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Posts Tagged ‘freedom’

by Jim Gordon

There seems to be so much confusion among Christians in regard to law and grace. Most believe we are saved by grace, but many have a misunderstanding as to what part the law plays in our lives today. I think the mistake a lot of Christians make is that we do not truly accept or understand the whole concept of grace. Grace is a free gift given to us by God. When Jesus died, he took our sinful nature and destroyed it.

As stated in Galatians 2:16, 19-21, “nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified… For through the Law, I died to the Law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly”.

Jesus restored our perfect, righteous nature and our fellowship as sons and daughters of God. Nothing we did, and nothing we can do can add to it or pay for it. It is a totally free gift provided by Christ. It is hard for us to accept this without feeling the need to do something to justify God’s love for us. We think we need to do something to make us worthy to come to God. This is performance-based living and not grace. Grace is a gift. Grace is God making us righteous and in fellowship with him, not of our own doing, but the free gift provided by Jesus.

Jesus lived and taught under the law. Yet, the important part to remember is that everything changed after the death and resurrection of Jesus.

As Jesus lived under the Old Covenant Law as Galatians 4:4,5 states, “But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons”. Jesus had to live by and obey all the commandments, ceremonial rules and laws so He could fulfill the old covenant. Jesus said on the cross, ‘it is finished’, meaning He had lived under the Old Covenant, lived a perfect life and fulfilled the law, thereby restoring our fellowship with our God.

Not until the time of His death and resurrection was the Law fulfilled and a New Agreement took effect. At this time, the new covenant took effect. A new agreement in which we live by grace and not by trying to fulfill the Law.

So, since the old covenant has been fulfilled and we live by grace, why do so many of us still feel a need to live by old covenant law? Why do we seem to want to put ourselves back under slavery to an old set of rules when Christ has fulfilled them and done away with that need?

Galatians 5:1-4 reads, “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore, keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision” (a part of the law), “Christ will be of no benefit to you. And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law. You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace”. With Christ as our sacrifice, we in a sense died also. And since we died, we can now live free from the law as written in Romans 7:1-8 “Or do you not know, brethren (for I am speaking to those who know the law), that the law has jurisdiction over a person as long as he lives? For the married woman is bound by law to her husband while he is living; but if her husband dies, she is released from the law concerning the husband. So then, if while her husband is living, she is joined to another man, she shall be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from the law, so that she is not an adulteress though she is joined to another man. Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the Law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death. But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter. What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, you shall not covet. But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind; for apart from the Law sin is dead”.

Before grace, we could not live up to the standards of the law because we are an imperfect people. Now that Jesus has fulfilled the law, we are restored to fellowship with God. Although we still fall from time to time in this life, it is all covered by the blood of Christ and where sin abounds, grace much more abounds. We are no longer required to live up to the Law that we could not live up to in the first place.

Now that we live by grace and faith in Jesus, the law, which was our tutor to point out our sin, is no longer needed. Galatians 3:23-26 states, “But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. Therefore, the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor” (the law). “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus”. To say we need to live trying to obey the law and the ten commandments is saying that Jesus blood alone was not enough to cleanse us from our sins.

The Bible goes so far as to say that if we still try to live by obeying the old covenant law we live under a curse, as Galatians 3:10-13 reads, “For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, to perform them. Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, the righteous man shall live by faith. However, the Law is not of faith; on the contrary, he who practices them shall live by them. Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us, for it is written, cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”.

We are told in Matthew to be perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. Obviously, there is no way we can do this on our own, but God would not have told us to be perfect if it were not possible to do so. Since we could not do it on our own, He made a way for us. The only way we can be perfect, is through grace. Accepting the free gift of grace through Christ will allow us to live out the new covenant commands of Christ, which are to accept Christ, love God and love others. The law that is mentioned under the new covenant is always to love God and love others stated in Galatians 5:14, “For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.

This is further pointed out in 1 John 3:23, “this is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us”; 1 John 4:21 And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also”; and again in 2 John 1:6, “And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love”. We are totally incapable of living up to the law and we are no longer required to do so. Christ died and by His grace, we were made righteousness and restored to proper fellowship with God.

God has provided such a fantastic gift of freedom for us, and most of us today just do not realize all that entails. Because of grace, it is as though we have never sinned and will never sin. Not because of anything we have done, or can do, but because God loves us enough that he sent his Son to take our sins, past, present and future, and because of His grace we stand perfect in the eyes of God.

Now we need to walk in that freedom and follow the Spirit, loving God, loving others and not worry about the old covenant law, but live a life for God through love. Galatians 5:16-18 reads, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law”.

Thanks be to God, we now live by grace, not trying to live up to rules and laws that we cannot do. We are free in Christ to live a life of love for God and for all we come in contact. We no longer do things out or obligation, but we do them out of love for God and want to do what pleases Him.

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

Growing up in church was a fun time learning about God and meeting people who usually had pretty similar beliefs. Yet, it seems the more we learn about the grace of God and the freedom it brings, Christian life can be a little frustrating.

Is it just me, or do you find it frustrating to realize that some of the teachings we have grown up with in church may be wrong? Do you get confused with all the different doctrines and Bible interpretations, and hearing all the different opinions of others? Do you get tired of all the fighting and disagreements over different beliefs?

It can get pretty discouraging seeing all the postings on social media and all the arguments and disagreements, sometimes heatedly, about personal views and interpretations. Many are basic views we have grown up with, yet now we question whether they are from God or are they man’s wrong interpretation.

No matter how you interpret the scriptures, no matter how much you believe your way of thinking on spiritual matters, someone else will have a completely different view. No matter what church you attend, what doctrine you follow or if you have stopped attending a church at all, we know that Christians are not going to agree on everything. We all have a different view of biblical interpretations. Depending on which church or denomination you belong or grew up in, or which pastor you listen to, our views are usually slanted in that particular way.

I often wonder why we cannot accept each other, no matter what our interpretation. Truthfully, none of us can prove most of what we believe, be it faith in God, heaven, hell and a vast array of other topics. Our beliefs are all by faith. We cannot prove, or disprove, anything.

I think we should ask the Spirit daily for guidance into truth. Hold to what you believe, but be open enough to change when God gives a clearer view of the truth. When someone has a different way of looking at things, accept them as a fellow Christian. You do not have to agree with them, but who knows, they might be right.

I do not think any of us can say without a doubt who is completely right or wrong in our interpretations. We should seek for truth through the Spirit, and let everyone have their right to do the same. Quit fighting and arguing over who is right and who is wrong. God never said ‘by this everyone will know that you are my disciples if you agree with one another’. No, it is by love. We are to love God and love one another even in our disagreements.

One thought comes to mind in all this, ‘Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so’. The most basic and simple thing we learned long ago, yet seems to be one of the most consistent things of which we can all agree.

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 recently wrote that God can’t know the future. See here. It is natural to think an all-knowing, powerful God knows future outcomes but if the future is settled, we humans are not truly free to make decisions. Such decisions have already been decided. To say God knows the future makes freedom nonsensical. God not being able to force the future requires we wonder what God can guarantee.

Even the Bible suggest an all-powerful God can’t know the future

The Bible suggests in many passages that God doesn’t know the future. For example, in the beginning the writers suggested that an all-powerful Being doesn’t know much less control the future. Genesis 6:5-6 speaks of God regretting decisions: “God saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on earth…God regretted that he had made human beings on the earth and his heart was deeply troubled.” Does God really make regrettable decisions? Other biblical passages refer to God changing their mind depending on what choices humans freely make.

Can God make any guarantees then? 

God can’t guarantee life without death, violence, suffering, and struggle and yet there be free will. True love and genuine relationships aren’t possible without the choice to not love. Forced love is an oxymoron. God hasn’t left us clueless how to live life to the fullest. I somehow know I am created to treat others like I want to be treated. A Creator surely loves how we were created to love. God can guarantee a life with fewer regrets if open to their influence.

Can we screw up Heaven because of freedom?

God’s guarantee and offer of life after death isn’t dependent on human freedom. If love requires freedom though, it seems this would be true here on earth and life after death. Perhaps character developed on earth may eventually lead to seeing no good reasons for doing bad in heaven, which surely is the highest form of freedom. If sin is possible in heaven because of the presence of freedom, we can at least hope God’s presence will have a greater impact than earthly, human authority to dissuade selfishness. We thrive more under certain types of parental love and leadership because of their qualities such as integrity and understanding.

Good News despite lack of guarantees!

God isn’t hiding a “known” future for important decisions. God joins us in an open future. God wants us to truly feel free to pursue our own dreams without strings attached, unlike some earthly parents. God only desires to influence us to do all the good we can, in all the places we can, at all the times we can, to all the people we can, as long as we can. The future is open to God as well. God joins us in a true friendship by sharing our joys and sorrows in our journey to be the person we deep down desire to be, while deterring any suffering possible without violating freedoms. Such an earthly journey may be necessary to not choose evil in heaven.

MikeEdwardsprofilepic125

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 Mike Edwards

It seems intuitive a loving Creator would love the way we were created to love. It isn’t too presumptuous to imagine what a loving God is like though our moral intuitions, our consciences. Christians may argue we should trust “biblical truths” about God and the future, but scholars don’t agree if the Bible suggests God does or doesn’t know the future. We have to think intuitively what a freedom creating God would know about the future in order to be perfectly loving.

Freedom requires that God can’t know the future

It is natural to think an all-powerful God knows everything including the future. But freedom is necessary for perhaps the highest good in relationships – authenticity. Freedom has possible consequences such as suffering but if God didn’t create freedom, we could accuse God of not creating the “most loving” world. It isn’t that God keeps themselves from knowing the future. It’s that an undetermined future is unknowable. God may know all possibilities, but the future must be open if we are truly free and God is truly loving.

Why it matters that God doesn’t know the future

It is natural to think an all-knowing, powerful God has special insights into future outcomes to avoid problems. But 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. A human parent would warn their child if they knew ahead of time of heartbreaks. God isn’t hiding a “known” future for important decisions. God joins us in an open future.

Freedom allows not being anxious about making “right decisions” or missing God’s will

We already know the mind of God when it comes to moral decisions; otherwise, God supports us in making best decisions at the time that make our lives and the lives of others better. Joy and good is achieved by taking any number of paths and avoiding immoral paths. The good news about God not knowing the future is that we can feel God truly want us to feel free without strings attached. God seeks only to influence us to do all the good we can, in all the places we can, at all the times we can, to all the people we can, as long as we can.

Uncontrolling love can explain why God can’t intervene more with evil

Atheists and believers agree. The only God worth believing in and following is a perfect, loving God. Can God manipulate others? We would say no because love doesn’t manipulate. We hate when we see friends try to control others for their own reasons or gain. God can’t control evil because God’s very nature is love and true love is uncontrolling. Ask any adult child! A God who can control evil leads to asking “why or what is God punishing me for” or “God, do you really love me?”

Uncontrolling love can explain why God doesn’t answer our prayers 

Let’s be honest. More prayers are unanswered than answered. God can’t wave a magic wand without accounting for freedom. We can talk to God for self-examination, for sharing our concerns, and not feeling alone in a chaotic world. We tell others to seek influence from the right people to make wiser choices. It isn’t that you didn’t beg enough or have the right attitude. It isn’t that God had the power to do something about it, but chose not to; it’s that God can’t. Divine love limits divine power. God though is always doing all they can in a free world before, during, and after our prayers.

A God who doesn’t knows the future is more relatable 

A known or set future suggests one isn’t truly free to choose otherwise. Even the Bible speaks often as if God doesn’t know the future. God hopes Israel would accept God’s guidance, but Israel often turned against God (i.e., Jer. 3:19-20). We don’t have to play mental gymnastics by assuming God is only pretending to not know future decisions. When the Bible says God grieves with us in our suffering, we can know God agonizes with us each step of the way and deters any suffering possible without violating freedoms or acting controlling. God joins us in our joys and sorrows.

MikeEdwardsprofilepic125

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 Mike Edwards

Both the belief that God exist or doesn’t exist requires faith. Let’s not accuse those who put their faith in God as needing a crutch or accuse those who question the reality of an invisible God as being in denial or immoral. Those of any faith or religion must in politics, business, or friendships respectful convey rights to not believe in God or supposed biblical truths.

One Christian nation can’t exist

A “Christian nation” implies or requires all believe the same. This is a violation of God’s very nature. God created freedom of beliefs for the possibility of authentic relationships. A parent guides their children to freely make future choices hopefully for their benefit as well as for others. God would be a terrible terrorist or extremist since opposed to forcing personal beliefs on others.

But, didn’t God choose one nation under God such as with Israel in the Old Testament? God choose Israel as a mouthpiece to introduce God in the beginning, but God wanted to have a relationship with all nations (i.e. Gen. 12:3). Other nations could look to Israel to compare God against their gods. Jesus didn’t try to turn the Roman Empire into a Christian nation. Jesus taught that serving was more important than gaining power.

A free society isn’t an immoral society 

We all have friends not into God that are moral, and we have Christians friends who seem closer to the devil than God. A society that doesn’t respect freedom to believe in God or not, seems destiny for tyranny. Most Christians think such freedom was given to us by our Creator.

So, everything goes! C’mon! Who doesn’t believe murder or physical or sexual abuse is wrong? We aren’t always certain how to best love, but most know that we ought to love others as we want to be loved. Different opinions on immigration, health care or taxes can stand side by side as we discuss the most loving approach.

Using the Bible as foundational truth

Christians give speeches or hold signs up at civil protests to argue we must follow “biblical truths” as a nation. This is a disregard for freedom of beliefs for all and ignores that differing biblical interpretations exist for major moral issues. See here.  I can’t imagine Jesus holding up a sign. He simply spoke of and lived out caring for others. That is how you make policy.

Discussing what are biblical truths are more appropriate in a worship setting where all share the same beliefs about God. I am convinced though an open view as opposed to an inspired or inerrant view of Scriptures encourages more contemplating what a loving God is really like. And surely an inaudible Creator influences though our moral intuitions. Common, moral sense is not the enemy.

God and politics

The only way we can be a Christian nation is if all believe in God or at least forced to. We must not speak as if all must believe the same. We are fortunate to be able to freely to speak of influences in our life. When people ask what influences or motivates me, I talk about God’s presence in my life. That can be voiced in the public square as well. But our language must carefully respect the beliefs of others and not assume or insist on a belief in God. I believe as a God-follower that God can inspire unselfish motives but each must make that relational decision for themselves.

MikeEdwardsprofilepic125

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 Mike Edwards

Freedom by God is necessary for perhaps the highest good in relationships – authenticity. Not even God can force true love. Freedom has possible consequences such as suffering, but if God didn’t create freedom we could accuse God of not creating the “most loving” world. So, freedom must exist here or earth and freedom surely exist in heaven.

Freedom requires that God can’t know the future.

The future must be open if we are truly free and God is truly loving. There really isn’t freedom if the future is already known thus determined. The good news about God not knowing the future is that we can feel God truly want us to feel free without strings attached. Is that what we desire to feel from our human parents when making decisions?

Why it matters that God doesn’t know the future.

A young woman may ask God for wisdom in marrying their partner. It seems a match made in heaven, but their partner becomes abusive. If God supposedly knows the future, why didn’t God warn the young woman? A human parent would warn their child if they knew ahead of time. God isn’t hiding a “known” future for important decisions. A controlling God can lead to asking “why or what is God punishing me for” or “God, do you really love me?”

We don’t have to live in fear of making “right decisions” or missing out on God’s will. We already know the mind of God when it comes to moral decisions; otherwise, God supports us in making best decisions at the time that make our lives and the lives of others better. There isn’t one correct decision. Joy and good is achieved by taking any number of paths and avoiding immoral paths.

Even the Bible suggest an all-powerful God can’t know the future.

Hundreds of biblical passages could be cited to defend either God does or doesn’t know the future. For example, in the beginning the writers suggested that an all-powerful Being doesn’t know much less control the future. Genesis 6:5-6 speaks of God regretting decisions: “God saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on earth…God regretted that he had made human beings on the earth and his heart was deeply troubled.” If God knew the outcome of decisions, why did God make regrettable decisions? Many biblical passages refer to God changing their mind depending on what choices humans freely make.

What About Freedom In Heaven Then?

It would not be loving for God to force others to accept God’s ways even in heaven. Perhaps character developed on earth may eventually lead to seeing no good reasons for doing bad in heaven, which surely is the highest form of freedom. If one wishes to entertain the possibility of sin in heaven because of the presence of freedom, we can at least hope God’s presence will have a greater impact than earthly, human authority to dissuade selfishness. We thrive more under certain types of parental love and leadership because of their qualities such as integrity and understanding. Also, we can hope heaven will not have certain negative temptations.

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By Mike Edwards

When my parents, partner, or friends believe in me, respect me, hope or trust in me – I am more inspired. Does God love us in the same way? We all struggle to be the person we desire to be deep down. Many struggle with habits that they regret each time they break a promise. God surely knows such regrets. Loving parents never give up on their child becoming what they know them to be like. Is God any less loving?

Why would an all-powerful God give us freedom?   

Freedom in relationships is necessary for true love. God obviously created us with freedom because of all the evil in the world contrary to God’s desires. Controlling behaviors never lead to true intimacy desired in relationships. The truth is parents or God are dependent on others to have genuine relationships. God puts their hopes and trust in us as do loving uncontrolling parents.

God can’t know or control the future and truly love!                                      

If the future is knowable and not open, I can’t act otherwise. God controlling the future is no different than parents dictating to their older children what career or partner they must pursue. God must be uncontrolling or God is uncaring. God must have faith and be vulnerable just as our parents when having us. The Bible agrees God doesn’t know the future. God regrets (I Sam. 15:10-11); God relents (Jonah 3:10); God is surprised (Is. 5); God changes their mind (Jer. 18:8-10).

How dare you compare God’s love to human love!

We may not always know what perfect love entails but intuitively we know the question we ought to ask ourselves – am I loving others perfectly or am I loving others like our Creator loves. A Creator surely loves in ways God’s creations sense they ought to love others Even the Bible suggests God’s love is the same as perfect human love: “Be perfect, therefore as your heavenly Parent is perfect” (Mt. 5:48); be imitators of God (Eph. 5:1); be merciful like God (Lk. 6:36). God is often claimed a mystery because one’s interpretation of Scriptures makes God seem evil. Such interpreters sense intuitively God and perfect human love are the same.

God is love but what does that mean? 

An unloving God isn’t worth believing in. God’s love surely is the same as supreme parents – other-directed not self-consumed. Love gets excited when we do well and make a difference in the lives of others. Love anticipates, hopes for our success, believes in us. God is pulling for me, even when failing, because I do the same for my children. We doubt God but God still loves. God may worry but still hopes. God either believes in, hopes for us, builds us up, or doesn’t love us at all.

We matter to God!

We commit to relationships not knowing how they will turn out. God too! If you claim to love someone, you suffer when things don’t turn out as you hoped. God too! Even if you don’t believe Jesus was really divine and human, many believe Jesus may have been the most perfect person in the world like God. Jesus trusted, hoped, and had faith in others. We may feel hopeless at times but not God. God believes in and loves you the same way you want to be loved by your parents!

Resource and must read: Wm. Curtis Holtzen, The God Who Trust: A Relational Theology Of Divine Faith, Hope, and Love

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by Jordan Hathcock

Ritual is simply a set of practices in a period of chaos so we can experience the chaos safely.  –Jason Coker

In a time of unrest and chaos, the tool that seems to work most effectively is the practice of rites and rituals. Now, this can be (and most likely is) triggering for most of us who have experienced unhealthy spiritual practices. Religious Trauma Syndrome (RTS) is something more and more people are dealing with and I know its something that is not to be taken lightly. When it comes to the Christian tradition, the “church” has not always been a place that produces healthy rites and rituals to assist us in getting through the ambiguous times in our lives. Instead, church practices often get the process ass backwards: We develop rites and rituals to control and manipulate people to believe and act a certain way instead of creating spaces available for us to grow in these times of pandemonium. Cognitive dissonance is viewed as an issue of faith instead of a step needed to be taken within the spiritual journey.

Deconstruction has been the “new” practice within the religious sphere in the last twenty years or so due to many factors. With the new internet age and the huge amount of access to resources, its been more and more difficult for the “powers that be” to keep a more discrete way of posturing when it comes to past, present and future church practices. Postmodernism has brought a lot of problems to be answered when it comes to religious institutions. When people have these crises of faith, the church is not equipped with the space (rites and rituals) to help heal and liberate those who need it. Deconstruction is a step that should be perceived as a healthy process that helps us mature in our faith. It shouldn’t be perceived as a problem to be solved but as a ritual to be practiced. We must learn to let go of corrosive practices of rules due to fear and embrace a more playful experimental practice of understanding.

How does that look like? Well, there are many ways we can experience spiritual practices that help us through the journey of life. It doesn’t have to be practices in a “brick and mortar” church setting. It can be a nature walk, surfing (my favorite), exercising, playing music, painting a picture, or crafting some good beer (my other favorite). There are various of ways to experience divine guidance. The Christian traditions rites and rituals that have been with us for 2,000 plus years can be practiced in a new light as well. We can always find new ways to interpret and repurpose a practice within a church setting to help us better connect and move to more liberating heights. Traditions are good if used in a healthy and freeing way. We can let go of the damaging aspects of a rite and ritual and still actually practice the act itself. I understand some are unable to ever practice certain rites and rituals within Christianity due to RTS and that is OK! Along as you find some time of ritual to practice to better center you as a human being, I think the world can benefit from it. With that being said, there are still some beautiful practices with this Christian religion that I still find beneficial. An example that I have come to experience when it comes to repurposing a certain spiritual practice is Communion/Eucharist/Lords Table (whatever name floats your boat).

The tradition that I grew up in (L.D.S.) named this practice The Sacrament. It has elements of truth (like all spiritual practices do in a sense) but also some pretty damaging aspects as well. In my opinion and experience (along with many others) the concept of purity codes comes to mind. In order to partake of the sacrament, you had to be “worthy” and “believe” in the church’s teachings. The point of this ritual is to renew the covenant you made at baptism. Unfortunately, this interpretation of the purpose of the Lords Table misses some really important factors to help oneself to become part of the gospel message. Instead of bringing us together with Christ and participating in the way of love, it becomes a rule one must follow in order to remain a “member of a church”. We are not part of some corporation that keeps track of its members “loyalty”. This also brings out zealot faith and judgment on others who do not partake of Communion. This should not be the point of why we partake of the bread and wine of Christ.

Fortunately, I found a Church (Oceanside Sanctuary ) that has taken the practice of Communion to a level of healing and liberation one needs when it comes to healthy rites and rituals (yes, a bold claim I know). We think it is important to take Communion weekly, so we can come to the table of love and mercy despite our differences. Let’s face it, we all have our own views on anything from sex, politics, sports, education and of course on our theological views regarding the Christian tradition itself. But, guess what? Unity is possible within diversity. That is what Jesus came to bring. The commonwealth of God is the reality where love can guide us to true freedom even through our messy differences. If we cannot practice healthy rite & rituals in a church setting, how the hell will we ever expect to see needed results outside the sanctuary walls?…

For Christians, to share in the Eucharist, the Holy Communion, means to live as people who know that they are always *guests*—that they have been welcomed and that they are wanted. It is perhaps the most simple thing that we can say about Holy Communion, yet it is still supremely worth saying. In Holy Communion, Jesus Christ tells us that he wants our company. -Rowan Williams

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by Jim Gordon

We human beings all have opinions and personal views on how we think we and others should live. Christian people also have opinions and views plus the added interpretations of the bible.

Sad thing is that often times we want to force our views on others and expect them to see things the same way. When they do not do that, things can get quite ugly sometimes.

After a few days of watching my father-in-law deteriorate in his health, seeing him in the hospital and then going to rehab for a couple weeks, it really makes you think about life.

When your health is not good you seem to lose your thoughts about differences of opinions. You forget about who is right or wrong. You do not seem to think as much about standing your ground and trying to force your views on others.

He has nurses and aides who are male and female, black and white, LGBTQ and straight, along with other nationality backgrounds and you know what, it does not make any difference to him. These are normal people doing their job. He depends on them and they take care of him.

Why is it we human beings cannot act more like this every day, not just when something is going wrong with our health. People are people and there is no reason to be treating anyone with judgment, condemnation and hatred.

It seems many christian people feel it is our duty to point out the mistakes of others. We are to act on behalf of the Holy Spirit by convicting people who we think are sinning. Often what christian people view as sins are not sins at all, but an incorrect interpretation of bible verses that had different meanings and written to different people. Even when people are doing something that is sinful, it is not our job to take a self-righteous stand and convict them. We all have been there and done something that is sinful.

That fact is that no matter what, we are all loved by God. As christians we are only told to love God and love one another. People are free to live as they see is right. Any conviction comes from the Holy Spirit, not the people of God. We are only called to love.

Many will say that loving people will mean we sometimes have to show tough love. We have to point out their mistakes or they will go on sinning and their blood will be upon our hands. Again, the bible says the Spirit will draw people to God. We are not responsible for drawing people to God or changing their views of what is right or wrong. We are to love people, unconditionally just as God loves us.

How many people are drawn to God out of the hateful and condemning ways many people use to try and guilt them into coming to God? How many people are drawn because of fear? A few maybe, but is coming to God out of fear really love? Love draws and God says to love even your enemies.

Do not wait until some terrible event gets your mind off of your opinions and your interpretations. Follow the example of Jesus every day of your life by loving God and loving people.

You do not have to agree with everyone, none of us ever will anyway. Yet live your life doing what you feel God is leading you to do. Allow others the same freedom. Love them with godly love. God is able to draw people and change them in the areas that need changing. Even when the change does not happen, they are still loved by God and they should still be loved by us.

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by Jim Gordon

After forty-eight years of work, retirement came as something I had looked forward to for many years. Yet once it happened the first thought was who am I now? What is my purpose? What is my identity?

All those years my identity was in what I did for a career. Now that it is over there were issues about who is the real me? Not the part that pertains to a job title but the real me. What makes up Jim Gordon apart from a job? What are my beliefs and what are the things that make me tick?

I have found that I am truly not my job title. There is more to me than a title at work. It is the same for all of us, once the title of our job is gone, it is time to re-familiarize ourselves with the real us, the one that has been there all along but hidden behind the job title.

I started thinking about who I am and what I believe and came up with a few thoughts. Just because I no longer have a job title does not mean I do not have something to offer. I believe we are all created in the image of God and we all have something we can contribute to show love and encourage others.

My first thoughts were more on things I am not: I am not into organized church, denominations or any particular doctrine. I am not into politics. I do not belong to any political party. I do vote, but I vote for who I feel will do the best job no matter what party they belong too. I am not into exclusion, separation or treating others with contempt. I do not want to judge others or try to force my views on anyone.

I have come to realize that we all have so many different views and opinions that I am not going to be able to please everyone. No matter what I believe, what I say, what my opinions are there are going to be people who totally disagree. I have come to accept that and to go on being me without the worry of what others think.  I am not sure why we fight and argue amongst ourselves so much.

I feel the person I am now is to live a quiet life, working with my own hands, loving God and loving others without the worry of what others think. We are each free to believe what we feel is right. I want to live a life pleasing to God, be responsible for hearing from the Spirit and doing what I feel is right for me.

I want to love people, accept others and show them the love of God no matter what. I will stick to the views, interpretations and opinions I feel are right and let others have the same freedom.

I will accept others just as they are and will not judge, condemn or hate anyone for any reason. I believe that God loves all of us just as we are. I will do my best to do the same. I really think if we all took that view on life, we would all get along much better.

I certainly have more time now than when I worked, but that does not mean it is time to sit around and do nothing. There are plenty of opportunities to do good, to show the love of God and to serve a positive purpose in life. No matter what stage of life you are in, God has a purpose for you to show his love and encourage others each day. Seek the guidance of the Spirit from within and be ready for God to bring others across your path to love and encourage.

If you are retired or no longer working for some reason, do not give up and think that things are over. You still have purpose. You still have good you can do. As long as you have love to give, a smile to lend or a voice of encouragement to share, your purpose and potential are just as valuable and important as ever.

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