Him to care for her. Reaching out to touch Him. Holding His hand for security and comfort. Resting in His lap. Putting her arms around His neck.  Being excited to see Him and be with Him. Knowing that He is wiser than she is. Knowing that He is stronger than she is.

Although I was raised by two parents who loved me, I realize the images presented above may be difficult to visualize for those whose father (or mother) was absent in their life or who may have grew up in an abusive situation.  Given the circumstances of such situations, I’ve often wondered why God chose the parent-child relationship to illustrate his love for us and our relationship.  The one thing no one will ever have the power to change is his or her mother or father.  Many children’s lives have been changed through the power of adoption or the way a step parent or foster parent may have stepped up and filled in for another’s absence and actually became a mom or dad, but, despite the manner we experience parental relationships, nothing will ever change the identity of our biological parents.  I will always be the son of my father and my mother no matter who I would have called mom or dad.  There is nothing my son or daughter could ever do to not be mine and cause me to not love them.  I believe this unchangeable nature of the fatherhood relationship is what God is wanting us to grasp onto and it’s why Jesus came.

Jesus illustrated the father’s never ending love in the story of the prodigal son who asked for his inheritance prior to his father’s death, squandered the inheritance given to him, and returned home with his head buried in shame prepared to beg for a job as a servant only to have his father welcome him home with open arms and celebrate by throwing a feast.  Although the returning son was fully prepared to forfeit his place in the family and anticipated having to do so, the loving response and welcome of the father assured him he would always be a son. The tragic part of the story lies in the reaction of the older brother who never left home, worked for his father for years, and out of anger refused to attend the party for his returning sibling claiming his father had never thrown such a shindig for him.  I can only imagine the pain which pierced the father’s heart and sobering look on his face as he explained to his eldest son you have always been with me and all I have has always been yours.

Life as a churchboy is the life of the prodigal’s older brother.  The words of Anabel are applicable to such a life:

How we have structured and formalized (and, in so doing, ostracized) the Father that Jesus wanted us to know! For our conversation with Him to be “pleasing,” we have been told we must “look just right,” assume just the right posture, be in the right place at the right time, say just the right things, use the prerequisite Thee’s and Thou’s — and that only then will He really consider honoring our prayers.

Catching glimpses of God as a loving father who would never stop loving me or deny me as his son and realizing he had already provided all he has through Jesus is what was ultimately the beginning of the end of my life as a churchboy.

Rocky

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by Jim Gordon

It is hard accepting the fact that God lives within us. We have been taught that if we live our lives trying to follow the commandments and do good things, one day we will go to heaven and live with God face to face. We have an image of God sitting on a throne way up in heaven and here we are, far, far away down on earth.

We talk about going to a meeting and the Spirit showing up, or being at a specific place because God is there. We pray and talk with God, yet we wonder if our prayers are even getting to Him.

The more I read, I am finding that we really have the whole thing backwards.

The Old Covenant has been fulfilled in Christ and we are now living under a New Covenant. We no longer have to try to be good enough. The law was a tutor that led us to Christ, but now that Christ has come we no longer need a tutor. We are free from the law and the Spirit of God now lives within us.

Jesus came to live among us and show us the love of God. When Jesus left, he said he would send us the Spirit. God has now come to live within us. Jesus said the kingdom of God is within you. We are the temple of the Holy Spirit and we have the mind of Christ. Jesus prayed in John 17 that we would be one with God just as he and the Father are one.

oneinchrist

Sounds to me that we are missing the main point. We do not have to wait to die to go to heaven and enjoy kingdom living. We do not have to wait to be united with the Father. We no longer need to look to a human guide, teacher or preacher. We have the living, powerful, perfect Word of God living inside us who is our teacher and guide.

There is nothing wrong with listening to others, getting their thoughts and ideas and being encouraged by other believers, but we do not need to rely on other humans. We have the Spirit within us, teaching us and guiding us in the way he has for us.

We do not have to look up in the sky to some far-away place and wonder if God is listening. We can turn our thoughts inward and realize the Spirit is right there within us, listening, loving us and ready to teach us as we begin to hear his voice from within.

We are all at different stages along the path we walk with him. We need to remember none of us have it all figured out. We so often want to fight and argue from the understanding we currently have without realizing that we have not reached completion. There is more the Spirit wants to teach us as we become ready to accept it.

We should come to accept each other where we are currently, realizing what we know and believe today will more likely be different a little further down the road. We can love each other, learn from one another and accept each other as we are, just like Jesus loves and accepts us just as we are.

We should be looking deep within ourselves, listening for the voice and guidance of the Spirit. We should not put all hope in others and those we think are more spiritual because they have been trained, educated or paid to do so. Remember, we are all kings and priests and have the same Spirit within us. Each of us are equal and important parts of the body with Christ as the head. His Church is not a building, not a denomination but the people.

This is not saying we are God, but the Spirit lives within us and we are one with our Father. It would do us all good to start focusing on this fact rather than what we were taught that it is a future event after we die. Kingdom living is now. Listening to the Spirit, being taught by him and living day by day in communion with the Father is a reality that we all need to realize.

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