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by Jim Gordon

Political life is a pretty big thing, especially here in the United States. There can be a lot of terrible events that happen in the world of politics. So much sometimes, that it makes you wonder if we as Christians should even be involved.

We know the Spirit of God lives within us, and because of that we are spiritually living in the Kingdom of God now. I believe that everything we do is spiritual. Since the Spirit lives within us, we can go out each day sharing the love of God and doing things that are pleasing to God whether we think it is spiritual or just normal daily life.

What we participate in should always be done with the purpose of being ambassadors for Christ. We go about our daily activity doing things in love, fairness, compassion and equality. We do not hate or exclude others, we do not cheat and take advantage of others, we do not discriminate against others.

If we choose to participate in politics, we do so in ways that show the love of God and actions of Jesus. It is hard to find a political party or politician that is truly committed to following the example of Jesus. We often have to choose to support those who are only partially committed and who we feel will come closest to representing what we think is best for our country.

It is hard to support politicians who promote discrimination, exclusion, hatred, unacceptance, and those who seemingly work for their own power and financial gain. And truthfully, it seems harder and harder to find those who are not this way. Yet, there are those out there who really want to do what they feel is good for their country. It is up to each voter to do some homework and find the best candidates available.

We also need to consider the subject of Christian nationalism, which is mixing Christianity and Politics with too much importance. God loves the world, not just the United States or any one particular country. It seems there are some in politics in the United States that have a goal of making this a Christian nation. This should not be. It is against the constitution and against what we are told in the bible, that God loves the world, not just one country or group of people.

We sometimes seem to think that living for God on this earth can only be achieved by politically enforcing Christian values through laws. Many people seem to think we should use this political power to force Christian values on everyone. I for one do not believe we should or can legislate Christian values and morality on anyone. God does not force his love and ways on us, so why should we try to force our values and beliefs on others.

Some people want a country or church that lives a biblical life. That problem is there are so many interpretations of the bible, so many opinions and views that it would be hard to set down specific ways of life that people could agree upon.

The bible can easily be made to say about anything a person chooses, so instead of living a biblical life we should strive to live a Christ-like life. Our example should be the life of Jesus and not the words written in a book.

Here in the United States, it has become a common belief by some that to be a Christian means to be a Republican. That could not be farther from the truth. Our Christianity has nothing to do with a political party, although there are Christians who are Republican, Democrat, Independent, liberal or conservative. Being involved in politics should not mean the political party controls us, but our love of God and love of others should guide us in our political thinking.

I would love to see people stop bringing Christianity down to a political stance. It is not wrong to participate in politics and support the political party you feel is best for the country. The problem is when politics controls the person and the political party is more important than doing what is best for all of the people of the country. We should focus on Christ and loving others no matter which political party they endorse.

Jim Gordon and his wife left the institutional church after spending over fifty years within the system. Jim wanted a way to express his thoughts and concerns about the religious system and why he and his wife decided to leave the institution but not their faith in God. Jim can be contacted by email at: jimgordon731@gmail.com

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by Jim Gordon

I remember when I was young, I was in a church service just about any time the doors were open. My whole spiritual life depended on whether I was at church or not. If I did not go, I felt guilty and made sure I was there the next time.

I was always active and participated in many church activities. I felt it was my duty and responsibility to do all I could for the church. I felt that was the only way I could serve God and do what pleased Him.

After many years of being in the organized church system, my wife and I became disillusioned with the religious organization and became a part of ‘The Dones’. We no longer attend a traditional or organized church, and no longer put any hope or trust in religion.

Does this mean we no longer think it is right to be part of a church? Not at all, yet for us, we are satisfied no longer being part of it and we are happy with the decision we made to leave. Yet, that does not mean we expect everyone else to think the same way. We have several friends who are satisfied with the church system and want to continue to attend services.

In our case, after leaving the organized church we have noticed a feeling of separation between church goers and non-church goers. After all the years we spent in the organization and all the friends we made, once we left, we noticed the struggle many people have to overcome a feeling of us and them. Obviously, we are all brothers and sisters in Christ and there should be love and acceptance between us no matter if we attend church or not.

If you still feel drawn to the weekly organized meeting, I do not see anything wrong with it. Although we do not believe the church system is designed as God intended, there were many good things that came out of our time being involved. If you are going to be a part of a local church, keep in mind some important facts.

When going to church, you are not going to God’s house. God does not live in buildings made by human hands, but He builds His Church from living stones, which is us.

The Bible is not to be held in the same regard as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The written word is inspired by God but written by men. All the translating men have done over the years, and men deciding which books are inspired and which are not, make it pretty clear that the bible is going to be flawed.  It is clearly stated that Jesus is the living, inerrant Word of God. The written word is a guide to lead us to Christ, but as Jesus told the Pharisees in John 5:39, You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me. They put the scriptures (written word) above the Living Word (Jesus).

The pastor is not God’s mouthpiece. He or she is only a brother or sister in Christ who is to walk alongside us to encourage and build one another up. We have the Holy Spirit within us who is our teacher and guide. We need no one else. It is good to hear other opinions and ideas, yet it is the Spirit that is to be our teacher and guide.

Bringing the tithe into the storehouse is not giving money to the church, and is no longer a requirement. We give from love as we determine in our heart to give. If you give at the church you attend, you are not giving to God but to support the organization and pay the bills.

Sunday is not the “Lord’s Day”. Every day is the day the Lord has made, and no particular day is more important than another.

When we are told not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together, it is not talking about an organized church meeting. It is talking about loving and accepting one another, and depending on one another. It is supporting and encouraging one another on our daily walk with God and one another. We do this in many different ways each and every day, not just on one particular day.

When you go to church, do not fall for someone telling you God is going to show up and the Spirit is going to fall on this place. God is everywhere and the Spirit fell upon mankind 2000 years ago. The Spirit of God is within us and with us all the time. He is not sitting on a throne up in heaven waiting for us. He goes with us each and every day, everywhere we go.

Realize that worship is not singing a few songs, raising your hands when the worship leader tells you to and reading a few scripture verses together. Worship is daily praising God, trusting God and letting Him be Lord of your life. To worship God in spirit and truth involves loving Him with all your heart, soul, strength and mind.

And do not give way to a prideful spirit, thinking you are more spiritual or a “better” Christian because you went to church. Going to a service is a choice, not a requirement and you are no better if you go, and no worse off if you do not go.

Remember, each of us are living stones and equal parts of the body. We are the Church and Jesus is the head of his body. As his Church, we are to show God’s love every day to everyone we meet. If you want to attend a local group of believers there is nothing wrong with that. Enjoy meeting with other believers, enjoy the atmosphere but remember you are the Church, you have the mind of Christ and the Spirit of God lives within you. We are to go about our daily lives under the leading of the Spirit, loving God and loving others.

So, do not look down upon those who have left the organization as backsliders or who have walked away from God. Do not look at those who still attend church as stuck in a man-made institution and following doctrines and interpretations of man. Remember that we are brothers and sisters in Christ and each of us are loving God and doing what we feel is right and best at this point. We should be loving and accepting of one another and let the world see the love we have for one another. As it reads in John 13:35 by this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

Jim Gordon and his wife left the institutional church after spending over fifty years within the system. Jim wanted a way to express his thoughts and concerns about the religious system and why he and his wife decided to leave the institution but not their faith in God. Jim can be contacted by email at: jimgordon731@gmail.com

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By Mike Edwards

The majority of people believe there is a God, but I don’t sense God is a major focus with that majority. I’m not making a moral judgment. Many not keen on God treat others as well or better than us God followers. It’s just that many God followers believe their relationship with God has made them a better person. We are convinced if more had a closer relationship with God, this could make for a better world. Do God followers create obstacles that push others away from God?

God-followers make faith in God too complicated 

Many Christians insist on certain beliefs or saying a magic prayer to be a true follower. It’s said you can’t just believe there is a God; the Devil believes in a God! But the Devil was committed to opposing God. I’m not convinced the majority have such a commitment. Even the Bible in one passage doesn’t declare faith a set of beliefs but hope in what you can’t see. (Heb 11:1) Why can’t a God follower be one who hopes/believes in a good God and seeks help being the person they deep down desire to be? If you are a butt according to friends, I still suggest going in with God.

God-followers make dogmatic claims about God according to the Bible 

The Bible is used to condemn gays and oppose women priests or preachers. But biblical scholars who have a deep respect for Scriptures don’t agree what the Bible says about these and other moral issues.  See here. See hereBiblical scholars don’t even agree a literal Hell is a reality in the Bible. See here.  Even if our interpretations were infallible, we can’t be sure the biblical writers always knew or portrayed God accurately. God gave us a brain. Our moral intuitions are not the enemy.

The Bible is used to claim non-Christians can’t go to heaven. The majority of people born into the world didn’t have a Bible or knew of Jesus. Most people accept or rebel against a certain religion based on the family born into whether it is Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, etc. A child sexually abuse by their father may struggle to accept a God who is most often betrayed as our Father in Heaven. No human or spiritual parent brings children into the world requiring their eternal destination be based on circumstances out of one’s control. A loving God can’t be a God of chance! 

God-followers make the Bible an idol for worship 

You don’t have to believe the biblical writers always got God right. Many insist on a literal interpretation of Genesis, to deny that God could have used evolution in the creative process. Don’t reject God because you believe in evolution. No one was there in the beginning. As mentioned, you don’t have to believe in Hell or that God condemns gays or is bias against women. Don’t disregard your moral intuitions in discerning what God is like. See RETHINKING THE BIBLE

God-followers rationalize away why God doesn’t intervene more in evil and suffering 

We say “everything that happens is part of God’s plan” to supposedly protect God’s all-powerful character. We claim God is a mystery to justify God’s evil is sometimes good. Crazy talk! Love cannot insist on its own way. (I Cor 13:5) A good God’s love must be uncontrolling, not manipulative, etc. A God who supposedly can prevent evil but doesn’t is no different than a parent who stands by and watches their child suffer. Evil and suffering in the world may be because God can only intervene when there is human cooperation. See God Can’t by Thomas Oord.

God-followers insist you must believe in miracles or Jesus’ resurrection to be a follower

I don’t know if all the miracles recorded in the Bible really happened or not. I wasn’t there. I don’t doubt the historical accounts of events in NT times, but you may. Jesus didn’t ask the disciples for certain commitments or unshakable belief to follow Him. Some of the disciple didn’t believe Jesus’ resurrection talk until having physical proof. If you saw someone die on a Cross and alive days later, you may believe too. I doubt Jesus rejected those who didn’t instantly go all-in. If wanting to live for the Devil, then don’t follow Jesus.

God-followers insist you have to go to church to be a follower 

Many are done with religion or church but not God. The Church can be a great place of encouragement for like-minded people, but Church can be like politics in today’s world. There is lack of open and meaningful dialogue. I am tired of the cancel culture in church or the public arena. I’m not anti-science or heretical because I disagree. I got tired of being preached at where I couldn’t ask questions directly to leadership when disagreeing with opinions taught. Being so damn certain all the time is hardly relational and fails to recognize reality – biblical scholars don’t disagree what the Bible says about issues that impacts millions of lives. 

God-followers as a group are poor role models

We are all hypocrites, but God followers should at least admit and do something about their failings. Clearly Christians don’t get along as more and more churches and denominations keep forming that creates division not unity. Christian opinions should be able to stand side by side as we continually evaluate the most loving way. It’s hard to make a big impact in the world alone. A Movement succeeding at loving others like they want to be loved maybe can change the World!

God-followers often have hidden agendas in their relationships 

Who blames others for avoiding spiritual conversations with God followers? I hate to admit I use to have a hidden agenda with those outside the church. I was taught God’s good news was saving people from Hell so they could get into Heaven. I was wrong according to Jesus. See here.  I am afraid the ship may have sailed for those on the fence about God, trusting us to have open conversations. I will never stop hoping though. My focus is trying to lead a life where actions speak louder than words.

Maybe taking a leap of faith is worth it

If God claims to love and guide us, God should be up to your challenging God to prove they are worth following.  Don’t believe everything others claim about God. If interested in being the person you want to be deep down, you may be able to do it on your own but I need all the help I can get. Through God’s influence I have experienced God’s encouragement to continually strive to be a better man, husband, father, and friend or at least better than if on my own. I am convinced believing in a good God and pursuing a godly life is not in vain!

Why Don’t More Who Believe In God Pursue God Intensely?

Mike Edwards has been writing for Done with Religion for some time and has been a great addition to the site. Mike also has his own site where he writes that can be found at What God May Really Be Like  He can be contacted by email at: medwar2@gmail.com

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by Jim Gordon

When we think about Jesus, we automatically think of Christianity. Although the two are completely different. Christianity mostly means a religion that is based on the Bible and God. Yet it is more of things we do rather than who we are in Christ.

Jesus did not come to start Christianity. Jesus was not a Christian. We are missing the whole point when we focus on religion rather than the real reason Jesus came to live among us. He came to show us what God is really like, and the love God has for each and every one of us.

According to Wikipedia it is stated that there are roughly 4,200 religions in the world. Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Jewish, Christianity and every other religion, and in a sense, they are all actually related. They are all human based ways of trying to please the God (or gods) they believe in and serve.

In regard to just Christian denominations, World Christian Encyclopedia says that Christianity as a whole consists of 6 major ecclesiastical-cultural blocs, divided into 300 major ecclesiastical traditions, composed of over 33,000 distinct denominations in 238 countries. It certainly cannot be stated that people are not interested in some type of higher power.

The sad part is that we want to argue over which religion is right or wrong. We constantly argue over whose interpretations are right, and most often we do not even want to associate with those who feel differently.

Needless to say, we all have our interpretations, thoughts and ideas, but those just make us unique individuals. They were not intended to cause separations and divisions among us. We should be able to be ourselves and yet love and accept those who see things differently.

If we could get past the religious part of our beliefs and live in the freedom God provided, things would go much better. Rather than defend our denominational interpretations and our personal ideas, if we would love and accept others with the love of Christ, people would be more open to hear about our God.

Often, rather than love and accept one another, we are normally busy pointing out the mistakes of others and condemning those who we consider sinners. When we do so, the love Jesus told us to show everyone seems to get missed. I personally do not think it is our job to convict people of their sins. The Holy Spirit will convict those who need it, and will draw them to God. We are just told to love God and love others.

When we focus on the gospels and the life of Jesus and realize that he did not condemn people for their sins, we can see a distinct difference from the way we act today. He only had an issue with the religious leaders who thought they were better than everyone because of their works.

When it comes to saying I am a Christian, I am hesitant anymore because of the meaning it often has to many people. If being a Christian means being part of a religious organization, trying to live by following the law and being discriminatory, exclusive and condemning others, I am done with that. In that sense, Christianity is not the answer, nor is any other man-made religion. If being a Christian means a follower of Christ, someone who wants to be like Christ and show the love of God to everyone, then I am all in.

Jesus is not into religion. Jesus came to show the love of God to every human being no matter who they are or what they believe. Jesus crosses the barriers of religion and loves everyone. In the world today, we are the Jesus that people see. We should be ready to show the love and acceptance that God showed us to everyone we meet.

Jim Gordon and his wife left the institutional church after spending over fifty years within the system. Jim wanted a way to express his thoughts and concerns about the religious system and why he and his wife decided to leave the institution but not their faith in God. Jim can be contacted by email at: jimgordon731@gmail.com

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How can you say such a thing?

by Jim Gordon

So often, when we think of Jesus we think of Christianity. Many seem to think that Jesus actually started Christianity. The fact is, Jesus did not start Christianity and he does not belong to any particular religion. He loves and accepts people no matter what they believe. He came to show the love of God to the human race, not start a new religion for people to fall in line and follow.

The word Christian actually was used to describe those who were spreading the good news of Jesus. People in the city of Antioch started calling those who followed Jesus, Christians because they were doing the works of Jesus and sharing the love of Jesus so much, they thought of them as little Christs.

When we use the term Christian and mean it as described above, there is certainly nothing wrong with that. Being Christ-like, loving God and loving others. Doing the works of Jesus is the true meaning of the word. Yet, if we use Christian in a sense of belonging to a particular church, following a particular doctrine or specific pastor, then it becomes just a religion and for me, I would rather not define myself by this term.

Jesus is the Son of God, and He loves all people. He does not see Muslims, Jews, Christians or any religion. He sees and loves people. He sees people who need the love and acceptance of God. The only way people are going to come to true fellowship with God is through Christ…not Christianity.

It is time we stop looking to the organized world of religion as our way of becoming acceptable and pleasing to God. We need to look to Christ and allow Him to live through us and love those we meet each day. Stop demanding that people follow your doctrine, your rules, your beliefs. Accept people as they are, the way Jesus accepted them. Show the love of Christ to them and let God work in them the way He sees fit.

We are never going to completely agree with each other on doctrine and religion. Only through Christ and the love of God will we be able to share that love with others. Let us be known by the true sense of the meaning of Christian, being someone who is doing the works of Jesus and who loves God and one another.

Jim Gordon and his wife left the institutional church after spending over fifty years within the system. Jim wanted a way to express his thoughts and concerns about the religious system and why he and his wife decided to leave the institution but not their faith in God. Jim can be contacted by email at: jimgordon731@gmail.com

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By Mike Edwards

I grew up attending church often more than once a week. I referred to myself as a Christian because that was the common label used in the institutional church. I can remember not liking the label early on because people often associated it with being religious, and there is a lot of bad religion out there. I have grown uncomfortable with the label for myself for a long time now.

Christianity has become associated with beliefs about God I reject.

I don’t believe for a second Hell is real and God tortures forever those who don’t believe. This makes God terrorist-like – only God waits until life after death and keeps you alive forever to torture. I don’t believe women are second-class citizens. You can dress it up all you want in “loving leadership,” but I don’t want a man being my daughters’ go-between with God. I don’t believe God condemns gays for attractions they have no control over any more than straights do their attractions. There are many beliefs about God associated with Christianity that I reject. See here.

I don’t refer to myself as a Jesus follower.

I think many associate Jesus with the Bible which has been used to makes some claims I don’t accept what a loving God would be like. It’s okay to doubt claims made about Jesus. Jesus’ followers witnessed miracles by Jesus and still initially doubted He was coming back from the dead. It may be a little easier to believe once you are an eye-witness to a resurrection. Some can’t logically wrap their heads around how chromosomally Jesus can be both man and God. We can respectfully and openly discuss Jesus’ actions and claim made about God to discern if Jesus represented what a loving God is like.

Why I am a God-follower!

I don’t know all the reasons why some are inclined to believe there is Creator or God and why others aren’t. I know it isn’t because of moral superiority. I have my failures to prove that. Due to the complexities of the created world and humans, I just am convinced there is a God who created and loves each one of us like no other. A common Creator also explains best for me how humans seem to have an inborn feeling that we “ought” to treat others like we want to be treated. I have never met anyone who doesn’t want to be treated with love and kindness. I follow God because I am convinced God can turn bad people into good people and good people into better people.

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by Jim Gordon

My wife and I often discuss using the word Christian these days. We wonder whether we should describe ourselves by the word Christian or not. We think it all boils down to what we mean by the word Christian.

So often the word means many things we are not. Say the word Christian and many people automatically stereotype you to basic beliefs and doctrines of the religion of Christianity and not necessarily to what we truly believe.

If being a Christian is being part of a religious organization that meets in a building on a particular day and follows set doctrines based on a particular denomination then no, we are not Christians. If being a Christian is being part of a group that is opposed to all other people and religions and only accepts those who believe like we do then no, we are not Christians. If being a Christian has anything to do with man-made religion, exclusion, hatred, following old covenant law then no, we are not Christians.

In Acts 11:26 the disciples were first called Christians by people in Antioch. I always heard that they were called Christians because they were acting like Christ. The people there were calling them little Christ’s because of the way they showed the love and power of Christ. Now, if that is what is meant by being a Christian then we are all in.

There are many ways we can described ourselves…believers, Christ followers, disciples of Christ, followers of the way, and even Christians. Yet the term itself really does not matter. What matters is how we live our lives. Is Christ preeminent? Are we living as one with him? Are we allowing the love of Christ to live through us, accepting others, loving others and being little Christ’s to all we meet? If not, whatever word we use to describe our religious belief does not make any difference.

When people see us, they should see Christ. When people see Christ, they should see God who is love. He lives within us and we should be known for the love we have for him and for the love we have for our fellow human beings. Do not worry so much about the label we use. Follow the leading of the Spirit of Christ who lives within us. Share the love of God with each and every person we meet. Be known for sharing the love of God rather than for what religious word we choose to use.

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By Mike Edwards

I am convinced there are beliefs claimed about God that 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 understanding 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 know we ought to love others? God surely isn’t bias toward any one religion.

A loving God wouldn’t ignore the realities of our world by insisting one can only come to God by believing in Jesus.

The majority of people born into this world died without any knowledge of the Bible or who Jesus was. Also, John Hick rightly acknowledges: “…in the vast majority of cases, probably 98 or 99 per cent, the religion to which anyone adheres (or against which they rebel) depends upon where they are born. When someone is born into a Christian family they are very likely to become a Christian, whether practicing or nominal; when into a Muslim family, very likely to become a Muslim; if into a Buddhist family, to become a Buddhist – and so on round the world” (Who Or What Is God, p. 73). A reason one may think a loving God judges people who have never heard about God or misunderstand God is because a Book supposedly says so.

Did you know many scholars believe the Bible teaches all people eventually get into Heaven? 

Those of us who grew up in church are familiar with Bible verses interpreted to mean the wages of sin is death/Hell if we don’t confess Jesus is Lord (Rom. 6:23; 10:9). Bible folks don’t even have to look up those verses. The Bible also says: “For as in Adam all died, so in Christ all will be made alive” (I Cor. 15:22). Bible scholars who respect the authority of Scriptures interpret this and other verses to mean only those who have never died are excluded from heaven. Obviously, all have or will die. The Bible teaches forgiveness is unlimited (i.e. Mt. 18:21-22), but is that not true of God after one’s last breath despite their circumstances here on earth? We can’t be certain, so we are free to imagine what a loving, merciful God would do.

The Bible doesn’t even rule out decisions after death regarding one’s eternal destination.

John 5:25 says that the dead will hear the voice of God and those who hear will live. Verse 29 says those who have done evil will be condemned but we do not know whether repentance will take place. Romans 14:11-12 says: “It is written: As surely as I live, says the Lord, “every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God.” So then, we will all give an account of ourselves to God.” Why couldn’t some make a decision at Judgment? I Peter 3:18-20 speaks of Jesus preaching to those in Noah’s day who were disobedient. Preaching is normally for the opportunity to respond.  I Peter 4:6 goes on to say that the dead can live according to God’s spirit. Eternal decisions after death doesn’t diminish the blessings of changing here on earth. A perfect, merciful God can best decide when enough chances are given.

Jesus didn’t refer to his followers as Christians.

Jesus simply asked people to follow Him. Jesus seemed more concerned with the benefits of living a loving life than beliefs. God used the human means available to reveal themselves through the life of Jesus, but the Bible was never meant to be God’s only communication. A universal desire to treat others like we want to be treated hints God’s spirit has always existed.  Jesus’ message has been exemplified by many great leaders such as Gandhi. Scriptures speak of all having an internal awareness that someone bigger and better than ourselves exist. We can know in our heart Jesus’ main message – love others like we want to be loved.

Hell’s non-existence requires rethinking the afterlife for all.  

Hell’s supposed existence is why many insist one must believe in Jesus to avoid such a destination. It turns out Jesus or the Bible says nothing about the traditional understanding of Hell. Paul, who wrote the majority of the New Testament, never once warned this dire fate. Why did Noah or the OT say nothing about tragic consequences for evil? Jesus used the Greek word Gehenna that was translated into the word Hell in some of our Bibles. Gehenna was the name of a real valley near Jerusalem used by Jesus to illustrate kinds of lives here on earth that lead to hellish living, not what happens to people in the afterlife.

Why would a loving God torture anyone forever since such pain serves no lasting purpose? Besides, delayed torture is still torture. Humans wouldn’t even create a place like Hell for their worst enemies! Such a place may be only imagined because of one’s interpretation of a Book. God can’t be a hellish, sadistic, torturer. 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.

We must avoid all appearances that a good God is like a terrorist or extremist.  

Terrorists believe you must be of a certain religion or be killed. If our Creator believed this way, why haven’t they controlled evil here on earth by dashing to pieces those who don’t accept God’s ways. A loving God knows true love and lasting convictions are obtained when chosen freely than forced. An infallible Book would not be so dangerous if extremists acknowledged literature is subject to interpretation, thus their interpretation cannot be proclaimed as “certainty” in God’s name. We must allow personal views to be challenged without declaring “The Bible says…”  No human or spiritual parent brings children into the world requiring that one’s eternal destination is based on circumstances out of one’s control.  It is true bad and good religion must be distinguished, but the Bible mustn’t be used to claim all must convert to Christianity to be accepted by God.

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by Rocky Glenn

I’ve always had a fondness for Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and the gang.  I can remember feeling heart broken over the “little red-haired girl” on Valentine’s, being spooked over the arrival of the Great Pumpkin, waiting for Snoopy to float down the street in the Macy’s parade, sitting in silence as Linus told the meaning of Christmas, reading the comics in papaw’s Sunday paper . . . Peanuts were and are a huge part of me.

Winnie the Pooh was not truly introduced to me until Geoffrey was born.  He fell in love with the willy, nilly, silly, old bear.  Because of this, as you can imagine, the movie was replayed countless times.  All of us familiar with the story can name all the guys . . . Tigger, Piglet, Kanga, Owl, Christopher Robin, and, of course, the resident pessimist, Eeyore.

Insert Romans 8:1: “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”  I memorized this verse as a growing “churchboy,” but never really grasped the true meaning of it.  Of course, being the true churchboy I was, I had to memorize it in the King James Version as it was the only Bible and all other versions were just trash. One day, I discovered The Message, a paraphrase of scripture written to read like a novel.  This is what I discovered in Romans 8: “With the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, that fateful dilemma is resolved. Those who enter into Christ’s being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud.”  What???  Let’s go back and read that again.  So I did . . . again and again and again.  Suddenly, images of Charlie Brown and Eeyore filled my mind . . .

That’s the way I had lived my Christian life, always expecting the worst knowing that if something bad did happen it was because I had done something to cause it.  When I read that, a light bulb popped on for the first time.  We are not meant to live under a cloud of condemnation, guilt, and hopeless.  We have been set free.

It has taken several years, and is still an ongoing process, but since that time, God has revealed a number of clouds that I have let hang over me in my life . . . guilt, low self-esteem, approval of others, and the biggest of all (and the true reason for the creation of this blog to begin with) the laws, rules, and man-made expectations of religion that God never intended or ever created us to live under to begin with.

What are your clouds?  Romans 8 says you don’t have live under them any longer.  It’s my prayer and hope that all reading this will learn to live out from under the clouds we have either placed or allowed to be placed over us by others.  We have been set free.  Galatians 5 form The Message says it this way: “Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you,” or, just in case you prefer to read the King James Version, “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.”

So, take your stand, be free, and live outside the rain clouds!

Rocky

(This post originally written April 2, 2016.)

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by Rocky Glenn

Fish out of water, bull in a china shop, square peg in a round hole . . . these idioms sum up my wife’s words in 2012 as we left our church home of ten years, “We just don’t fit.”  Although we fully believed those words applied to the church we were being called out of to find  a new place to spend our Sundays, neither of us knew the full meaning of those words would lead us down the path we’re at today best described by yet another idiom, sticking out like a sore thumb.  Refusing to buy into systems you once supported which tell you you’re required to dress a certain way, give a fixed percentage of your income, attend a certain amount of events per week, or insist you do or do not behave a certain way because “Christians don’t act that way,” is not readily accepted.  The moment you start questioning it and insisting it is all meaningless and not required, you have become the proverbial sore thumb.  How ironic a journey we chose to begin because we didn’t fit in has brought us to a place where fitting in is not as important as it once was.

Irony, by definition, is a state of affairs or an event that seems deliberately contrary to what one expects.  As I’ve shared previously (A Secret No Longer), I’ve been a fan of the Incredible Hulk as long as I can remember.  The fact a well-mannered, normally reserved, and appearance-driven churchboy is enamored by a rage-filled, uncontrollable, growling, larger than life, angry green monster who leaves destruction in his wake, yep, I would call that irony.  It may be considered not only ironic by some but also hypocritical and, yet, it is one of many confessions this recovering churchboy is relieved to admit as I am admitting who I am.  In fact, I would like to share one of my favorite Hulk scenes below. (SPOILER ALERT: If you are a fan of the MCU and have not yet seen Thor: Ragnarok, you may want to skip the few paragraphs.)

In 2017, Marvel studios released the third installment in the Thor movies series, Thor: Ragnarok.  In this film, we learned the whereabouts of Hulk during the cinematic universe’s Civil War.  As Thor is imprisoned on the planet Sakaar and forced to compete in the gladiator arena, he finds his opponent is none other than the big green guy.  The fight itself is quite a spectacle as the god of thunder is convinced he does not need to participate in a battle against his former Avenger cohort:

Thor: Yes! Hey! Hey! [referring to Hulk] We know each other. He’s a friend from work.  [to Hulk] Where have you been? Everybody thought you were dead. But so much has happened since I last saw you . . . Oh, Banner, I never thought I would say this, but I…I’m happy to see you.

Hulk: No Banner. Only Hulk.

Thor: What are you doing? It’s me. It’s Thor! Banner, we’re friends. This is crazy. I don’t want to hurt you!

Thor: All right. Screw it. I know you’re in there, Banner. I’ll get you out! What’s the matter with you? You’re embarrassing me! I told them we were friends!

The contest ends with no real winner ever fully decided, and the dialogue continues in the scenes following the battle, as Thor and Hulk both recover in the same quarters:

Thor: So how long have you been like that?

Hulk: Like what?

Thor: Like this. Big, and green, and stupid.

Hulk: Hulk always Hulk.

Thor: How’d you get here?

Hulk: Quinjet.

Thor: Yes! Yes! I’m getting us out of here. This terrible, awful place. You’re gonna love Asgard. It’s big. It’s golden. Shiny.

Hulk: Hulk stay.

Thor: No, no, no. My people need me to get back to Asgard. We must prevent Ragnarok.

Hulk: Ragnarok?

Thor: The prophesied death of my home world. The end of days, it’s the end of… If you help me get back to Asgard, I can help you get back to Earth.

Hulk: Earth hate Hulk.

Thor: Earth loves Hulk. They love you. You’re one of the Avengers. One of the team, one of our friends. This is what friends do. They support each other.

Hulk: You’re Banner’s friend.

Thor: I’m not Banner’s friend. I prefer you.

Hulk: Banner’s friend.

The Ragnarok film presented viewers with not only a talking Hulk we had not yet seen to that point, but a Hulk who is confident, competent, and fully embracing being the Hulk.  He has learned to live as he really is.  Hulk has become so comfortable in his massive, green skin he dismisses any thought of returning to his human counterpart, Bruce Banner.  Earth hates Hulk for the destruction and chaos he causes and Thor is Banner’s friend for what Banner has to offer not for who he is. Banner in his human form is much like a churchboy.  He is not comfortable being himself.  He lives in near constant fear and anxiety of his nasty, ugly side slipping out and people catching a glimpse of who he really is.  Banner goes to great lengths to maintain control.  On the planet Sakaar, Hulk has found freedom to be himself and has learned, “Hulk always Hulk.”  It is on Sakaar irony once again takes center stage as Hulk is no longer just an angry, irrational monster but has learned to live peacfully as himself.

My life as a churchboy was a life of not being who I really was.  Much like Bruce Banner is on constant guard lest the Hulk reveal himself, I lived life striving to maintain an image of who I thought I should be, who I thought others expected me to be, and, more importantly and frightening, who I thought God expected me to be.  I allowed myself to be convinced pleasing God came only through following church customs and traditions I accepted without questioning.  Condemnation is overwhelming when you fall short of reading the prescribed amount of scripture per day, if you skip a church meeting, if church members discover the television shows or movies you like to watch or realize you listen to music which is not only not played on the local Christian radio stations, but does not mention God or Jesus at all and simply describes the ups and downs, joys and heartaches of life.  Life as a churchboy, described more fully here, is a life of shame hiding who you really are believing no one would truly accept who you really are just as Hulk is convinced Thor is only Banner’s friend.  The churchboy doesn’t realize, “Hulk always Hulk.”  He isn’t aware his true self is always there and the uncontrollable beast within can only be tamed so long before it erupts.

In Psalm 139:14, David makes a statement I could never admit as a churchboy:

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.

He acknowledges he was created and made by God and based on that acknowledgement confidently admits God’s work is wonderful.  Known as a man after God’s own heart, David did not live life as a churchboy.  The Message shares David’s confession (along with verses 13 – 16) with poetic beauty:

Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
    you formed me in my mother’s womb.
I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking!
    Body and soul, I am marvelously made!
    I worship in adoration—what a creation!
You know me inside and out,
    you know every bone in my body;
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
    how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
    all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
The days of my life all prepared
    before I’d even lived one day.

David was convinced of not only God’s love for him but also God’s intimate knowledge and involvement of every detail of his life.

To stick out like a sore thumb means to be obviously different from surrounding people or things.  When you have a sore thumb, it’s not something you have to announce or proclaim.  The thumb is obvious either by the bandage it wears or simply by protruding from its normal location.  In recent conversations, my voice broke and I was shocked to hear myself say aloud, “For the first time in my life, I know who I really am and I am at peace with that.”  I am finally comfortable in my own skin and I pray it displays with a joy and peace that is so obviously different from those around me their curiosity is piqued enough to ask.

Churchboys believe God is just Banner’s friend, but, much like my beloved big, green monster, the love and grace of God is wild, ravaging, and uncontrollable.  The wake of destruction left in Hulk’s path pales in comparison to what truly remains as the tidal wave of grace destroys false traditions, thoughts, and ideas we once believed.  There may be some who, like Earth, hate Hulk and are truly only Banner’s friend seeking only what Banner has to offer but true grace is comfortable sticking out like a sore thumb and isn’t just Banner’s friend.

Rocky

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