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Posts Tagged ‘God’

By Mike Edwards

The Bible may be one major reason people are done with religion or spirituality. I am not convinced most people are opposed to believing in the possibility of a God out of rebellion; instead understandings about God shape attitudes toward God. Don’t believe everything you hear about the Bible! Biblical authors were possibly encouraged by God to write about their experiences, but I have my doubts that God always controlled their thoughts/words of the Bible.

It is perfectly normal to question the Bible and God.  

I Samuel 15:3 says God told Israel: “Now go, attack the Amalekites… put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.” There are hundreds of passages like this in the Old Testament. Is there any rational reason that a good God would endorse genocide? Reading the Bible with a questioning spirit rather than blind acceptance may lead to a more accurate understanding of God. God, like any parent, rather be challenged than ignored.

We really can’t know if the Bible is infallible or our interpretations are correct.  

It is circular logic to suggest the Bible is infallible or inspired because biblical writers make such a claim. Many do not accept the Quran being infallible because it claims to be. Writers weren’t saying they always heard an audible voice when writing “God said.”  God’s freedom-giving nature doesn’t support God performing a lobotomy on biblical writers’ impressions of God. 

Besides, literature require interpretation and we can’t be sure of a writer’s meaning. Forget the Older Testament! Scholars disagree what God thinks about divorce, homosexuality, hell, etc. in the NT. The reality of disagreement makes infallibility an impossibility. Many don’t openly admit their interpretations may be wrong but give the impression their interpretations are infallible. 

Why might people insist on a perfect Bible.  

Pastors and professors may lose their job questioning the Bible being the definitively guide on what God is like. I didn’t always speak openly about my mental health profession for fear of losing my job. See my journey with the Bible here.  It is objected that if the Bible isn’t inspired, “then you can’t know God for certain.” This assumes of course interpretations are infallible. Many leaders aren’t comfortable claiming uncertainty. It is easier giving advice due to supposed certainty rather than listening and helping one make their own decisions.

It is said we can’t know God if not through the Bible. 

Did billions born into this world who never had a Bible or heard of Jesus know nothing about their Creator? Even the Bible claims we best know God through God’s spirit than the written word. Universal moral outrage toward murder, abuse, etc., hints of a common, human Creator’s influence through our moral intuitions. Why do most oppose murder, abuse, thievery, etc. whether believing in God or not? We just know we ought to treat others like we want to be treated. The reason some condemn women in the priesthood is because supposedly a Book disapproves in God’s name. 

It is said uncertainty about God leads to chaos or lawlessness.

Certainty is an illusion because even if God is Truth, we still have to discern what is Truth. Failing to read the Bible with an open-mind motivated by love and putting oneself in another’s shoes has led to condemning gays in God’s name. Uncertainty can force us to accept one another’s differences. Different opinions, expressed without physical or verbal aggression, can stand side by side as we continually evaluate the most loving approach. Differences don’t have to lead to chaos but can be resolved by remaining open-minded to new understandings and creative solutions. 

It is said the Bible is of no value if it misrepresents God. 

The Bible records beginnings with God culminating with the life of Jesus that we don’t possess in any other documents. God can draw us to do good and shun evil when talking about God or reading the Bible reflectively in striving to be more the person we desire to be. But remember, the majority born never had a Bible so God may speak to us by other means. 

Don’t read the Bible if it discourages you from loving others like you want to loved. We may be better off without the Bible if a Book replaces our relationship with God and common moral sense. Read the Bible reflectively than for solutions to specific problems as circumstances vary. The issue is our heart in solving problems. Reading the Bible with an open-mind motivated by love can continue to influence millions to live a more selfless life. 

It is said God is inhumane for not being more visible or clear. 

Direct communication isn’t always magical. God supposedly spoke audibly to Moses (Ex. 20) to keep the Sabbath as one of the Ten Commandments,  but some assumed that meant not helping an injured soul on the Sabbath. God’s overpowering presence in our lives may only lead to consuming guilt or fearful obligations to obey. There may be plausible justification for God not revealing themselves more openly. The road traveled of learning, reflecting, and freely choosing convictions over time may be the best journey. Beliefs are seldom life-changing if not through a relationship rather than being told what to do.   

It is said mortals should not question God but there are dangers assuming Bible infallible.   

Many reject God because of what an infallible Bible supposedly says about God. An infallible or inspired view of Scriptures has led down the slippery slope of assuming interpretations are inspired thus justifying slavery, killing infidels, and other atrocities in the name of God. We must use common moral sense. Even Jesus when leaving this earth said His Spirit, not some Book, would guide us in truth (Jn. 14:16-17; 16:13). Jesus didn’t seem worried that Truth always requires discernment.  

What might a world look like if Bible folks didn’t argue because the Bible says so? 

  • Imagine a world if women and gays were treated equally and not condemned according to God
  • Imagine a world where all followed the clear teachings of the Bible by looking out for the interests of others with God’s help
  • Imagine what a perfect God is like if the Bible didn’t exist
  • Imagine the Bible is worth reading but it matters how we read it
  • Imagine if religious leaders encourage a journey seeking self- understanding of God

For further elaboration see:  http://what-god-may-really-be-like.com/rethinking-the-bible/

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As a Christian growing up in the traditional church we always heard that atheists were our enemy. They deny the God we love and say he does not exist.

As time has gone on I have found that only part of that way of thought is correct. Atheists are not our enemies. In fact, they are no different than anyone else with the exception that they do deny that there is a God or any gods. I have several friends that are Atheists and believe it or not, they are normal people just like you and me.

AtheistsandChristiansAccording to statements made on atheists.org, “Atheism is one thing: a lack of belief in gods. Atheism is not an affirmative belief that there is no god nor does it answer any other question about what a person believes. It is simply a rejection of the assertion that there are gods. Atheism is too often defined incorrectly as a belief system. To be clear: Atheism is not a disbelief in gods or a denial of gods; it is a lack of belief in gods. Atheism is not a belief system nor is it a religion”.

The idea that Christians and Atheists are enemies and cannot get along is the wrong way to think. So many Christians see things differently and interpret the bible in so many different ways, yet we are all part of the body of Christ. We all have our unique and individual thoughts, interpretations, ways of life and interests. In the same way, although Christians and Atheists see things differently there is no reason why we cannot get along and treat each other respectfully and with kindness.

Christians and Atheists are the same in the fact that, again quoting from atheists.org “All atheists are different. Atheists come in a variety of shapes, colors, beliefs, convictions, and backgrounds. We are as unique as our fingerprints. Atheists exist across the political spectrum. We are members of every race. We are members of the LGBTQ community. There are atheists in urban, suburban, and rural communities and in every state of the nation”.

Christians come in all the same areas as mentioned above. We are all unique and, coming from a Christian perspective, we are all created in the image of God and are loved by God.

I understand that Atheists do not think this way, and that is OK. Rather than condemn one another and argue and name call, we should accept that we are different and we see things differently. Unfortunately, I see this happen from time to time from Atheists and Christians alike. I wish we could accept that we are different in this one area and treat each other with respect and decency.

AtheistsandChristians2

One last quote from atheists.org “Being an atheist doesn’t mean you’re sure about every theological question, have answers to the way the world was created, or how evolution works. It just means that the assertion that gods exist has left you unconvinced. Wishing that there was an afterlife, or a creator god, or a specific god doesn’t mean you’re not an atheist. Being an atheist is about what you believe and don’t believe, not about what you wish to be true or would find comforting”.

Not much different from Christianity. We cannot prove anything spiritually or in regard to creation or evolution or if God is real or not. We certainly believe in God. We believe Jesus came to show us that God is love, yet we cannot prove it one way or another.

I am certainly not an expert on Atheism and as a Christian I do not think Atheism is the correct way of thinking. Yet Atheists think the same way about us Christians. The main point for me is to be accepting, loving, kind and respectful to all people no matter how they choose to believe, not believe or what they do not accept. Under all the labels such as Christian, Atheist, LGBT, Muslim and so forth we are human beings who have a variety of interests in life, we want to be happy and live a good life. There is no reason why we have to act as enemies due to a different perspective on God.

From my viewpoint, God is able to take care of himself. We can talk until we are blue in the face but that will not change most people. It is the Spirit that leads people to the Father. He will convict people of what needs to be changed in their lives, it is not our job. Until God makes himself known in a way that Atheists come to know there is a God, we should accept the differences and continue to love God and love others just as they are.

(Quotes taken from atheists.org About page at https://www.atheists.org/activism/resources/about-atheism/)

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My wife and I have some friends who are very much involved and active in certain areas of ministry. We were recently talking about the passion these friends have for their particular ministry.

That got me to thinking about passion. The dictionary says passion is: ‘a strong or extravagant fondness, enthusiasm, or desire for anything’. This certainly describes our friends and we are happy that they are involved so much.

We both stated that we felt we did not have a passion like this for any particular thing. It actually made us feel a little disappointed and wondered why we did not seem to have a passion like our friends.

I think passion is great. In some ways, passion for the wrong things or done in extremes can be very tiring and frustrating. A passion for money can cause a person to work many hours, consuming their energy. Passion like that can take your strength and drain you of all energy. Yet, people who have passion for showing God’s love, helping others and use it in moderation see their lives enriched, strengthened and seem to have endless energy.

Passion for Jesus

The only trouble I see with passion is that it can sometimes become an obsession with the ones involved, and they can begin to expect everyone to have the same passion they have for the same thing. This is where we have to realize that God designed each of us with different gifts, abilities and passions, and they are displayed differently in each of us.

I think each of us has a passion for what God designed us to be. We may not be as outspoken or even act the same way as others with passion, but God works through us in a way that is effective according to the personality and gifts with which he designed us. We may not even realize the passion that shows through us to others, but rest assured, God will work through us to touch others with his love.

We are all designed differently, and we all act and respond in our uniqueness. I think it wrong to think we are not useful to God because we do not act like someone else. God works in us and through us based on the way he created us, each unique temples of the Holy Spirit, each making an impact on those we have contact with, through the power and love of God within us.

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As Easter approaches, a popular morning TV program has been doing a series on the topic, ‘Can you be Spiritual without being Religious?’.

Now I don’t agree with every opinion given, but that the topic is being discussed is a good thing, bringing to light that there is a difference between being spiritual and being religious.

Obviously these days when you use the word spiritual, you can get into all kinds of strange thoughts and ideas. When I say spiritual, I am talking about a daily life following Christ and allowing His love to flow through us.

Spiritual Religious

My wife and I are no longer religious, but we are more aware of the spiritual, day-to-day life with God.

We realize that God is not a being up in heaven, coming down to visit us only when the conditions are right, or we are in a certain building, or we have been extremely ‘good’ over the past week.

No, God is spirit, and He is with us constantly. More than that, we are the temple of the Holy Spirit and God dwells within us. He never leaves us nor forsakes us.

I am not sure why it is we have always thought of God as a being who is way up there somewhere. The bible makes clear that we are one with God, and that God dwells within us.

We  seem to think that the Kingdom of God is a place we go one of these days when this life on earth is over. I think this also is a big misconception. God says His Kingdom is within us. That means right now, not some future date.

If we could only get these truths in our head and in our spirit, I think we could live a life that would really make a difference. People would see such a change, a life of love, caring, power and compassion. Unfortunately, we have been taught by religion that this just isn’t the case. We rely on trying to work hard, follow the rules and just survive until we get to heaven. So we go on, living life without the power of the Kingdom of God, arguing amongst ourselves over doctrine and belief, and letting people see we really don’t have anything to offer them that is meaningful and different.

It is time we come to understand that God and His Kingdom are within us. He is not up there in heaven waiting on some future day when we go to join Him. God lives in us and is with us constantly.

Jesus was the perfect example of God living in man. We can be Jesus to the world today. We can show love, compassion, and acceptance to the world around us each day. We are not God, but we are one with God. The Spirit is within us and he will teach us and guide us daily. Listen for the voice of the Spirit in every situation. Realize God is within you and allow His love to touch those around you every day.

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Do you find yourself questioning things more than you used too? I know I do.

As Christians, we’ve always been taught that we need to have the answers. Study to show thyself approved meant, you must have an answer for everything people come up with so you can prove your beliefs are right.

I remember having questions in the past, but I basically blew them off and buried them, thinking I was wrong to even think such things. As time went on, the questions kept popping up and I began to realize that questioning was not wrong.

I believe God accepts us, questions and all. I am hoping that one day I’ll have more answers, mostly for my own sake and not necessarily to defend my beliefs.

Welcometochurch

I think the modern-day church and religion in general do not like questions, at least not hard questions. Especially questions that make us wonder about the basic beliefs they teach. They like to have all the answers, and answers that fit into their particular belief and doctrine.

In his book ‘Dying to Religion and Empire: Giving up Our Religious Rites and Legal Rights’,  Jeremy Myers makes a statement that is oh so true: “And as is the nature with questions, asking hard questions rarely leads to answers, but only to more questions”

I think God is much bigger than what the church makes of him sometimes. They try to fit everything into a box and don’t like people asking questions that require out-of-the-box thinking.

It seems to me the spirit within, the spirit of truth, brings up questions that the religious system taught us and we always just accepted. Now, rather than suppressing these questions, I have allowed them to surface and truly seek God for guidance.

On February 9, 2015, Mick Mooney posted an article on Facebook, part of which says: “But who has the faith to ask questions with the intention of seeking the answers to them? Who can let their foundation be not a doctrine or dogma that must be defended, but Christ himself who needs no defense? For it is those who have their foundation solely upon Christ, who can walk in their faith without fear of questions, but rather they walk in their faith knowing that God is lighting their path with questions, and it is these very questions that are paving the path that the Spirit of God is guiding them upon”.

If you are feeling guilty for having questions, I have found it best to stop feeling that way and keep asking the questions. That is the best way to continue growing and learning in our walk with God. Even when we don’t get the answers, we should continue to be asking and seeking the truth from our Father.

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Most of us were taught to pray when we were just little kids. We were taught that God is up in heaven watching and listening, and we should pray to him every day.

As we got older, we found out that praying was actually talking to God. We were to take our praises, our needs and our concerns and tell God about them. After we did that, we should then read our bibles, because that was the way God talked back to us. I do believe he speaks through the writings of the bible by the Spirit, but I don’t think this is the only way he speaks. Certainly it is always by the Spirit no matter what he uses to communicate.

We were told to pray without ceasing, to pray with the correct style and order, and to always end our prayer with ‘in Jesus name’. If we didn’t, our prayers may not get through to God.

Why is it, at least for me, I always have a weird feeling if I don’t end my prayer with ‘in Jesus name’? Do we really need to add this phrase to the end of our talk with our Father? I know it’s not really necessary, but a lot of us always add that at the end of our prayers like it makes everything we just said official. I feel that praying in Jesus name really means that we pray in the power and authority that Jesus gave us under the New Covenant. It really isn’t a phrase that needs to be said, but an attitude and privilege we have through him.

We also have this concept that God is way up in heaven, and our prayers may not get through right away. Have you even been told that demons can interrupt our prayers and hold them up as they pass up to heaven? I always used that when I didn’t get an answer when I thought I should.

The thought of praying without ceasing always gave me a problem too. After all, how could I pray when driving a car if I had to have my eyes closed? Obviously, we don’t have to close our eyes, but that is one of those things we were taught when young, bow your head, close your eyes and fold your hands. Praying isn’t about any of those things.

I think praying without ceasing is an attitude. Since God lives within us, everything we do, everywhere we go, he is with us. He is involved in our thoughts, and our interactions with others. He loves us and is interested in every part of our lives. So, in that way of thinking, since prayer is talking with God and he lives within us, we can pray without ceasing. We can talk with him any time, any place, in any position and in any style. There really isn’t a right and wrong way to talk with our Father, who loves us and wants to communicate with us.

Sometimes I think we make prayer to religious. It has to be done a certain way, in a certain order and in the right attitude. We need to have ourselves prepared and ‘cleaned up’ to come into God’s presence.

What happened to the fact that we are the temple of the Holy Spirit, that we are one with God, that the Father and Son have come and made their home in us? The way I see it, there is nothing that can hinder us talking with God (not even taking prayer out of schools). He is right here within us, there is no need to worry about our prayers getting interrupted.

I have been thinking, if prayer is talking to God, it really doesn’t have to be in a certain order or style. It doesn’t have to be when we are feeling holy, it is a daily talk with our Father, no matter what our mood. Our earthly fathers didn’t required we come to them at a set time, or in a set place, or speak to them in a specific way, so why would we expect our heavenly Father to require all these things?

Talking to God

We can be ourselves, we can just talk, question, complain, praise, request, and know that God is listening and concerned. We aren’t going to upset him with our bad attitude, poor choice of words or even our questions. After all, he loves us and accepts us just as we are.

So, I’m finding that prayer is not a religious act, but a daily attitude, talking and communicating with God our Father who lives within us. And since the Spirit lives within us, we will hear and know his voice which comes from within. It is the Spirit that speaks and teaches us, no matter what method he uses to do so.

I think it all boils down to this, God wants to communicate with us. I’m not sure there is really a right or wrong way to talk with Him. If we are formal, informal, if we feel good or bad, holy or not, if we say ‘in Jesus name’ or not, God loves us and wants us to talk with Him all the time.

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We all want to have friends. Have you ever heard the phrase, to make a friend you have to be a friend? Obviously, everyone wants to be liked and have friends that are likeable and easy to be around.

Thing is, I think it is important to also be yourself. Not everyone is going to like you and want to be friends. I’ve seen people work so hard to change and be someone they normally aren’t, just to be friends with someone they think would be fun to be around.

My thought is if you have to change who you are, why do you need that kind of friend?

There is another thing that bothers me about friendship. Have you ever met someone for the first time and they just seem so friendly and interested in you? I have been through this several times. I would run into someone in the store or out for a walk, and they are smiling and so interested in getting to know a little about me. I get kind of anxious to get to know them and see if a new friendship was starting. Then, I get a call or an email and get asked if we could meet for coffee and talk a while.

After the second time this happened, I started realizing that so far, each time this has happened, it was someone with an ulterior motive.

They really were not interested in me; they were interested in what I could do for them. Basically, they were selling something and looking for new people to join in under them doing the same thing.

I tell you, this was so disappointing each time it happened. I was thinking, wow, what a nice person. I would like to get to know them and get to be friends. Then, wham, the rug was pulled out from under me by finding out they only wanted to make a sell or add me to their sales network.

True friends are hard to find. Even among people who aren’t selling and do not have ulterior motives, it’s hard to find a true friend.

Most of the friends we have are friends as long as we have the same interests, or involved in the same activities, go to the same places or work together, but outside of that, we usually don’t see each other or talk.

True friends love us and accept us as just as we are. They aren’t waiting until we change and become more like them. They are actually interested in us. They want to see us succeed. They feel comfortable telling us things that aren’t popular or what we want to hear when they know we are getting into something that isn’t good for us.

A true friend will be there for you even when we are miles apart, or when we have different interests and activities. A true friend is one of the hardest things to find in this world.

Now as followers of Christ, we have the best and most true friend possible in Jesus. But let’s be real, we need a flesh and blood person right in front of us to discuss things, do things together, encourage and support each other, and cry with one another.

Jesus will never leave us, he will never forsake us. He is closer than a brother and the best friend we will ever have in life. Yet, in this life we need human friends. And those human friends, if you think about it, are almost like having Jesus right in front of you. Since we are now the temple of the Spirit, God living in us, we in a sense are Jesus to each other. Now I’m not saying we are God, but His Spirit lives within us and we can love and accept each other through that common truth more than anything.

So for those shallow people who are only looking for someone to use and get things from, I would rather not even start a friendship. We still love everyone through Christ, but we don’t have to be friends with everyone. Pray for the guidance of the Spirit to lead you to those God has to be true friends in your life, and see Christ in the brother and sisters he brings along.

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