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By Mike Edwards

We cannot definitively say what an invisible, inaudible God is like or even prove that God exist. But, millions if not billions are not insane for knowing or at least hoping there is a Creator who can provide worth, perspective, meaning, and hope of life after death. We should not have hidden agendas in relationships. If people want to pursue a relationship with God, they should see in our life something worth asking about. One can argue what if it turns out there isn’t a God. What do we loss striving to be unselfish and trying to be the person we deep down desire to be with the help of our Creator? Many rightly tune out God because of claims made about God. What is God like?

Why does it matter what we think or say God is like? 

Understandings about God shape attitudes toward God. Our relationship with God cannot exceed our views of God. The more we respect our earthly or heavenly parent, the closer we are to them. Some are atheists, not because they believe God can’t exist, but because what they imagine a loving God should be like isn’t what God-followers claim. Don’t believe everything you hear! 

We can begin to understand God through our moral intuitions.

If God does exist and desires a relationship, the Bible likely isn’t the only way to know God. Over half the people born into this world never had a Bible or heard of Jesus. Also, we can’t prove if the Israelites wrote more about what they thought God to be like or what God was really like. The possibility for a universal desire to treat others like we want to be treated is a Creator communicating through our moral intuitions. We all intuitively know how we “ought” to treat others.

God is claimed to be a mystery sometimes because one’s interpretation of Scriptures suggest God is evil from a human perspective. Don’t we have an inborn intuition that God and human perfect love are the same? Even the Bible assumes we can know what perfect love is, because the Bible tells us to be perfect like God (Mt. 5:48). God’s love surely is the same as perfect human love.

We cannot definitely say what God is like according to the Bible.

It doesn’t matter if you believe the biblical writers/editors didn’t always understood God perfectly, or whether you believe God inspired every word of the Bible. Literature requires interpretation of a writer’s meaning and application to personal circumstances. This is why there is disagreement whether one should divorce or not according to the Bible. It depends on their situation. Biblical certainty is an illusion. Laypeople, much less biblical scholars who respect Scriptures as authoritative, disagree what the Bible says about same-sex relationships or gender roles to name only a few critical issues. Something isn’t immoral just because we think the Bible says so.

Can’t we at least say God is like what the New Testament and Jesus says?  

The New Testament still requires interpretation and we don’t always agree, even what Jesus would do. Many theologians rightly question if Old Testament writers always had a complete understanding of God. In OT times it was sacrilegious to not speak of God as being all-powerful and controlling even through violence. This may explain violent warfare actions in God’s name. It is suggested Jesus, who claimed to be God in the flesh, had a more complete understanding of what God is like. We still though have the challenge of interpreting Jesus’ words. Turning the other check is used to claim Jesus never advocated violence, but a possible literal translation of Mt. 5:39 is “do not resist by evil means.” Would Jesus say violence is never desired but may be necessary sometimes? We must be careful declaring the Bible said or Jesus said, especially if such beliefs hinder others from pursuing God on their own. God can explain themselves to individuals.

A God who is a moral hypocrite isn’t worth believing in!  

Believers and unbelievers at least agree an evil god is not worth believing in. Such a statement is nonsensical unless we can distinguish evil from good. As mentioned even those who claim God is sometimes a mystery do so because their interpretation requires an explanation of God from a human, moral perspective. If your view of God seems immoral to another, be gracious enough to let God reveal themselves to others unless others believe like a terrorist. Terrorists can only defend their beliefs because of a supposed inspired Book, which of course their interpretations are correct. Who can argue with a Book supposedly directly from God! We can’t know perfectly what God would do in everything situation but human perfection is our best starting point.

What are some beliefs about God that are common stumbling blocks?

God can’t be a hellish, sadistic torturer. Why would a loving God torture anyone forever since such pain serves no lasting purpose? Humans wouldn’t even create such a place for their worst enemies! Such a place may be only imagined because of a Book. It turns out the Bible doesn’t say anything about the traditional understanding of the word Hell. 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 that was filled with garbage and even dead bodies. Fires were set to get rid of the garbage and smell. We don’t translate names of valleys with different name. Gehenna should be translated as Gehenna. Jesus used the word Gehenna symbolically to illustrate spiritual death is as horrific as physical death, not what happens to people in the afterlife.

God can’t be a homophobe. It makes no sense why God would condemn gays when they can no more choose who they love than straights can. Just ask heterosexuals or homosexuals. It can rightly be argued that not even the Bible condemns same-sex relationships. I have written here to please reconsider that the Bible doesn’t condemn gays. Some only condemn gays because they are convinced the Bible does. We know the psychological harm done when one must hide their sexuality because of bigotry and hostility. Shouldn’t we be guided by love – how should I treat others if I had the same non-choices? 

Lack of certainty about God does not mean anything goes? How do we decide?  

We don’t have to make laws against murder. Criminals don’t deny their actions are wrong; they deny they committed such a crime. It is almost universally accepted that it is morally wrong to kill someone out of revenge or for selfish reasons. It is universally accepted that it is morally wrong to behead people for their beliefs unless you are a terrorist. Believing the Bible can’t be use to definitively tell us what God is like protects from those claiming their interpretation is definitive while demonizing views to the contrary. 

Unfortunately, Christians often claims certain morals are universal because of their personal beliefs based on a Book. To divorce or not is not a universal law to impose upon others. A partner may respond with gratitude for a second change or another chance may simply enable bad behaviors to continue. Consensual relationships, straight or gay, are not violating anyone’s personal rights. It doesn’t matter if you think gay or straight relationships aren’t natural. You either aren’t gay or straight.

Some relationships, such as pedophilic relationships, are obviously not consensual. There are always exceptions to general guidelines. The Bible isn’t a rule Book or question and answer Book. We may have to kill to protect another life. Let’s have a respectful discussion rather than shut down discussion by claiming we speak for God because of our understanding of a Book. Certainty has led to forcing “supposed” truths onto others. Uncertainty allows different opinions to stand side by side as we continually evaluate the most loving approach. Differences don’t have to lead to chaos but to new understandings and creative solutions.

How we ought to treat others is how a good God treats others. 

Common moral, loving sense is not the enemy. Don’t let your interpretation of a Book override the golden rule with others of different gender, color, or sexuality. Terrorists or extremists justify immoral treatment of other by hiding behind a supposedly infallible Book. A Book questioned if entirely inspired by God seems to lead to more open discussions. You can hardly every going wrong treated others like you wish to be treated were you in their shoes. Actions of love are always more important than any beliefs you may have.

Don’t let your understanding of God turns people away from God?

Terrorists’ view of God can’t be right. It is almost a universal belief that God respects freedom if such freedom does not endanger the lives of others. Forced love is an oxymoron. Others are convinced God condemns gay love, women leading men, etc. only because of their interpretation of a Book. Well, not all who respect the Bible agree with that interpretation. Do not speak for God when your interpretation is debatable. Let people decide on their own what God is like. God can handle their own business. 

What do you imagine God is really like?

You may be right! Listen to your moral inner voice. We just seem to know what is moral or immoral in most situations. Be guided by love in treating others like you want to be. We can imagine what God is like by discussing what human perfection is. Those who argue humans are created in the image of God usually accept that God created us to know and hate evil. If God sometimes is evil according to one’s interpretation of the Bible, should we hate God sometimes? A God who seeks a relationship is surely more understandable than mysterious.

Don’t we get closer to understanding what Godly love is by accepting that loving others like we want to be loved is the same as how God loves us and others?

 

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By Mike Edwards

A God whose focus is saving people from the threat of burning forever after death is about fear not a relationship. Fear often leads to hiding stuff; a loving relationship leads to life changes. Adult children don’t respect and devout themselves to their parents’ guidance because they fear them. It may surprise many that the traditional understanding of Hell isn’t in the Bible. The Bible also doesn’t talk a lot either about Heaven as an escape from earth. What is God’s good news?

The Bible says nothing about the traditional understanding of the word Hell.

Humans wouldn’t even create a place to torture their enemies after death. The only place we would get such an irrational idea of a supposedly loving God is from a Book. Gehenna, the Greek word translated as Hell in the New Testament, was the name of a real valley nearby Jerusalem with a history of terrible slaughter.  Gehenna is best translated Gehenna. There is no word in Hebrew or Greek for “hell.” Jesus used Gehenna to illustrate that spiritual death is as tragic as physical death. The Apostle Paul who wrote most of the NT never refers to Hell. Noah, or any prophet in the OT, never warned of Hell as a consequence for behaviors here on earth.

If there is no Hell, was Jesus main message to get the hell away from earth to enter Heaven?

The word “heaven” appears the most in the Gospel of Matthew. The Kingdom of Heaven isn’t talking about going to a place after death. Jesus speaks of bringing heavenly love to earth – “on earth as in heaven.” Jesus said nothing about dropping to your knees to avoid Hell to go to Heaven after death. But, didn’t the Apostle Paul say “the wages of sin is death” (Rm. 6:23)? Paul is speaking of spiritual death because Paul is still alive though sin has put him to death (Rm. 7:11). Romans is Paul’s longest and most theological letter and when Paul mentions Heaven twice, he says nothing about Jesus dying so we can go to Heaven (Rm. 1:18, 10:6).

What does the Bible say God is saving us from?

When Jesus was asked by a religious expert how to have eternal life, He simply said to love God and your neighbor (Lk.10:25-37). Jesus’ focus wasn’t on quantity of life after death but about a life worth living here on earth. Jeremy Myers says it best that the Bible isn’t about escaping Hell but being delivered from consequences of sin: “When Scripture teaches about being saved from sin, it is not referring to escaping hell and going to heaven when we die, but to the deliverance from the devastating and destructive consequences of sin in this life.”

https://redeeminggod.com/confess-jesus-romans-10-9-10/

God has a dream! 

God hurts because we are hurting ourselves and those around us. On this day as we celebrate Martin Luther King’s life and message, God too seeks to convince us of the evil of bigotry. Jesus came to earth to convey God seeks to empower us to constantly shun evil and do good. Seek and experience God’s help in being more the person you know deep down is in your and others’ interest. Consider misbeliefs about God that hinder that pursuit. Share with others such a God when they inquire.

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By Mike Edwards

It is difficult for many to be drawn to a God that has anything in common with the God of terrorists. I am not saying Christians believe in resorting to beheading unbelievers. It is sensible though for all God-followers to consider any of their portrayals of God that look anything similar to terroristic views. A good God couldn’t possibly have anything in common with such views.

We must avoid all appearances that a good God is solely determined by a Book.

The idea of an infallible Book seems to shut down questioning and common moral sense. 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 always openly admit our interpretation could be wrong, thus allowing personal views to be challenged.

Let’s avoid suggesting a loving God would deny freedom of beliefs.

One would think a God who is powerful enough to create, unless a respecter of freedom of beliefs, would annihilate immediately those who choose evil and oppose God. God’s love in the Bible is most frequently compared to that of a human parent. No human or spiritual parent brings children into the world desiring their children not freely reciprocate their love as opposed to being forced. Forced love is an oxymoron. A good God couldn’t possibly want to control beliefs through fear.

Let’s avoid suggesting a loving God tortures unbelievers before or after death. 

Delayed torture is still torture in the eyes of many. We mustn’t claim Hell is real according to the Bible because biblical scholars don’t agree Hell exists in the Bible. Most humans wouldn’t even create such a place for their worst enemies! 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. It is important to defend God respects the right to choose your own personal beliefs in this life, and God does not torture people after death for such decisions. 

Let’s avoid claiming a loving God’s view of women hints of inequality.  

I am not suggesting some Christians are saying Paradise is a lustful adventure for men at the expense of women, but it is important to not be dogmatic that the Bible teaches women are under the authority of men in the God of the Bible eyes. This can encourage dominance on the man’s part. Women and men surely need unselfish partners who have the heart of a servant. Some religious extremists would rather be dead than advocate for that. We must avoid proscribing gender roles which more frequently are used to oppress women than men.

What can Christians be certain of about God?

All religions must differentiate themselves from terrorist or extremist views to avoid misunderstandings about a God worthy of trust. Jesus simply wanted us to know God was the kind of Creator or Parent desiring a friendship to encourage a journey of shunning evil and doing good. Our views must encourage loving others like we want to be love. Accepting the freedom of beliefs, if not physically harmful to others, is foundational. A good God surely respect freedom of beliefs in this life and life to come and encourages roles according to one’s gifts not gender or race.

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By Mike Edwards

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

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

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

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

God couldn’t possibly be a homophobe.

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

God couldn’t possibly be a hell monger.

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

God couldn’t possibly be a sexist.

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

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

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

What do you imagine God is really like?

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

 

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Recently I have been reading articles where people believe hell, as eternal torment, was not mentioned in the bible. Some believe that all people will be saved through God’s love and no person will be left apart from our Father even though they do not choose him or believe he exists.

Love is the main theme of God. God is love. I am not sure I am ready to say that hell does not exist or that God saves everyone apart from their choice but I do know that no matter what, God loves us all.

LovelikeJesus1

True love is how Christians should be known. God loves everyone and has made a way for everyone to receive the gift of salvation. Yet I personally do not believe God will force this gift on anyone and those who choose not to take it may one day have to accept the consequences whether it be eternal torment, temporary punishment or a complete act of forgiveness.

Now, is hell a real place of eternal torment or was it a dumping ground near Jerusalem that has nothing to do with punishment? There is a very real debate over this issue and I certainly do not have the answer. The thing is, trying to get people saved with the threat of spending eternity in hell is not the way to do it. People are truly changed by God’s love and by God’s people living out that love to everyone they meet.

God does not want anyone to spend eternity in a place of torment. He has provided the way of escape if there is a hell. But we want to focus on the fact the God loves us all and we want to accept and enjoy his love, not just escape the thought of eternal punishment.

When we love someone, we want to do things that please that person and make them happy. Same with God, we want to be pleasing to Him and do things for Him. We do not do these things out of obligation or because of rules and regulations. That is law. We do them out of love and that is the way we should help lead others to Christ, through love.

As it mentions in Colossians 3:12-14 as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone, just as the Lord forgave you so also should you. And beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.

Rather than being so quick to judge and condemn people for what they do, who they are, and what they believe we need to stop and re-read what God has said on the matter.

We are not called to be God, we are to be people who allow God to live in and through us. We are in Christ. Our lives should be in the process of being transformed into the life of Christ. Basically, we are to be Christ’s body on earth today. We are The Church, not a building we go to once a week but His body living in love day by day.

Remember, the Holy Spirit convicts of sin. God is the judge, we are called to love others.

LoveOthers

Romans 13:8-10 spells it out pretty clear, owe nothing to anyone except to love one another, for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. For this, ‘you shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not covet,’ and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, ‘you shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbor, therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

To love others is to fulfill the law, wow, seems so simple yet so hard to do.

The Old Testament law was given as a guide to show people that they could not measure up to pleasing God. If anyone could keep all of the law then they were perfect. Unfortunately, we humans cannot live a perfect life. The law showed us that we could not do it.

When Christ came in bodily form and lived on earth he lived a perfect life. He became the perfect sacrifice that would once and for all make a way for us to be considered perfect in God’s eyes and to be restored to fellowship with him.

When we live in love we are fulfilling the law. We no longer do things out of obligation or out of a need to earn God’s love and favor. We no longer have to keep the ten commandments to earn our salvation. Salvation is now a gift given to us. When we love others with the love of God our lifestyle will be one that actually fulfills the law by the way we live and love.

Am I saying that we should not try to live by the 10 commandments? In a way yes. We cannot do so. When we live in love we will be living a life that is pleasing to God without trying to live by laws and regulations. If we are depending on the law, regulations or doing things to earn God’s love we are wasting our time. Only by living in love for Christ and our fellow human beings will any difference be made.

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Love is the main theme when we think of God. God is love. Yet many ‘churches’ focus more on the wrath of God and eternal damnation for those who don’t repent and turn to God.

God loves everyone and has made a way for everyone to receive the gift of salvation by His grace. God does not force this gift on anyone. He has given us free will to make our own decisions.

Christians should be known by the love they have for others. Yet it seems many of us are known more by our condemning spirits.

Hell and the thought of eternal torment is a major scare tactic to some. There are also many thoughts and interpretations on an actual hell. Is it real, is it eternal. None of us can prove or disprove whether hell is a real place or not, but why is it we tend to use this to draw people to Christ?

God does not want anyone to spend eternity in a place of torment. He has provided the way to live with Him forever. It is much better to focus on the fact the God loves us all, and wants us to live as one with Him, not just escape the thought of eternal punishment. What father would want his child to love him out of fear of punishment? We want our children to love us out of pure love and because we love them.

When we love someone, we want to do things that please that person and make them happy. Same with God, we want to be pleasing to Him and do things for Him. We don’t do these things out of obligation, or because of rules and regulations. That’s law. We do them out of love and the power of the Spirit within us. That is the same way we should help lead others to Christ, through love.

This article was published on the May 2014 Synchroblog “What The Hell?” Following are the other Synchroblog contributors.

Jeremy Myers – Does Jesus Talk About Hell More Than Heaven?
Wesley Rostoll – Hell, thoughts on annihilationism
K. W. Leslie – Dark Christians
Angie Benjamin – Hell Is For Real
Paul Meier – Hell Is For Real – I’ve Been There and Came Back
Glenn Hager – Abusing Hell
The Virtual Abbess – What The Hell?
Kimbery Klein – Hell, if I know.
Liz Dyer – Hell? No!
Loveday Anyim – Why the hell do you believe in hell?
Linda – If you died today, where would you go?
Edwin Aldrich – What the Hell do we really know.

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Hell…No?

Rob Bell, the pastor who enraged Bible-believing Christians with his book ‘Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived’, has resigned from Mars Hill Bible Church. Bell, who argues that hell does not exist, says God is calling him to pursue a “growing number of strategic opportunities.”

Love is the main theme of God. God is love. I’m not sure I am ready to say that God saves everyone and that hell doesn’t exist, but I do know that no matter what, God loves us all.

True, love is how Christians should be known. God loves everyone and has made a way for everyone to receive the gift of salvation. But God doesn’t force this gift on anyone and those who choose not to take it may one day have to take the consequences for it.

Now, is hell a real place of eternal torment or was it a dumping ground near Jerusalem that has nothing to do with punishment? There is a very real debate over this issue and I certainly don’t have the answer. The thing is, trying to get people ‘saved’ with the threat of spending eternity in hell is not the way to do it. People are truly changed by God’s love, and by God’s people living out that love to everyone they meet.

God does not want anyone to spend eternity in a place of torment. He has provided the way of escape if there is a hell. But we want to focus on the fact the God loves us all, and we want to accept and enjoy his love, not just escape the thought of eternal punishment.

When we love someone, we want to do things that please that person and make them happy. Same with God, we want to be pleasing to Him and do things for Him. We don’t do these things out of obligation, or because of rules and regulations. That’s law. We do them out of love and that is the way we should help lead others to Christ, through love.

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My Journey

Welcome. My blog is a place where readers will find writings of personal experiences, thoughts, and the peace that the Lord provides throughout my walk. I intend to bring inspiration and insight, as well as providing a very personal and transparent view into my life, in order to help others see their own lives in a different perspective. I strongly believe that we all need a different view at times, in order for our own personal growth to take place.

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