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Archive for the ‘Jesus follower’ Category

by Jim Gordon

Growing up in the church system I was always taught that the pastor was the authority on anything spiritual. After all, they had been ‘called’ and had gone to college to be taught everything about God and the bible.

I remember how impressed I was by pastors. If I had a question about the bible I could make an appointment and go in and talk with the pastor. I figured he would have all the answers.

As I got a little older, I became infatuated with some of the big named evangelist. I would listen to them, send them money and if at all possible, go to their crusades. I can remember thinking if I could only be like them. They were super-spiritual and knew all about God and had the answers to all spiritual questions.

I really thought that was the way to learn about God, by going to church, reading the bible and getting all the wisdom of the pastors and evangelists.

Fortunately, I got to a point where I realized the pastors and evangelists were no different than me. They did not have all the answers and they were not super-spiritual like I had always imagined. I came to understand that people are people. None are closer to God or more special to God than another. Yes, some are more knowledgeable due to more time reading and studying but no one is higher up or more important in God’s eyes.

Now days I really do not care much what men and women say, it is just their opinion. They are humans like the rest of us. We can certainly discuss things and get insight from one another, but God loves each of us the same. The Spirit within us can guide and teach us without the help of any human being. If we believe the Spirit lives within us, why are we more interested in what another human says? Why not learn how to hear the voice of the Spirit from within rather than the thoughts and traditions of men?

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by Jordan Hathcock

“The moral standards by which Israel’s first ancestor were expected to act seem to come not so much by God’s unique command, but by expectations of the surrounding cultures” – Pete Enns

We are all products of our environment. Our cultures play a huge role in how we as a collective, strive to improve and develop ourselves into a reality of wellbeing and enjoyment. The Latin root word cultura: “till the soil, tend, grow” is the same root as Cultivate and Cult. Which I find fascinating when we when look at how cults work in our religious settings. I see it more expansive then that. Culture is the true cult when it comes to how we as a society interact, develop, and grow.

One of the definitions of cult states: “a religion regarded as unorthodox or spurious”. I think this is the most used definition when it comes to religious people accusing other religious people for “not doing it right”. Within Christendom, there is an everlasting list of religious groups that are accused of being cults: LDS, Jehovah Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventist’s are the main targets. Yes, these groups have their problems, but I think as research shows, majority of the churches we see throughout Western Civilization are showing unhealthy practices which is leading to an exodus from the religious institutions. Alas, the great cult list continues.

With that being said, for all those religious/spiritual practitioners out there, what do we do with the other definition of cult: “great devotion to a person, idea, object, movement, or work”. From the Christian perspective, isn’t this what we do with Jesus? Aren’t we in the end, a cult? I mean this is how we got our name in the first place, right? We were following The Way (what followers of Jesus called it) of Jesus and when other groups saw this, the cult name we were given was “Christian”. So, is this word/idea of cult the end-all of good and healthy religious practices?

Don’t think the religious/spiritual are the only group guilty of being cult-like. From Patriots and their civil duty to a person and idea, to the Scientist and her devotion to the work of the scientific method–all humans in one way or another practice cult-like behaviors to bring about “wellbeing and enjoyment” to their social structures. See, culture is always influencing how we as humans view the world. What culture is best? I don’t think that’s the question we should be asking ourselves.

We should realize that culture will always be part of the human experience. All of us will have our cult-like ways in how we move through this life. But the thing that still moves me to still participate in the way of Jesus is the realization that culture doesn’t always produce healthy, peaceful and loving outcomes. Injustices still are running amok throughout the world of cultures. The poor are still poor, the hungry are still hungry and the rich are still getting richer.

The violent cultures of Empire & Religion are still manipulating how all this social process works. These structures only want one thing: controlling power. This model will not bring justice, mercy, peace and love. What do we do as a society to change this culture? Well, tough to say. But I do believe Jesus showed us a way to develop a new process within our cultures: It is the powerless who act out of love in order to change the cult of culture (Mark 10:42). Let us be lovers who seek peacemaking; not haters who seek warmongering…

“Jesus was not killed by atheism and anarchy. He was brought down by law and order allied with religion, which is always a deadly mix. Beware those who claim to know the mind of God and who are prepared to use force, if necessary, to make others conform. Beware those who cannot tell God’s will from their own. Temple police are always a bad sign. When chaplains start wearing guns and hanging out at the sheriff’s office, watch out. Someone is about to have no king but Caesar.”- Barbara Brown Taylor

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By Mike Edwards

Beliefs claimed about God lead to many tuning out God. Our relationship with God cannot exceed our understanding of God. I suggest HERE how we can decide what God is really like. One’s interpretation of a Book may be the only reason to think human and godly perfection are different. Why would a Creator not love us and others how we were seemingly created to love others? A loving God couldn’t possibly have anything in common with extremists or terrorists!

We must avoid claiming a good God is determined solely by a Book.  

We can’t prove when the Bible records “God said” that the biblical writers/editors always heard from God correctly. The idea that the entire Bible is inspired or approved by God, without questioning, often leads down the slippery slope of inspired interpretations. We can’t utter “the Bible says so” because our interpretation may be wrong. It is very different to approach the Bible from the perspective that God is uncontrolling but continually seeks to influence for one’s good. 

Jesus when leaving this earth didn’t promise to leave us with a Bible but God’s Spirit in discerning good from evil (Jn. 14:16). Supposed right beliefs or interpretations are less important than simply loving others. Those not growing up in church don’t understand all the fuss. Who thinks literature subject to interpretation, written thousands of years ago, should be read so dogmatically? A fallible Book can lead to listening to different opinions as we continually evaluate the most loving approach. The Bible wouldn’t be God’s main communication anyway, because the majority born into this world never had a copy.

Terrorists seldom are Gandhi-type individuals who seek to treat all like they want to be treated. Doesn’t true religion seek to serve not be served? Terrorism seems driven by power and control. If certain claims about God in any Book are questionable of a morally perfect God (most agree One claiming to be God must be perfect), it is doubtful God inspired such false beliefs.

We must avoid implying a loving God seeks to control freedom of beliefs.

One would think a God who is powerful enough to create, unless a respecter of freedom of beliefs, would annihilate immediately those who choose evil and oppose God. God’s love in the Bible is most frequently compared to that of a human parent. Human or spiritual parents bring children into the world hoping their children freely reciprocate their love for authentic relationships. Forced love is an oxymoron. A good God couldn’t possibly want to control beliefs through fear.

We must intervene with family or whoever when we notice one’s beliefs leads to forcing their religious practices on others or blowing up innocent people. Terrorists don’t just blow themselves up to spread their gospel. Jesus felt His own suffering for something He believed would change lives for the better. A loving God surely respects the freedom of beliefs in this life and after death, encourages men and women to be equally vulnerable to one another, seeks only to convert others from evil actions, and guides through a relationship and not a book written thousands of years ago.

We must avoid claiming a loving God’s view of women hints of inequality.

I am not suggesting all religious extremists are saying Paradise is a lustful adventure for men at the expense of women, but it is important to not be dogmatic that the Bible teaches women are under the authority of men in the God of the Bible eyes. This can encourage dominance on the man’s part. Women and men surely need unselfish partners who have the heart of a servant. Some religious extremists would rather be dead than advocate for that. We must avoid proscribing gender roles which more frequently are used to oppress women than men.

We must avoid suggesting a loving God would torture unbelievers before or after death.

Delayed torture is still torture in the eyes of many. We mustn’t claim Hell is real because biblical scholars don’t agree the traditional understanding of Hell exists in the Bible. Most humans wouldn’t even create such a place for their worst enemies! The word hell is a substitution not translation for certain Hebrew and Greek words and seems invented over the centuries to scare people into obedience. A loving God respects the right to choose your own personal beliefs in this life, and God wouldn’t torture people after death for such decisions.

Conversion to certain beliefs is never the loving goal.

I believe Christianity or any religion must differentiate themselves from terrorists or extremists. Who doesn’t know it is right to encourage treating others like you want to be treated, but we must avoid attempts to convert others to a set of beliefs associated with our religion. Jesus had no evangelical spiel other than to encourage people to shun evil and do good. Jesus encouraged spirituality for self-interest and the interests of others. Jesus did want us to know God was the kind of Creator or Parent who desired a friendship to encourage such a journey. Attempts to convert suggests a not so hidden agenda. Since Hell doesn’t exist and billions have lived who have never heard of Jesus or the Bible, a loving God would not require certain beliefs for a relationship.

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

 

 

 

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by Rocky Glenn

Enjoying the moment is a personal choice a person makes to be present in what they are currently experiencing and to give that specific point in time their full self. It’s a decision to open oneself up to be vulnerable and a realization the moment may or may not go as we desire. How I treat the one standing in front of me at any given time is also how I decide to enjoy the moment. To not live in the moment is live a life distracted. Distractions keep us from being present and enjoying the moments we live. A distraction is anything which keeps a person from giving their full attention to something else.

The Distraction of Regret

All of us experience things in our lives we wish had not happened or we would have handled differently if given another opportunity. These things range from decisions we’ve made which caused unforeseeable, maybe harmful, outcomes to decisions others have made which had adverse, negative, and possibly even devastating, effects on our lives. Regret imprisons us when we live focused on the “what ifs” and “what could have beens” of those decisions. Replaying scenarios repeatedly in the theater of our mind, we fixate on every aspect of those situations reliving the pain, hurt, anger, and sorrow as if it had just happened. If the consequences are of our own making, we feel we deserve whatever negative results have occurred and wallow in the misery of our shame much like the prodigal son in the hog pen. However, when forced to accept another’s decision we believe is simply outrageous or unfair, we respond much like the prodigal’s older brother. I believe his response of anger to the celebration of his brother’s quickly turned to sorrow and regret with the realization he already had access to everything he was working to attain. Resisting the distraction of regret is not refusing to admit sorrow and remorse for what may have happened, it’s a refusal to remain in that moment and let it define who you are. We must let the past make us wiser, stronger, and grateful for what we have lived through and experience. Regret gives way to self-loathing and bitterness and steals you from the life happening right before your eyes.

The Distraction of What’s to Come

The last four to six weeks prior to reflecting on and sharing about enjoying the moment were a trying and frustrating time as I wondered what lie ahead. Since I no longer have the desire to one day be a worship pastor, what does the future hold? I didn’t begin the blog with aspirations I would one day write full-time, but is it now something to consider? Are there opportunities yet to be discovered which would allow more time for ministry and still support the family? Do I even want to be involved in a ministry at all? What exactly does ministry look like now anyway? Is there an opportunity ahead which would allow Shannon and me to spend more time together helping others while providing an income as well? If those opportunities presented themselves would I be willing to take the risks to make them succeed?

All these questions swirling in my head created a cloudy fog I had trouble navigating. Fatigue and restlessness plagued me as I just could not let go of figuring out what the future holds. Questions swirled in my head like a tornado waking up to start the day, sitting at my desk at work, spending time with the family, working out at the gym, and drifting to sleep at night. The distraction of what’s to come kept me from enjoying my everyday life and, no doubt, caused me to miss small moments of awe and wonder which occurred in daily interactions with coworkers, family, and friends.  I was so caught up in determining a destination, I was forgetting to enjoy the journey. While on vacation, in finishing a book I have been struggling to complete since January, I stumbled upon the prayer below from Thomas Merton in the closing pages:

“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always, though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”

This prayer changed my thinking and reminded me I don’t need to know what lies or even have an idea of where I’m going. I simply needed to rest in the moment and satisfaction of my desire to please my Father and His full knowledge of my desire and willingness to lead me. It brought me to a point of consciously reminding myself to live and experience whatever moment I find myself in. I can remember very vividly afternoons spent in the ocean with my family thinking, “Nothing matters right now except the fact I am here with them and we are together. What’s for dinner is not important. The drive home in a few days does not matter. What may be happening at work right now is not important. I am here with my family getting battered by waves in the ocean, having water gun fights in the pool, and we are having the time of our lives.” After reading that prayer, making it my own, and making a mental decision to enjoy the moment, I can say this was quite honestly the best vacation we may have possibly ever had.

There’s one final distraction I want to discuss, but, due to the nature of the distraction and how it relates to the churchboy, I will hold it for my next post.

Until then, I leave you with the following reminders:

Regarding Regret: In the Broadway musical Rent, composer Jonathan Larson urges us, “Forget regret, or life is yours to miss,”

Regarding What’s to Come: In Switchfoot’s opening track of their Native Tongue album, we are implored to Let It Happen:

Let it happen, let it happen

Tomorrow knows what tomorrow knows

You can’t make it get here sooner

Let it happen, let it happen

I don’t hold what the future holds

But I know you’re my future

Rocky

More posts in the Enjoying the Moment series:

 

 

 

 

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by Jim Gordon

We hear the word fundamentalism often in the christian world. I actually grew up as a fundamentalist but never realized that was what I was because I never put much thought into all the different terms and labels. I just loved God and went to church because that was the way I thought we lived the christian life.

When I looked up the word fundamentalism in the dictionary I found the following definitions: 1. a conservative movement in theology among nineteenth and twentieth-century Christians. Fundamentalists believe that the statements in the Bible are literally true. 2. in Christianity the belief that every word of the Bible is divinely inspired and therefore true. 3. a religious movement characterized by a strict belief in the literal interpretation of religious texts, especially within American Protestantism and Islam; the beliefs held by those in this movement; strict adherence to any set of basic ideas or principles.

Now that I know what fundamentalist means, I no longer believe I would be considered one. My views, beliefs and interpretations have changed so much over the years, especially since leaving the organized church. For some reason I never felt comfortable asking questions while in the organization. I just took what the pastor said as gospel truth and never questioned anything. Being outside the walls of religion I can let all those questions come out and seek truth from the Spirit of God rather than from a pastor.

I believe fundamentalism leads more to separation, condemnation and being judgmental. It seems to me being so set on specific doctrines, beliefs and interpretations can prevent us from asking questions, learning, accepting and loving others.

Are my thoughts a popular way of looking at the christian life? Of course not! I grew up in the organized church from a very young age and spent nearly sixty years in it. I also used to think everything depended on my works such as attending church, tithing, doing good works, reading the bible and believing it was perfect, completely literal and the only way God spoke to us today. There are many people still doing all this and they sincerely love God and think this is the way we are to serve God. Yet being outside of this setting I have seen what is for me a better way. A way of depending on the Spirit within to teach and guide us. A way that loves and accepts others even when they do not see things the same.

Today the term fundamentalist christian seems to have more of a meaning of being hateful and not being accepting of others views. Completely different from what Jesus taught and what God is like.

Jesus was not a fundamentalist, he was not even a christian. Jesus was the personification of the Father who is a God of love. Even those writings from the old testament where men wrote from their beliefs, ideas, interpretations and what they thought about God were shown to be wrong when Jesus arrived. He showed us that God is not a god of vengeance, hatred and murder but a God who loves all of us.

We are to love God and love one another. Loving our neighbor does not mean just loving those who live next door, or loving those who believe like we believe. Our neighbor is everyone else in the world. Seems to me most fundamentalist reject those who see things differently and prefer to stay away from those who do not believe the same.

I would rather be known as a follower of Jesus rather than a fundamentalist christian. The way of the law and following rules and set doctrines of men have come to an end. The way of loving one another because of the grace of Christ is the new covenant way. I have actually become quite tired of using labels at all. We are all human beings who are loved by God. We should all be treated with love, respect, acceptance and have the same rights as everyone else. God did not create some people better than others, we are all created in the likeness of God and are loved by God.

There are so many topics and beliefs I grew up learning in the fundamentalist church that I no longer accept. I certainly have not lost my belief in or love for God, yet the many interpretations that were taught by men and women in the institution I now find wrong and not like Christ.

Rather than adhere to a set of rules and institutional-taught beliefs we are to submit to the guidance of the Holy Spirit who lives within us. Learn to hear the voice of the Spirit and let your life be a daily communication of the love of God to others.

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By Mike Edwards

Beliefs claimed about God lead to many tuning out God. Our relationship with God cannot exceed our understanding of God. I have written HERE how we can decide what God is really like. One’s interpretation of a Book may be the only reason to think human and godly perfection are different. Why would a Creator not love us and others how we were seemingly created to love others?

Friends can smell a hidden agenda a mile away.

It simply is wrong to engage in friendships for the purpose of converting them to your beliefs without advising upfront this is your agenda. It should be obvious that we need to start acting like true friends act toward one another. We engage in relationships because we are interested in having friendships with others, both to love and be loved. Discussions about spirituality or God best come up naturally.

If people want to pursue a relationship with God, they should see in our life something worth asking about. What if I told you the Gospel is: God loves you and longs for a relationship so you can be the kind of person you deep down truly desire to be. I am convinced God wants you to know true freedom is knowing your Creator’s love for you so you might love others similarly. 

God has been a respecter of freedom of beliefs from the very beginning.

Why would a God who is powerful enough to create not annihilate immediately those who choose evil and oppose God? Jesus did not force God on others but discussed spirituality in a natural, relational way. Jesus brought up spiritual matters when it seemed appropriate and was accepted. Jesus’ agenda was to simply love people in the moment, not to manipulate them.

We have portrayed God as a Parent who has certain conditions to be loved and accepted. We portray God as wanting to save people from hell, which is a myth, rather than being a God who respects one’s freedom to consider how they might make for a better world. God knows what human parents know. Love is the only path to authentic relationships but can’t be forced. “Controlling love” is a contradiction in terms. Relationships come out of inspiration not fear!

Even the Son of God in the Bible didn’t require certain beliefs.

Jesus simply invited His disciples to follow Him and see for themselves as opposed to adhere to a set of beliefs. He told Levi (Matthew): “follow me” (Lk. 5:27). Jesus basic message could be summarize as: “But to you who are listening I say: ….Do to others as you would have them do to you” (6:27-31). Jesus only encouraged those seeking a better life to follow His example. 

We all know the story of how Jesus responded to the religious elite who had caught a woman in adultery (Jn. 7:53-8:11). When Jesus rightly shamed the crowd, they dropped their stones and left Jesus and the woman alone. Jesus didn’t lecture, pray with the woman, or tell her to go to church. Jesus simply said: “Go now and leave your life of sin.” Jesus showed the woman all she needed to know – God loves you and encourages you to do what you know is right in your heart.

Jesus saved tough conversations for religious pretenders who claimed to represent God. The Pharisees were in love with their power, thus making religion self-serving rather than self-sacrificing. Jesus reprimanded the Pharisees for their misguided emphasis on rules and obedience rather than a relationship and God’s radical love. 

Many may be surprised what Jesus said when asked how to have eternal life.

Jesus did not warn one to run like/from Hell. Jesus simply advised to love God and your neighbor. One saves their life by running from selfishness. A religious expert asks Jesus: “what must I do to inherit eternal life” (Luke 10:25). Jesus didn’t admonish one to get on their knees and pray for forgiveness. Jesus said: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself” (10:25-27). Jesus knew loving God can empower us to be the person we deep down desire to be.

Eternal life in the Bible isn’t about one’s destination in the future but life in the present. J.D. Myers is right: “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-followers need to worry more about their example than what others believe.

Baptists, Methodists, Protestants, Catholics, etc. fight over their different doctrines, yet all supposedly believe in the same message of loving your neighbor as yourself. Why would anyone seek spiritual guidance from people that can’t get along? We have enough conflict in our families, friendships, and places of work. Christianity or any religion is better off without buildings with names on them. We simply need relationships that encourage one another in their spiritual journey.

What does God believe in and desire for us all?

People feel manipulated rather than loved when spiritual folks have an agenda. Engage in relationships only with the desire to love others as they wished to be loved. The Gospel is simply that our Creator desires a relationship to influence us for the world and our own good. Jesus only wanted to help others listen to their heart. I am convinced a close relationship with my Creator helps me to be a better man, husband, father, and friend. Loving parents seek the admiration and respect of their children, so they want to follow in their footsteps to make this world a better place. Similarly, knowing and understanding God’s radical love can inspire selfless love toward others.

More posts in the I Doubt God Really ………. series:

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

 

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by Rocky Glenn

As I sit here on the couch working on the next post in the Enjoy The Moment series, What About The Love? from Amy Grant’s 1988 Lead Me On begins to stream on Pandora.   The song gave me pause and brought to the forefront once again the issues we are facing today concerning religion and self-righteousness versus love aren’t anything new but were being spoken about thirty years ago and all the way back to Paul.  Below are the lyrics of the song followed by the words of Paul from Galatians.

“What About The Love”

I went to see my sister, she was staying with a friend
Who had turned into a preacher to save the world from sin
He said “First deny your body, Then learn to submit
Pray to be made worthy, and tithe your ten percent”
I said “Is this all there is, just the letter of the law?”
Something’s wrong.

I went to see my brother on the 32nd floor
Of a building down on Wall Street – You could hear the future’s roar
He said “Here we make decisions, and we trade commodities;
If you tell me where there’s famine, I can make you guarantees”
I said “Is this all there is, Power to be strong?”
Something’s wrong.

Something’s wrong in heaven tonight
You can almost hear them cry
Angels to the left and the right
Saying “What about the love, What about the love, What about the love?”

I went to see my neighbor, he’d been taken to a home
For the weak and the discarded who have no place to go
He said “Here I lack for nothing I am fed and I am clothed,
But at times I miss the freedom I used to know”
I said “Is this all there is When your usefulness is gone?”
Something’s wrong.

I looked into the mirror proud as I could be
And I saw my pointing finger pointing back at me
Saying “Who named you accuser? Who gave you the scales?”
I hung my head in sorrow, I could almost feel the nails
I said “This is how it is to be crucified and judged without love.”

Galatians 5:4-6 from The Message:

I suspect you would never intend this, but this is what happens. When you attempt to live by your own religious plans and projects, you are cut off from Christ, you fall out of grace. Meanwhile we expectantly wait for a satisfying relationship with the Spirit. For in Christ, neither our most conscientious religion nor disregard of religion amounts to anything. What matters is something far more interior: faith expressed in love.

20190803_103705_0000

Rocky

More posts in the Soundtrack of a Churchboy’s Recovery series:

 

 

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