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by Mike Edwards

If God would only prove themselves visibly or audibly, would it be easier to believe and follow God? Are there compassionate reasons that God isn’t more visible or audible, or is God just indifferent, selfish, purposely mysterious, etc.? I will leave it to the reader if the below are just rationalizations. If not, don’t let negative assumptions about God’s hiddenness hinder you from exploring more of a relationship with God.

God being visible and audible may not always be in our best interest.  

God’s awing or overpowering presence may only lead to fearful obligations to obey. When parents push their agendas, even if in their children best interests, they may resent or rebel against coercion and never turn back. If God communicates in less demonstrative ways, this may allow for heartfelt choices. The road traveled of learning, reflecting, and non-coerced choices may best lead to lasting convictions.

For the life of me I can’t figure out why my grown kids don’t seek out my advice more often to avoid problems in life. We have a close relationship. I am a counselor by profession so geez – I have a few relational skills. Heck, I announced when teenagers my role was changing to being more of a mentor than authority figure. What teenager doesn’t dig that? Well, my grown kids – old enough to get over any resentments – aren’t runny to catch honey from my lips. Then again, I am not knocking down doors for advice from others. We may all need to travel the journey toward wisdom at our own pace without any pressure.   

If God was communicative in the Old Testament why the change?   

It is recorded in the OT thousands of time: “God said…” Was God always speaking audibly as if dictating to the writer, or was the writer simply conveying figuratively an inner conviction or impression they felt God was revealing to them? One can read many passages and understand “God said” as a figure of speech: “But the Lord said to me, ‘Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I commend you.” (Jeremiah 1:8) I doubt that Jeremiah always waited for God’s audible voice before speaking for God.

Exodus 20: 1-17 starts by saying “all these words” when the 10 commandments were given to Moses through God. The 10 commandments are repeated again in Deuteronomy 5:6-18 but with some slight word variation. If God’s spoke audibly, why aren’t the words in both passages verbatim? I cannot prove all instances of “God said” were figures of speech. I only wish to convey that God may not have spoken audibly as much as thought in the beginning.

God’s supposed direct communication or actions didn’t always lead to clarity or belief.  

When God spoke audibly supposedly to Moses (Ex. 20) to keep the Sabbath, some kept the Sabbath by not helping an injured soul and others understood helping wasn’t violating the spirit of the law. God dropped manna from the sky to help a nation survive in the wilderness and separated the Red Sea to escape one’s enemy, but the Israelites still did not believe or put their total trust in God. God came in person but Jesus’ miracles did not obtain the results if only God would stop hiding.

What happens if God communicates more through an invisible Spirit?  

Even the Bible tells us the Word of God has never been the Bible but flesh in the body of Jesus (Jn. 1:1-14). Jesus’ Spirit now lives in us to guide us in truth (Jn. 14:16-17; 16:13). It may be good that that the Spirit doesn’t communicates audible. The Bible was more direct communication, but it has been used to force beliefs others despite subject to interpretation. Uncertainty, not certainly about God, protects against imposing beliefs on others which is not God’s nature.

The Spirit doesn’t have to speak audibly to influence.  Doesn’t the Spirit speak to us somehow when we have thoughts to be the perfect partner, parent, or friend we desire to be deep down despite our constant failures? The Spirit surely influences when we have wronged someone, we quickly confess and make amends. That just isn’t always natural. God’s Spirit doesn’t have to speak to us as much as influence us to freely love others as best we know.

God’s respect for freedom requires less direct communication than we think.

Many often seek God’s voice when they have an important decision to make. We may hope an all-knowing, power God has special insights into future outcomes so to let us in on the secret how to avoid problems. To say God knows the future suggests a predetermined future making freedom nonsensical. God can’t tell you if the person you want to marry won’t end up betraying you or the job you take won’t end up being phased out. God is in life with us. God sets us free to make our own decisions, hopefully in the interests of all, according to the gifts and passions we have.

We can know God despite God’s invisibility and lack of audibleness.  

Moral knowledge isn’t hidden. Amoral decisions are open. How is human physical presence working for you in keeping you on the straight and narrow? Don’t we hide our feelings or actions from partners or friends when not doing what we are supposed to. A Creator may not reveal themselves for reasons we haven’t thought of but would accept in time. There may be many humane reasons God doesn’t speak audibly or appear visibly, yet seeks to influence positively.

Better Than No One

by Rocky Glenn

Snobs are people who look down on other people.  With the recent election season concluding this past week, I am near certain if any of the candidates running for office were point-blanked questioned, “Are you a snob?  Do you consider yourself better than others?” each candidate would answer with a resounding, emphatic, “No!”  However, the campaign ads, speeches, debates, and rallies polluted the air with such a vast amount of pretentiousness, arrogancehaughtinesscondescension, and flat-out disrespect one would be hard pressed to describe the entire season as something other than a season of snobbery!!  Social media feeds were abuzz on election day not with celebrations of elections won but simply of the fact the negativity, mud-slinging, and posturing would be finally, at least momentarily, fading from the public eye.

Snobbery could be best be defined as a lack of humility.  Humility is freedom from pride or arrogance.  Although deficiencies in humility may perhaps be most prevalent and easiest to identify in the political realm, the lack thereof can be found nearly any where.  The greatest cause of snobbery and lack of humility I believe is comparison.  We live life constantly comparing ourselves to others to see how we measure up.  Even those who would deny their own personal snobbery and claim humility are susceptible to the quick sand of comparison.  I’ve never been one to intentionally display arrogance or intentionally be disrespectful to anyone, but in my former life mentally measuring my attitudes, behaviors, and activities against those shown by others was a constant way of life.  Living in such a manner is a life of constantly judging others and determining if either it’s someone you are better than or someone you should aspire to be.  It’s a life of false humility.  There may be no outward manifestations of the mental courtroom in which you personally try each person you encounter, but nonetheless each person stands before the judge in your head as you determine their value, your value in comparison to theirs, and exactly where each of you stand in regards to each other and, of course, who may be closer to God.

I shared in my last post for the first time in my life I know who I am and I am comfortable in my own skin.  The irony in that statement is for all intents and purposes to most I encounter I’m the same person and they would never know there’s anything different.  The difference lies in realizing good enough doesn’t exist and I am human and so are you.  Once those realizations are made, the internal judging and comparison has come to an end.  There is no longer a separation of me versus you, us versus them, people I’m better than versus people I should strive to be.

Paul defines living in humility in Philippians chapter 2:

If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.

I began this post with a sentence from a daily email I received this week taken from the words of Frederick Buechner.  I would like to conclude with the entire passage I received:

Snobs are people who look down on other people, but that does not justify our looking down on them. Who can say what dark fears of being inferior lurk behind their superior airs or what they suffer in private for the slights they dish out in public?

Don’t look down on them for looking down on us. Look at them, instead, as friends we don’t know yet and who don’t yet know what they are missing in not knowing us.

May we all learn to love our neighbors as ourselves.

Rocky

By Mike Edwards

Most, whether believing in God or not, would agree One claiming to be God would always do the moral or right thing. A less than morally perfect God is not worth believing in. Being morally perfect doesn’t always mean doing the easiest thing. It may be best to show a wayward teen tough love for their future’s sake. Do you wonder what God would do in the situation you face? What do we advise others who seek spiritual guidance?

We all have an innate knowledge of right and wrong on major moral matters.   

Please don’t read this and think I am suggesting you can do whatever the hell you want. Just because I am convinced God doesn’t try to control our decisions doesn’t mean I think it isn’t obvious what to do in many situations. Laws are not really needed for murder, stealing, physical abuse, etc. I am not into running peoples lives but you can’t murder or assault anyone.

Please don’t tell people what to do because the Bible says so.  

All literature requires interpretation; interpretations aren’t infallible. Scholars who respect the Bible as authoritative disagree what God thinks about homosexuality, gender roles, divorce, etc., to name only a few critical issues. We can’t declare something immoral because the Bible says so. The overall message of the Bible is clear to most – love others unselfishly. Jesus didn’t always answer directly because circumstances vary – the issue is our heart in solving problems.

What job or partner would God suggest choosing?  

You pray and ask God to guide which job to accept or who will you remain happily married forever. The underlying assumption is that future outcomes are knowable so one job or partner is a better decision in the long-run. A predetermined future suggests freedom is an illusion. Even an all-powerful God can’t know an unknowable future. A loving, uncontrolling parent or God in an open future would surely advise to access your gifts and passions and make the wisest choice you know at that time.

What about decisions somewhat moral in nature such as whether to divorce your partner?

A partner may respond with gratitude for a second change or another chance may simply enable bad behaviors to continue. God is supportive of the wisest decisions we know under current circumstances which may include the counsel of others. God can’t promise you a certain outcome and still be a respecter of freedom. It is complicated but consider all the lives impacted by your decision and act as unselfishly as possible. If you regret past decisions – who doesn’t – make what amends you can and strive to make different decisions in your future.

What would God do when your mother favors one sibling over others.

I grew up with 4 siblings. We got involved in business together but one sibling made decisions for all of us without our knowledge. My elderly Mom chose to favor that decision though the other four siblings independently told Mom one sibling is acting selfishly. She chose to not remain impartial but sided with one brother. Should the other children simply ignore Mom’s decision and act as if a relationship is possible? Or should favoritism not be ignored thus possible enabling such behaviors to continue? Each child must decide the kind of relationship to have with Mom if at all. 

Even the Bible claims God’s Spirit guides us not a Book.

Jesus when leaving this earth said His Spirit, not some Book, would guide us in truth (Jn. 14:16-17; 16:13). Jesus didn’t seem worried that Truth always requires discernment. Uncertainty because of an inaudibly Spirit doesn’t have to lead to chaos. Certainty or the morality of our opinions often leads to imposing such beliefs on others. That is not God’s nature. Avoid declaring the Spirit only speaks truth to you and not others. It is not God’s nature to impose beliefs on others. 

What would God do or advise you?

We know what God would do in many moral issues. We know God’s mentality when making decisions impacting the lives of others. How would we want to be treated? What is best not only for you but all involved! We can recognize God’s voice when we confess wrongdoing and make amends. What one may do in relational situations describe above may be different from another. Seek God’s help in making the wisest decision you know to make.

What do we advise others what God is telling them? It isn’t always comfortable claiming uncertainty what God would do. It is easier giving advice due to supposed certainty rather than listening and helping one make their own decisions. People often don’t need our advice but our love as they make their own decisions with the help of God if inclined to seek God’s influence.

 

 

 

By Mike Edwards

We can’t know exactly what an invisible God is like, but God’s visible presence may only lead to fearful obligations to obey. Uncoerced, freely chosen devotions more likely lead to lasting convictions. We can’t just say God is like what the Bible says, because we disagree what the Bible reveals about God. So, how can we know what God is like?

The Bible does frequently compare God to a loving human parent. Intuition suggest a loving Creator would want us to follow their example just as do our human parents.  How can we be like God if we don’t know what God is like? Analogies aren’t perfect but the best way to imagine what an invisible, perfect God is like – no one thinks an imperfect God is worth believing in – is to consider what a perfect human parent is like.

God couldn’t possibly be an angry, egomaniac lover.

A loving human parent directs their anger not toward their child but at actions that can harm their child and others. Gloomy uncertainty of a parent’s favor doesn’t cause us to be less self-centered or more loving. Loving parents don’t demand respect or glory but wish for a relationship based on mutual respect. God’s or a parent’s continual encouragement and mercy lead to a deeper bond that can transform us into the kind of person we all desire to be.

God couldn’t possibly be a homophobe.

It makes no sense to me why God would condemn gays when they can no more choose who they have feelings for than straights can. Just ask heterosexuals or homosexuals. We know the psychological harm done when one must hide their sexuality because of bigotry and hostility. Any loving parent is surely guided by how they should treat others if they had the same non-choices.

God couldn’t possibly be a hell monger.

Hell seems to be an invention over the centuries to scare people into submission and obedience. Our traditional understanding of Hell is not an appropriate translation of the Greek word Gehenna (the name of a real valley near Jerusalem) in the New Testament. Why would a loving God torture anyone forever since such pain serves no lasting purpose? Humans wouldn’t even create such a place for their worst enemies much less their children. Are we better lovers than God?

God couldn’t possibly be a sexist.

It is suggested the Bible endorses men to have authority over women, but the Bible can just as well be interpreted to encourage roles according to gifts not gender. Men in authority over women has led to so my atrocities women face at the hands of men. Women don’t need male leadership; women need men who have the heart of a servant (Eph. 5:28-29). Jesus said being first is last so maybe men should always defer to women.  Isn’t mutual equality the safest, most loving way for men and women to interact?

God couldn’t possibly be dogmatic about what religion we choose.  

Suggesting a loving God insists one can only come to God by believing in Jesus is to ignore the realities of our world. The majority of people that have been born into world never had a Bible to know of Jesus. The vast majority of people choose or rebel against the religion where they are born, whether be Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, etc. Wouldn’t a loving Parent, earthly or heavenly, no matter where born simply seek to help all be their best for self-interests and the interests of others?

What do you imagine God is really like?

You may be right! Listen to your moral inner voice since we just seem to know what is moral or immoral in most situations. Most suspect One claiming to be God must lead by example and encourage we love others by treating them like we want to be treated. I am absolutely convinced that God’s love is the love we deep down desire to show others consistently. God’s love is perfect parental love that we have always desired from our parents. We may not agree always what a perfect parent would do, but a loving parent surely isn’t egotistical, a fear-monger, a homophobe, a sexist, or bias against one’s religion!

 

Live in Peace

by Jim Gordon

In the bible we are told to be at peace with all men (Romans 12:18). In our day it seems almost impossible to be at peace with all men, which includes believers and non-believers. When we think about all the different thoughts and ideas, the different denominations, interpretations and beliefs and the different religions, how could it be possible to be at peace with everyone?

The dictionary says of peace: freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions; harmony in personal relations. We can easily see that without the Spirit we certainly cannot do this.

LiveinPeace

I think this is what God is saying, that we are to live in harmony with our brothers and sisters in Christ, not allowing any oppressive thoughts or emotions to take control of our feelings towards others. 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 remember that all believers want to please our Father. We are to accept one another in love and respect the fact that God is working differently in people. Just because it is not the way we believe does not mean it is not of God.

In regard to non-believers we are not to condemn them, force our beliefs on them or treat them like second-class citizens. We need to let them see the love of God by the way we live and 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 and let the Holy Spirit do the work that needs to be done in the lives of others.

If we believers could just understand that we are responsible for ourselves in the way we live for God. We are not responsible to live the way others think we should, and we are not responsible to make others live the way we think they 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 everyone we come in contact with, accept them for who they are and pray that the Holy Spirit will work in the lives of others as he works within us. Living in this manner will accomplished much more in showing the love of Christ to a hurting world.

By Mike Edwards

I still don’t know exactly how to describe God’s role with the Bible after I started rethinking why the Bible can’t be infallible or entirely inspired. It just seems so unlike God to control thoughts written down, rather than allowing us to grow in our understanding of God when ready. Scholars who respect Scriptures are admitting the Bible isn’t infallible. These same theologians are slow to suggest God didn’t inspire all of the Bible, which suggests God approves of everything written, but see concerns below. Many have been provoked to not even consider a relationship with God when sexist, homophobic, and genocidal behaviors attributed to God in the Bible are rationalized.

Why the Bible can’t be proven to be infallible.  

The OT records thousands of times “God said…” Writers weren’t claiming God spoke audibly; they were simply writing about their “impressions” from God. We can’t prove such impressions were always right. It is circular logic to suggest the Bible is infallible or inspired because biblical writers make such a claim. Many who accept the Bible being infallible would not accept the Quran being infallible because it claims to be. God’s freedom-giving nature doesn’t support God performing a lobotomy on OT writers’ impressions of what they thought God was telling them.

But, even if God dictated all of the Bible words are still subject to interpretation. Forget the Older Testament. Scholars don’t agree what Jesus meant when talking about Hell. The fact that we disagree about the meaning of the same passages makes the discussion of the Bible’s infallibility a moot point because interpretations aren’t infallible. The formation of the Old Testament was a long, slow development over centuries. The Catholic Bible has seven additional books in the Old Testament than the Protestant Bible. We can’t know the books of the Bible we have were the ones God intended to convey truth or that other books haven’t been excluded to convey truth about God. 

Why it is doubtful God inspired all of the Bible.   

To describe the Bible as inspired or authoritative suggest to many that God approves of everything recording in the Bible. It is hard for most to believe God inspired hundreds of OT passages like I Samuel 15:3 when God told Israel: “Now go, attack the Amalekites… put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.” Why would God inspire views that suggest God would endorse genocide? How could God inspire approving of a wife having her hand cut off when grabbing another’s man genitals protecting her husband (Deut. 25:11-12)?

There are good reasons to lean toward the Bible not being inspired because of certain morals attributed to God. An infallible or inspired view of Scriptures has led down the slippery slope of assuming interpretations are inspired. Not questioning if writers always understood God perfectly has led to justifying slavery, killing infidels, and other atrocities in the supposed name of God. Different opinions must stand side by side as we continually evaluate the most loving approach. God gave us a moral brain! 

What is the Bible if not inspired by God?

The Bible is recorded experiences of beginnings with God and Israel culminating with the life of Jesus that we don’t possess in any other documents. Writings about God can keep us talking and reflecting what God is really like. God didn’t necessarily have in mind that recordings would not be questioned. The Bible claims to be God-breathe which can literally mean God-spirited (2 Tim. 3:16). Only the Old Testament existed when these words penned. This passage could simply mean God uses writings about God to touch our spirit.

Certainty in God isn’t the Holy Grail!

An inspired Bible leads to interpretations magically becoming infallible. Believing such a Book exists has led to condemning gays in God’s name, though those who accept Scriptures as authoritative don’t agree the Bible disapproves of homosexuality. A fallible Book can’t hide behind infallible interpretations. Uncertainty doesn’t have to led to chaos as moral laws that violate the rights of others are obvious. The majority of people born in this world never read a Bible but seem to have an inborn knowledge of right and wrong, hinting a Creator not a Book communicates to all what is good.

How can we read the Bible?

Read the Bible reflectively than for solutions to specific problems. Read the Bible with an open-mind motivated by love.  Jesus didn’t always answer questions directly because circumstances vary and 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? Don’t check your moral conscience at the door as you consider what a loving God is really like. As long as we read the Bible with a questioning spirit rather than blind obedience, it seems the Bible can continue to influence millions to live a more selfless life.

For related questions about the Bible go to:   

http://what-god-may-really-be-like.com/rethinking-the-bible/

by Jim Gordon

I have watched with displeasure at times the discussions and comments on Social Media. This is a common way of communication these days and it is very easy to be much bolder and argumentative than usual. We express our thoughts and feelings in a much meaner way than we would if we were face to face.

I think most people find that sitting in front of a computer screen gives a sense of boldness and openness to express themselves in ways that are not always a good thing. I think there is something about not being in the presence of someone or seeing their face that emboldens us and allows our mean side to come out.

arguingonline

To me it is the same feeling you can get when you get behind the wheel of a car. All of a sudden we seem to be in attack mode. We blow our horn at others, yell and curse and flip people off, yet if we walked by them on the street we would smile and say hello.

There is something about face to face communication that usually changes the way we talk to and treat others. Face to face communication seems to take away the meanness we usually find with social media communication. Looking someone in the face, being in their presence seems to soften the way we talk and respond.

Why is it we cannot seem to see the human person behind the computer screen? Why is it we feel the meanness, this emboldened power to treat others with contempt? Remember Jesus said to love not only those who love you but to love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you.

There is nothing wrong with social media and communicating through it. Just keep in mind that there is another human being on the other end, and even though we are not in their physical presence the things we say and the way we react has an impact on them. Let us make it a point to have a positive, encouraging impact when we communicate with others.

The way of Christ is the way of love. Whether it be online or in person we are to love our neighbors. In our world today living in love is becoming rare. Yet by doing so in the power of the Spirit it will be noticed and it will make a difference in the lives of those who are hurting and so desperately seeking for love and acceptance.

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