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By Mike Edwards

Confession. I write about the same topic often by asking some version of the question: What Is God Really Like? Open discussions as to what a perfect Creator is like are important; an imperfect Creator is not worth believing in. People may stop believing or never start believing in God if they accept everything they hear about God!

People when describing God often quote the Bible. Isn’t that where we discover what God is like? It may be if you have a Bible unlike the majority of people born into this world. So, there must be other ways to know God. The problem is scholars who respect Scriptures don’t agree on the meaning of the same passages. Interpretations aren’t infallible. We have every right to question interpretations that suggest a Creator doesn’t love how we were seemingly created to love others.

Who wants to follow a God who is antiscience, antiwoman, antigay, etc.? Many only believe or claim the following because of what they think a Book declares about God:

  • How could a God who teaches forgiveness seventy times seven possibly create Hell to torture anyone forever since such pain serves no lasting purpose? Humans wouldn’t even create such a place for their worst enemies. I am convinced even if you believe every word of the Bible is inspired by God, the traditional understanding of Hell doesn’t exist in the Bible. See Here
  • How could a loving God demand only Christians go to heaven so all other Religions can go to Hell? The majority of people born into this world died without knowledge of the Bible or who Jesus was. Also, most rebel or adhere to the religion where born. If born into a Buddhist family, one is likely to become a nominal or devoted Buddhist, etc. Is God a God of chance?
  • How could a loving God condemn gays when they can no more choose who they love than straights can? If you think there is a 1% possibility that science proves that sexual orientation isn’t a choice, then let’s error on the non-judgmental side. Who chooses homosexuality when one has to hide their sexuality because of bigotry and hostility? See Here
  • How could a loving God favor men over women in leadership roles which has encouraged centuries of domestic abuse and other atrocities women face. The Bible can also be interpreted to endorse roles according to gifts not gender. Women don’t need male leadership in marriage; women need men who have the heart of a servant (Eph. 5:28-29).
  • Why would God insist on a literal interpretation of Genesis which seemingly denies the possibility of evolution? Scientists, who believe in the authority of Scriptures, have provided overwhelming genetic evidence that the human race couldn’t have originated from a single couple but through a population of some thousands of individuals. People don’t need to lose their faith because they believe in evolution. See https://biologos.org/
  • Why would God create or even allow evil? When we say God allows evil, it gives the impression God stands by when God could stop evil. A God who can prevent evil but doesn’t is no different than a parent who stands by and watches their child being physically or sexually abused. Maybe God can’t control or violate freedom and love perfectly. God can only stop evil with the help of others or not create freedom!
  • I have just begun.

What is God really like? Extremists insist on their interpretation of a Book. Anyway, we can’t prove every word of the Bible was inspired by God unless you argue a biblical writer making such a claim is definitive evidence. Writers may have needed to grow in their understanding of God. Listen to your moral inner voice what God is like. You may be right! God surely created us with intuitions how we ought to love others perfectly like God. Challenge God to help you find answers to your questions.

 

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Love Unplugged, part 1

by Rocky Glenn

One of my favorite things about blogging is the ability to return to my previous writings and remind myself of what I’ve previously written. While reflecting on a thought from the past recently, I set out to write about it only to remember I had previously shared the thought a couple of years ago. It was a thought I needed to remind myself of and the realization caused me to stumble upon a trio of posts I shared at the time. Over the next three weeks, I will be resharing my thoughts on Paul’s famous description of love.

One of my favorite parts of being a musician is raw, acoustic music. Whether playing it, or listening to it, there is something I believe intrinsically pure about instruments and voices that are not amplified or modified. On Valentine’s night (2017), I posted Love Amplified which is simply 1 Corinthians 13:4-8’s description of love taken from the Amplified Bible. As I lay in bed that night trying to sleep, I couldn’t shake the familiar description of love listed in the passage and began the process of examining myself to see if I really reflected these qualities in those I say I love. Thus began the research of what each word actually meant and what kind of picture of love they painted. The research is how I stumbled upon the Amplified Version and, being that it was late at night, I stopped after finding and posting it. Now, with a nod to musicianship, I intend to actually take those verses, share my thoughts, and hopefully create the same raw environment that comes with acoustic music as I investigate practical ways they may apply. The image below shows the popular passage in four different versions of the Bible.

1-cornithians-13

1 Corinthians 13:4 from The Amplified Bible: Love endures with patience and serenity, love is kind and thoughtful, and is not jealous or envious; love does not brag and is not proud or arrogant.

Love endures with patience and serenity. Patience, according to Merriam-Webster, is defined as the capacity, habit, or fact of bearing pains or trials calmly or without complaint. It is not hasty or impetuous and manifests forbearance under provocation or strain remaining steadfast despite opposition, difficulty, or adversity. Serenity is the quality of being clear and free of storms or unpleasant change and being of utter calm and unruffled repose or quietude. King James described this as suffering long.

Love is without complaint and calm. How many times have I missed the mark on this quality of love? I am a man that seeks routine and I thrive on it. There are certain things that must be completed in a certain order every morning or my patience and serenity are lost. Now that we are the parents of a teenager and preteen, as well as new dog owners, patience and serenity are tested often, and are, just as often found lacking. However, despite these testings, I’m pleased to say that most mornings in our house are quite often lacking complaint and are calm, but when things do go south, they have the tendency to escalate quick and I’m certain I could not be described as having utter calm and unruffled repose! Quite sure when the king used the phrase “charity suffers long” he didn’t mean the suffering itself would be long!

Love is kind and thoughtful. To be kind is to be of a sympathetic, helpful, or forbearing nature. Thoughtfulness is characterized by careful reasoned thinking given to or made with heedful anticipation of the needs and wants of others. The original Greek translation of the word kind means to show one’s self mild or useful.

Love is mild and useful. Continuing with the thoughts and examples given above, once patience is lost, it’s pretty much safe to say mildness and usefulness is gone! The last thing I want to be towards my wife or one of my kids once my patience is gone is to be mild. I feel it is very important that they know they are the cause for my lack of patience and I need to tell them emphatically and in great detail. It’s interesting that both words that begin the scriptural description of love, patient and kind, include a form of the word forbear in their respective definitions. To forbear is to control oneself when provoked. Suffice it to say, I need a little more forbearance to show my love at times . . . (While writing this post, we are actually in the process of grilling pork chops on the grill for dinner. Forbearance really gets tested when you search the kitchen for your grilling utensils, questioning each and very member of your family because they are the ones who put the dishes away, only to discover them hanging on the grill from the last time you had cooked there!!)

Love is not jealous or envious. Jealousy and envy could be considered twin brothers. Both involve hostility and resentfulness toward someone else having a supposed advantage. The difference lies with jealousy occurring when you think someone is seeking an advantage over something you have and envy occurs when you think someone has an advantage to receive something you desire. No greater place are these two prominent within families than in household with siblings. If one kid’s class wins a pizza party and the other doesn’t. Or it could be a birthday celebration for the older child and the younger child is pouting. It’s such a common tale that numerous Bible events from Cain and Abel all the way to the disciples questioning Jesus about who he considers greater occur due to jealousy and envy. There is no room in love for holding something or someone so tightly to “protect” what is yours. There is also no room in love to despise what others may receive that you may not.

Love does not brag and is not proud. For this explanation, I really like what King James has to say, “charity vaunteth not itself and is not puffed up.” To vaunt means to make a vain display of one’s own worth or attainments. Love does not puff itself up meaning it does not make a big deal of itself. If your sole purpose in any relationship is simply to convince the other person how great you are, then it’s not love. To shower gifts on your spouse just so others see how wonderful you are, and not because you seek to truly honor them, is not love.

So, putting this altogether, to begin this study we see that love is without complaint and calm, it is mild and useful, it has no resentment or hostility, and it does not seek to make itself great. One thing I’m being reminded of through this study is that a true love that reflects all of these qualities mentioned in this passage is not something I can attain on my own. It must come from God, for God is love. More on that later.

Rocky

(This post originally written February 19, 2017.)

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by Jim Gordon

I imagine we all have been in a relationship with a family member or close friend where we had some misunderstandings and miscommunications. These can often cause hurt feelings and arguments. That is bad enough but there are times when we get treated downright unfairly by others.

I know there are people who are just an acquaintance and we really do not know them. When they treat us badly, we can move on with no real concern. Yet the people who are close friends, relatives, siblings and parents can be just as mean at times. For me, I have always believed in treating all people respectfully and kindly, but those who are close are the people we really do not want to allow the unfair and unkind treatment to continue.

I have seen it many times over the years. People you love and respect seem to take you for granted and do things that are unkind, disrespectful and demeaning. When it first begins to happen, our usual response is to ignore it. We think they did not mean it or they were just in a bad mood at the time.

This may be the case. Often times it can be a simple misunderstanding. Yet if it goes on and on and it happens time after time, it will eventually start to be a major problem. Good communication is key at this point. You need to think enough of yourself and the relationship to speak up. This does not have to be done in a mean or hateful way. Just a calm private talk explaining what is going on and how you are feeling can put an end to such treatment.

I have personally seen a few people who were treated disrespectfully and taken for granted time after time, month after month, year after year. So much that eventually they gave up on the person and the relationship was damaged. When we continue to accept being treated badly, we are not only damaging the relationship but we are destroying our spirit. As we continue to accept such treatment we begin to think less and less of ourselves.

Very often the way people treat others is done out of ignorance. They may not even realize how they come across. Again, good communication and standing up for yourself can straighten things out. The main thing is do not allow yourself to accept this kind of treatment. Think of yourself more highly than to take whatever bad treatment people dish out.

When people are treated with such disrespect and taken for granted the best thing to do is (for you Andy Griffith fans) pull a Barney Fife…. nip it, nip it in the bud.  When we allow others to treat us unkindly year after year after year, it eventually takes a toll on us and we come to a point where the relationship is lost. Stand up now, speak up now. Do not allow this kind of treatment to continue for the sake of maintaining a good relationship with someone you care about.

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By Mike Edwards

We don’t know all the factors as to why some are inclined to believe and desire a relationship with their Creator and others aren’t. Believing in or not believing in God are both rational beliefs. The reasons many leave their faith in God may be why many don’t pursue God initially though desiring a relationship. I will end by suggesting advantages of a relationship with God based on experience.

First, let’s debunk the myth that those who don’t believe in God are simply rebellious.

The first chapter of Romans in the Bible is used to suggest all who don’t believe in God are suppressing what they know to be true. Actually, the writer refers to those who don’t doubt but ignore God and morality to justify their evil ways. Let’s not accuse those who believe in a God as needing a crutch or accuse those who question the reality of an invisible God as being wicked and ignorant of their feelings. If wrong to doubt God exists, Christians sin if doubt God in tough times.

A child sexually abuse by their father may struggle to accept a God betrayed as our Father in Heaven. Does God really judge them? Some are open or desperately want to believe in God but can’t get their head around why a loving God doesn’t intervene more with so much evil in the world. Does God really judge them? Why would a gay person believe in a God who supposedly condemn them for sexuality choices they no more choose than straights.

We are better off without God if the Bible is declared infallible and not questioned.

Christians according to the Bible condemn same-sex relationships, women are denied equal roles as men, and it is said only Christians go to heaven so all other religions can go to Hell. The idea of an infallible Book often leads to inferring interpretations are infallible. Literature, including the Bible, requires interpretation. Every view above is debated among biblical scholars who respect Scriptures. Don’t be dogmatic! God can speak for themselves to individuals. Now, if you think it is right to behead people because they don’t share your personal beliefs about God, you are wrong!

We may be better off without God if God declared a mysterious, moral hypocrite.

Some declare God mysterious when their interpretation of the Bible makes God appear immoral, but how can we have a relationship with a God we can’t understand with the brain God gave us? Is evil good sometimes? The Bible assumes we can understand God when challenging us to be perfect like God (Mt. 5:48). It is only natural to think that God and human perfect love are the same. Human love suggests a perfect God is not a sexist, homophobe, hellish sadist, hothead, egomaniac. A Creator surely love us and others how we were seemingly created to love others. 

We may be better off without God if declared a prayer genie.

Praying doesn’t make God more caring. God is already doing all they can in a free world. Pretending God can simply heal without accounting for freedom can make one’s suffering worse. Did I not beg enough? Did I not behave enough or have the right attitude? God is tireless in working through individual lives to change the world. It seems God creating freedom necessitates one being able to do as much harm as they can do good. Authenticity, the highest good in relationships, is impossible without freedom. God, like parents, had a choice – to not create or create knowing suffering was a possibility in the pursuit of intimacy. Divine love limits divine power.

We maybe be better off without God if declared God causes or allows evil.

The problem of evil and suffering is a main reason people indicate they don’t believe in God. If evil is some grand scheme God can control or allows, why does the Bible say God hates evil so much? When we say God allows evil, it gives the impression God stands by when God could stop evil. A God who can prevent evil but doesn’t is no different than a parent who stands by and watches their child being physically or sexually abused. God can’t control or violate freedom and love perfectly. God can only stop evil with the help of others or not create freedom!

It doesn’t help when God-followers have hidden agendas in relationships.

I confess I use to think God wanted me to change people’s beliefs to avoid hell and go to heaven. Then, I discovered the traditional understanding of Hell doesn’t exist in the Bible. A loving God surely only wishes we consider the possibility of a loving God who desires to help in our journey of becoming the person deep down we want to become. God simply encourages loving others as yourself since a self-centered life hurts yourself and others. True friends don’t seek to change one’s beliefs but to openly encourage one another in a life that leads to true freedom. 

When are we better off with God?

  • If a Creator exists they may know a thing or two about life and purpose for living
  • Life sometimes sucks and suffering is inevitable in a world where people have the freedom to bring joy or cause pain. A Creator can help navigate through such a world where we often face undeserved suffering. Bottom line – I need a companion
  • I am not the man I want to be. I have desires and thoughts that I know are wrong. I need guidance and encouragement in refusing them and knowing they are not in my best interests

Parents and friends often don’t love us for who we are but what they want us to be. God can often fill a void that humans can’t. Do you want to know God better? Find someone who seems to have an open relationship with their Creator and ask for help. If they want to give a lot of advice and act like they speak for God all the time – run! Challenge God to help you find answers to your questions. Seek a rational view of God rather than some pie in the sky God.

 

 

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by Jordan Hathcock

“We criticize anyone who tries to break away from the rat race, because the idea that there is a way out scares us more than dying in the state we’re in” – Cic Mellace

How is everybody’s work week going? Loving it, or what? Are you feeling like what you do within your work week is really providing the best for you and others around you? I will be perfectly honest: I don’t. And, I am not alone. Majority of Americans-and the rest of the globe- are feeling the same type of attitude when it comes to the work week. Here are some statistics regarding Americans attitude towards their work and as well as the health effects due to these work weeks:

‘In 2013, Forbes magazine reported on the poll, saying “work is more often a source of frustration than fulfillment for nearly 90% of the world’s workers.” The number of global employees described by Gallup as “emotionally disconnected from their workplaces” is only slightly better this year (85%) than four years ago (87%). The rate is slightly better in some countries — like the United States, where only 70 percent of people hate their jobs — and worse in others.”

And…

“According to 2004 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, almost 15 million Americans work full time on evening shift, night shift, rotating shifts, or other employer arranged irregular schedules. According to U.S. National Health Interview data from 2010, almost 19% of working adults work 48 hour or more per week and over 7% worked 60 hours or more. Both shift work and long work hours have been associated with health and safety risks.”

Look, I am extremely grateful for what my privilege has brought me and what hard work has done as well (they both play a part). I also understand there are many people who are desperately needing a job but are unable to. It’s an issue and I empathize. The systemic problem of class wars, racism, climate change-all stems from the reality of how we are lacking communing as a community. But here is the thing: Is this current work-climate really a healthy way to live? Doesn’t look to be according to the stats and personal experience. I am currently clocking in a 50+ hour work week and I am feeling the affects emotionally and physically. I know, I know suck it up right? Or like Paul (or a follower of Paul) would say: “For even when we were with you, we gave you this command: Anyone unwilling to work should not eat.” Yeah, we get it Paul, but life isn’t always that black and white (you asshole).

We can look at all the factors that play a role in why, in our current economic state of affairs globally, we all are feeling trapped and unsatisfied. Western civilization has over emphasized the competitive spirit into a form of slavery. If we do not work those hours, we probably would lose our jobs and not get paid. Hyper Capitalism is not helping anybody here, people! We are stuck in the consumerism rat race and we need to take steps to break free. Yeah, a little idealistic, sure. But, all ideas stem from some type of truth that needs to be lived out or else the captives remain captives.

What’s the solution? Well, I don’t know for sure–but I do know that just doing small tiny itty-bitty steps do help tremendously in breaking free of this unhealthy rate race. It can be writing blogs (like yours truly), it can be serving others in a way that doesn’t benefit the machine but truly brings life to the one its serving. Be creative! Please don’t think I am selling fame and fortune here. It’s not about that at all. Also, working hard and living into the reality of truly believing in your work is a great thing! I am not trying to go all quasi-socialist on you (though it has its benefits).

In essence, it’s about living out a life of experimentation and creativity not of stagnant habits. Don’t get me wrong, I understand we must put the grub on the platters! All I am trying to point out is if we keep on going at the pace we are going, are bellies might be full, but everything else is going to be lacking in substance. We cannot be diluted by the propaganda of the Empire (Institutional control, aka Babylon). We are not pawns! We are all Kings and Queens (Rev. 1:6) participating with the Christ-King to bring about a life of meaning, not a mundane existence. Let us step into the unknown and really see where this life of meaning can lead us…

“The only walls that exist are those you have placed in your mind. And whatever obstacles you conceive, exist only because you have forgotten what you have already achieved.”― Suzy Kassem

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by Jim Gordon

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

To be at peace with all people, including believers and non-believers seems almost impossible in our world today. We have so many different thoughts and ideas, different denominations, interpretations and beliefs and all the different religions. It makes you wonder how it is possible to be at peace with everyone?

The dictionary describes peace as freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions; harmony in personal relations.

I have been thinking recently about how some christian people act towards those who see things differently. I do not know why we can be so mean at times. We feel we have to prove our point to others and stand our ground when it comes to doctrine and interpretation of the bible. I am not sure why we feel it is our job to be the morality police. Why do we feel the need to force our views, beliefs and interpretations on others?

Rather than base our lives on following doctrine and interpretation, we are to follow the example of Jesus. He said to love God and love one another. There is no way to be at peace with others without loving them. We cannot love others without the Spirit of love living within us.

I think what God is saying about being at peace with all is that we are to live in harmony with others, not allowing any oppressive thoughts or emotions to take control of our feelings toward them. In other words, we live in love. Just because someone does not interpret the bible the same way we do or go to the same church we do or does not go to church at all, we should realize that in regard to other believers, we are all wanting to love God and do what is pleasing to God. We are to accept one another in love and respect the fact that God is working in different ways in people. Just because it is not what we are used to does not mean it is not of God.

In regard to non-believers, we do not need to condemn them or force our beliefs on them. We are to let them see the love of God by the way we treat others. They do not need someone beating them down or twisting their arms to get them to believe like us. We are to love them as they are and let the Spirit do any work that needs to be done in their lives just as the Spirit does in our lives.

If we believers could understand that we are responsible for ourselves in the way we live for God. We are not responsible to live the way others do or the way others think we should. We are to allow our Father to work in our lives the way He wants and follow Him on the path He has for us.

Our responsibility is to love God and love others, accept them for who they are and pray that the Holy Spirit will teach us and guide us in the way we are to go. We are not responsible to force others to see things the way we see things. We are to love one another and accept one another as they are. Only by living in love can we live at peace with all.

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By Mike Edwards

I am not suggesting anything goes when I declare we can’t be certain. No one questions laws against murder. Criminals don’t deny their actions are wrong; they deny they committed such a crime. It is almost universally accepted that it is morally wrong to kill or behead someone because of their beliefs unless you are a terrorist.

Uncertainty doesn’t have to lead to chaos or lawlessness.

Total certainty is an illusion because even if God is Truth, we still have to discern what is Truth. The Bible can’t be the definitive guide what God would do because scholars who respect Scriptures disagree what God according to the Bible thinks about divorce, gender roles, homosexuality, hell, the afterlife, etc. Different opinions, expressed without physical or verbal aggression, can stand side by side as we continually evaluate the most loving approach.

Where has certainty in God’s name gotten us?

It is logical to suggest we can’t be certain what an invisible, inaudibly God thinks, but supposed certainty has led to justifying slavery and revered theologians such as St. Augustine and John Calvin not firmly opposing the execution of those not agreeing with their theology. Certainty has led to condemning gays, though scholars who accept Scriptures as authoritative, don’t agree the Bible disapproves of same/different gender loving, monogamous, consensual relationships. Women, though gifted, are denied entrance into the priesthood or pastorate in God’s name.

An infallible (certain) Bible is problematic!

It is argued that if we can’t know what the Bible says, we can’t know God. Newsflash – literature always requires interpretation. You are interpreting my meaning as you read this blog. Am I saying God disapproves all certainty or that uncertainty isn’t all bad? A Book possibly being fallible, then infallible, encourages questioning than demonizing views to the contrary. God-followers seem unaware, as I was, how they come off morally superior based on their assumptions about the Bible.

Jesus didn’t judge uncertainty.

Jesus perform many miracles and His disciples/followers still didn’t believe. Jesus didn’t tell disciples to get lost because of doubts. Jesus didn’t caste away Peter when warning him he would deny Jesus three times. I believe Peter now is call the “Rock.” Jesus sought the company of people that didn’t share His certainty. My hunch is that God, like parents, rather be doubted than ignored. If it is a sin to doubt God exists, then Christians sin if they doubt God in troubled times.

Uncertainty can lead to acting more loving.

Being unable to declare the certainty or morality of our opinions forces us to listen and express ideas openly. Starting a conversation with “I may be wrong” more likely leads to new understandings and creative solutions. Try it in relationships! Conversations change when humbleness is part of the tone. Certainty when it comes to political matters such as taxes or health plans has led to justifying verbal or physical violence in the name of God or morality. 

MORE POSTS IN SERIES: I DOUBT GOD REALLY ……

Why I Doubt God Is An Excluder Of Religions

Why I Doubt Heaven Is Closed To Anyone After Death

Why I Doubt Hell Is Real

Why I Doubt God Is A Homophobe

Why I Doubt God Is A Sexist

Why I Doubt God Is A Mysterious, Moral Hypocrite

Why I Doubt God Is A Blood-Thirsty Child (Jesus) Killer

Why I Doubt God Expects Every Word Of The Bible To Be Viewed As Inspired

Why I Doubt God Is An End-Of-The-World Doomsayer

Why I Doubt God Is An Angry Egomaniac

Why I Doubt God Is A “Hidden Agenda” Proselytizer

Why I Doubt the god of Extremists Or Terrorists

Why I Doubt God Is A Prayer Genie

Why I Doubt God Controls Evil And Suffering

Why I Doubt God Knows The Future And Why It Matters

Why I Doubt God Cares What Your Beliefs Are

 

 

 

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