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Posts Tagged ‘Bible’

by Jim Gordon

After having a discussion with some friends on the topic of the Spirit within and hearing his voice, I thought it appropriate to repost an article from a couple years ago on the subject.

Growing up in the organized church, we were told that the Holy Spirit came to reside within us once we accepted Christ. We were also told that we are the temple of the Holy Spirit and we have no need that any man should teach us. Yet when it came to really emphasizing what that meant and how to hear the Spirit, the church seemed to have dropped the ball in that area.

We do not seem to hear a lot of teaching on what it means for the Spirit to live within us. We are not told how to listen for the Spirit and what are we actually supposed to be listening for. Jesus said that his sheep hear his voice, yet most of us were taught that his voice is really the words written in the bible or spoken by the pastor.

We have heard it said that if it is not in the bible it is not of God. We are told God only speaks through the written word, yet there are so many interpretations, various doctrines and so many verses that were written to a specific person or group of persons. These writings were often for a specific time period that no longer relates directly to us except as an example to learn about the nature of God.

I feel so much has been lost over the years from when the original writings were done. So many of the translations have changed the original meanings because of changes in times, word meanings, traditions and such. Without the Spirit bringing to life the words we read, and through confirmation through his voice within we are really left to our personal views and opinions and what others have told us the written word means.

The bible is not God and it is not a god. The bible was inspired by an infallible God yet written by very fallible men, men who were inspired yet wrote with their personal views and ways of writing. The bible is about people trying to find, follow and fellowship with God and teaches us ways to do that. The written word leads us to the Living Word, who is Jesus.

The bible tells us that the Spirit now lives within us. Yet so often, even though we say it we do not act like we really believe it. Time and time again the bible mentions we are the temple of the Holy Spirit, we have the mind of Christ, the Spirit and the Kingdom are within you. And time and time again we seem to go right on thinking God is far away from us and all we can do is read from his word or have some pastor tell us what God is saying.

There are many people who say they speak for God but are nowhere close to being a godly example. It is easy to say God told me this or that, or say God told me to tell you something yet the person saying such things is only going on their personal feelings and interpretations. Anyone can say God told them this or that and expect us to do what they say, but we need to listen to the Spirit for ourselves and listen for the confirmation from within as to what is of God and what is not.

I believe if God says the Spirit lives within us and we can hear his voice, then it is something not to be taken lightly. As followers of Christ we can rely on the Spirit within us to teach us and guide us into his truth. We have to be listening and open to God to know his voice, but we can hear it and know it is from God. To say that we can only hear from God through the written word is to miss a more intimate fellowship with God.

Is the bible to be ignored? Are we to stop reading the written word and only follow what we feel is the voice of the Spirit? No, both the written word and the Living Word that lives within us are important. The written word is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness. Yet without the Living Word bringing those words to life, it is just a book about humans trying to find God. We need to be listening for the quiet voice of the Spirit of Christ who actually lives within us for truth and guidance. Sometimes he will speak directly in our spirits, sometimes he will speak through his written word and sometimes through others.

Also remember that God is alive and his Spirit is within us. Do not think that He can only speak through one particular means. Yet do not jump at every voice you hear, make sure it is the voice of His Spirit. Although the bible says we have the mind of Christ we also have the mind of Jim, or Mike or Betty. We are still human and need to be sure we are hearing from the Spirit of Christ and not our natural spirit. Still, Jesus said His sheep hear his voice, which to me says we can hear and know it is from God.

We also know that the Spirit can speak to one person one way and another person in a different way. Just because the Spirit is speaking to me does not mean he is telling you the same thing. Just because I hear the Spirit say something to me does not mean it is something that has to be announced to everyone. It may be that he is speaking to me for something I need to do or learn and it is not meant for others to hear.

My friend Michael Clark wrote about this topic and said in his article: “Jesus is the Word of God! He speaks to those who are His sheep. They know His voice and will not follow the voices of strangers (read John Ch. 10). Yet, so many Christians have said to me, “How can I know when Jesus is speaking to me?” To many of them the answer is, “Unplug! You are listening to and reading too many teachers. Break this habit of heaping to yourself teachers who tickle your ears. Get alone with God for a few months until you start hearing His whispered voice. Talk with Him and let Him be your friend above all friends.”

Just as we think of the church as a building with an organized program, it is so much more than that. The Church is a community of people daily following the Spirit and living in the kingdom of God during our life now. We also think of the word of God as a book, yet the true and living Word of God is so much more than that. Jesus is the Living Word of God and we can hear the voice of the Spirit which is within us. We can hear his voice through the written word, but keep in mind that God speaks in more ways than one.

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By Mike Edwards

A God who bothers to creates surely wants us to know what God is like. Atheists and believers agree. The only kind of God worth believing in is a perfect God. A Book can’t be the only way to know God because even scholars, who respect the authority of Scriptures, don’t agree on whether Hell really exist or God condemns gays. Most believe we ought to treat others like we want to be treated. We can only know what such love is through our own moral notions.

God and human perfect must be the same.

If God exist most would agree with the Bible’s exhortation that we should strive to: “Be perfect, therefore as your heavenly Parent is perfect” (Mt. 5:48). It is intuitive that human and godly perfection are one in the same. We may not always know what perfect love entails but at least we always know the question we ought to ask ourselves – am I loving others perfectly? It is only natural to think a Creator would love us and others how we were seemingly created to love others.

We cannot know definitively what God’s perfect love is according to the Bible.

Literature always requires interpretation, thus why scholars disagree on the meaning of the same biblical passages. You are currently interpreting whether I am saying none of the Bible is inspired or that every word of the Bible may not be inspired by God. It is normal to question interpretations. Interpretations that don’t seemingly lead to loving your neighbor more may be amiss because they are contrary to our moral intuitions and understandings of perfection. We cannot avoid using our moral brains when reading ancient literature. 

We cannot know definitely what God is like according to Jesus.  

It is argued, because of the challenges understanding God and violence in the Old Testament, that Jesus is our final destination for fully understanding God. Jesus claimed to be God and His moral legacy seems undeniable. God-followers though don’t always agree what Jesus taught because of transmission, translation, and interpretation. People who love Jesus with all their heart don’t agree if Jesus’ teachings allow or rule out war when evil is rampant and victims can be saved. It is an illusion to claim we can know God would do because the Bible or Jesus says so.

Uncertainty can be a good thing.

Even if God is Truth we still have to discern what is Truth. Many leave the institutional church because of the lack of honest, open dialogue. Certainty has led to forcing “supposed” truths onto others. But c’mon! We don’t have to make laws against murder, sexual abuse, etc. Admitting uncertainty, unless beheading people for beliefs, allows different opinions to stand side by side as we continually evaluate the most loving approach. Problems often begin when we stray from common moral sense and insist on our understanding from a Book.

God surely is not a mystery but understandable.  

The idea of a mysterious God may only come from one’s understanding of a Book about God. Biblical interpreters will often play the mystery card when their view suggests God’s morals are not the same as human morals. They understand some rationalization is needed when views of God are incompatible with human ideas of a loving God. If God isn’t understandable, why does the Bible ask us to imitate God (Eph. 5:1)? We may not be able to comprehend all plausible moral reasons how suffering and a good God can co-exist, but that doesn’t make God a mystery.

God surely isn’t a moral hypocrite humanly-speaking.  

An evil God isn’t worth believing in. Language breaks down if we say God’s evil sometimes is mysteriously good. The Bible encourages us to be perfect like God, but we can’t be like God if God’s love isn’t what we know love to be. A Creator surely loves us and others how we were seemingly created to love others. God is neither mysterious or a moral hypocrite humanly-speaking. 

So, for example how does God really feel about gays?  

Many only condemn gays because they are convinced the Bible does. I have written here to please reconsider that the Bible doesn’t condemn gays, even if you believe every word is inspired by God. Some condemn gays because it doesn’t seem natural to them. Why would God condemn gays when they can no more choose who they are attracted to than straights can? We know the psychological harm done when one must hide their sexuality because of bigotry and hostility. Loving others like you want to be loved is true, human, godly love! See Here

Human perfection is our best starting point for knowing what God is truly like.

We often think of God according to what we have been taught. We may imagine God, most often referred to Father, is like our earthly father or parent. We may think God is like what is claimed by others according to the Bible. Our understandings about God shape our attitudes toward God. The more you respect your earthly parents or God, the closer you are to them. We can’t claim with certainty, which may not be a bad thing, what God would do in every situation but human perfection is our best starting point for discussion.

 

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by Jim Gordon

Have you noticed how often people get offended and feel they need to prove their point on so many topics and posts online? It usually does not go well once that starts. Especially when it comes to spiritual and biblical topics.

We fail to realize that not everyone has the same interpretation as another. We also fail to realize the fact that we cannot prove most of what we believe.

We can fight and argue between christian and atheist, one christian denomination and another, among Jewish, Christian, Islam and a host of other religions. We can argue about whether there is or there is not a God, is there a hell or not, what this verse means or what that verse means. We get mad and defensive when someone goes against what we believe and do our best to prove our view is right.

Thing is, we cannot prove our point. We cannot prove God exists, we cannot prove there is a heaven or a hell, we cannot prove any other aspect of the spiritual existence. This life is a life of faith and belief. As christians, we have faith that God is there and he loves us. We have faith in the guidance of the Spirit within us.

On the other hand, no one can prove there is not a God, there is not a heaven, or there is not a hell. Yet we will fight and argue until we almost hate each other trying to prove our way of thinking.

I think God can take care of himself. We do not have to fight and argue to defend Him. Rather than making ourselves look like mean, hateful people who have to be right we should be showing the love of God to everyone. Show his love to those who agree with us and also to those who are a hundred percent sure in their minds that we are wrong.

To be sure, we cannot have this kind of love and acceptance in our own strength. God says we are the temple of the Holy Spirit, and it his love that flows out of us. Through His power, we can love those who live differently, who think differently, we can love our enemies and those who want nothing to do with God.

We can have our own way of thinking, our own beliefs and interpretations, knowing that God created each of us differently. Yet we need to remember we are not totally right on everything, and for sure we are not always going to agree with one another. We can all learn something by listening and communicating with others.

We all have a right to believe what and how we want to believe. People can put their faith in God or not. We can have completely different lifestyles. We can have a completely different interpretation on bible verses or we can completely reject the bible and not believe anything about it, and it is OK. Jesus did not tell us to judge and condemn others for what they believe. He did not say to force our views and beliefs on others. He did say to love one another.

We are not called to make people believe like us, or believe in God at all. We are called to go into the world and live the gospel message that God loves and accepts us. Jesus came to restore fellowship between humanity and the Father. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we are to love and accept others just as they are.

We can have our individual beliefs and interpretations, and we do not have to agree with everyone. Love and acceptance do not mean agreement. We can love and accept others just because they are loved by God. We were all created in His image. We can have our differences and still accept and care for those God brings into our lives each day.

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By Mike Edwards

God supposedly was the cause of Uzzah’s death for simply touching the Ark of the Covenant as it was falling to the ground (2 Sam. 6). The Ark was sacred in God’s eyes according to the Israelites. God supposedly orders the murder of men, women, children, and animals in war (I Sam. 15:3). One author’s respond to these OT stories was to suggest “we are quick to say things like ‘That isn’t fair because we deserve certain rights as humans.’ Yet we give little thought to the rights God deserves as God.”  

Who can we compare God to understand better?  

If there is only one God, who do we compare God to as a way to understand? The Bible uses the analogy of God as our Heavenly Father/Parent to help us understand God as best we can. God obviously isn’t exactly like human parents for I cannot be in all places at one time, but an analogy helps to discern what might be commonalities. What do God as a parent and human parents have in common when it comes to rights?

Isn’t God like the perfect human parent?  

All agree that if God exists than God must be perfect. The Bible agrees by encouraging us to strive to imitate or be perfect like God (Eph. 5:1; Mt. 5:48). If God can do whatever the hell God wants, should we imitate such an attitude? It is only natural to think a Creator would love us and others how we were seemingly created to love others. Human and God’s perfection are surely one and the same. We may only think otherwise because of what we think a Book says. We don’t always know what perfect love is, but I doubt God is the parent that says “do as I say not what I do.”

What are God’s rights?

God would only claim perfect, human rights. God loves us how we know we ought to love others. We aren’t clueless what perfect love is. Terrorists are evil because they would not accept being treated like they treat others. We can’t know if the biblical writers always understood God perfectly or whether our interpretation of what they write is correct. Interpretations that don’t seemingly lead to loving your neighbor more may be amiss because they are contrary to our moral intuitions of perfection. That is why we know Hell doesn’t truly exist. Such pain serves no lasting purpose. Humans wouldn’t even create such a place for their worst enemies.

 

 

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by Jim Gordon

We often talk about being like Jesus, or living a Christ-like life. What does that really entail?

My first thought is being like Jesus does not necessarily mean imitating Jesus. I think that is something that is close but a little different. Imitating, according to the dictionary means to mimic; impersonate; to make a copy of; to have or assume the appearance of. Some of this can be understood to be good, but I feel it takes away from our own identity and the way we were made as individuals.

I do not think being Christ-like means we are going to do everything we read in the gospels just like Jesus. It may mean we do things that are not popular or accepted by everyone, but we do them as the Spirit leads us, not because we are imitating exactly what Jesus did.

Most of us probably will not go to a Jewish synagogue and overturn tables. We may not walk all over the country healing people and raising the dead. We may never face being stoned and we may not have to deal directly with the spiritual or political leaders of our day.

What it might mean is, some of us may leave the church system because it is man-controlled with its doctrines and various interpretations of the bible. This will cause us to walk in the wilderness outside the walls of religion. It may mean being shunned by those still within the system. Yet we still have the Spirit living within us and who will never leave us.

Some of us may disassociate ourselves from politics. In the U.S.A. many people think being christian means being republican. Jesus did not seem to associate himself with any political party of his time. He respected them by saying give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s. Yet, Jesus goals and purposes were far beyond anything political.

Some may join an LGBTQ organization to show support, or work with race, gender or nationality relations. It may mean participating with and helping people that others would rather ignore. We want to help provide understanding and acceptance among people no matter what label they wear. Doing so may be misunderstood by others and may cause us to be cut off from friends or family who see things differently.

No matter how the Spirit leads us, I believe being like Jesus will be going about the Father’s business. That is to show love and not judgment and condemnation. It is encouraging, loving, building up and accepting people just as they are. Jesus came to our world to show us that God is not a God of hate, condemnation, murder and exclusiveness. God is love and a god of acceptance, inclusiveness and a god that walks side by side with us through everything we go through in this world.

We are all different. We each have our own personality, interests and special ways of living life. I think being like Jesus will be different as God works in the uniqueness of us. Being like Jesus will be different things to different people, but it will all be done by following the Spirit of Christ from within us. It will be a life of love for God and love for people each and every day.

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By Mike Edwards

If you read the Bible closely enough, who blames those who challenge God morally. Did God really kill all but eight in the world by a global flood because God couldn’t handle rejection? We condemn people drowning a litter of puppies in the river. Other ancient literature spoke of local floods. Perhaps the writers use hyperbole to make a point, but that doesn’t explain all of the OT.

I Sam. 15:3 is only one of many passages that reports God commanded the destruction of innocent women and children in war: “Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them…put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.” God orders killing non-virgin women but not virgins: “save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man” (Num. 31:18). Really God! Exodus 12 claims God intends to kill firstborns without lamb’s blood on their doorframes (Passover).

How one views the Bible leads to different explanations.

Did God control or guide the writers’ thoughts to perfectly represent God which then requires explaining certain actions by God, or did God not interfere with writers misrepresenting God at times? OT writers could have been influenced by surrounding cultures as to what an all-powerful God should look like. When the OT records “God said,” this isn’t audible speech but could be a figure of speech conveying figuratively an inner impression felt from God – right or wrong.

We can’t prove God did or didn’t inspire the Bible. The Bible can be viewed as recorded experiences of beginnings with God and Israel culminating with the life of Jesus that we don’t possess in other documents. God didn’t necessarily have in mind recordings wouldn’t be questioned. Writers may have contributed actions to God that weren’t true. This explanation can help Scriptures not being used blindly to justify violence God supposedly approved.

Is violence explained because God can do whatever the Hell God wants?  

It is normal to feel compelled to justify passages above because God’s actions in the OT don’t always seem moral from a human perspective. So, it is suggested God’s ways don’t have to be fair because God is God. Yet, the Bible encourages us to be perfect like God or imitate God (Mt. 5:48, Eph. 5:1). If God’s actions don’t seem fair at times, should we imitate such actions? If human and God’s perfection are different, how can we know how to be perfect like God? We don’t always know what perfect love is, but I doubt God is the parent that says “do as I say not what I do.” 

Is violence by God simply warfare exaggeration?  

Warfare rhetoric was common in ancient literature to induce fear and victory. A US leader may say we will completely destroy ISIS. But, even if God didn’t mean to be taken literally, why would God inspire such violent metaphors in I Sam 15 to include women, children, infants, and animals? Humans leaders don’t even use such language against terrorists. I question if the writers heard God correctly.

Did God approve certain violence to bring the Israelites freely along to the truth?

It is argued that Israelites laws were a step up from other ancient near eastern laws. At times maybe they were, but it is rational to question many of the laws set forth. Did God really approve a woman being required to marry her rapist (Deut. 22: 28-29) as if this was a step up to protecting victims from a life of shun? Did God walk on eggshells because the Israelites couldn’t handle the truth that requiring a woman to marry their rapist is just further victimization? I am convinced only humans, not God, thought this was a good law at that time.

I know, I know. If you can’t trust the Bible what can you trust!

Who doesn’t know God hates murder, sexual abuse, stealing, adultery, even not treating others like you want to be treated? Terrorists rationalize forcing beliefs about God on others, or be killed, because God supposedly inspired such thoughts recorded in a Book. Total certainty about God according to the Bible is an illusion. Biblical scholars, who respect Scriptures, don’t agree what the Bible says about hell, women, gays, etc. Different opinions standing side by side, as we continually evaluate the most loving approach, is better than claiming certainty and being wrong. 

It matters if the Bible is viewed as inspired by God or not.  

The idea of an infallible Book has led to assuming God’s view on morality only come from a Book such as the Bible or Quran. It is seldom admitted interpretations of a supposed infallible book could be wrong which has led to justifying slavery, killing infidels, and other atrocities in the name of God. Fallible books can’t hide behind assumed infallible interpretations, which lead to misunderstanding or rejecting God for the wrong reasons. We can’t prove when the Bible records “God says” that God really inspired such words. Questioning leads to less justification of violence.

 

 

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By Mike Edwards 

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

Did God really always do things the biblical writers claimed?

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

Did the writers always understand God perfectly?

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

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

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

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

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

We can know God is relational.

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

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