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By Mike Edwards

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Many grew up with a view of God that encouraged fearing God. The threat of Hell was used to encourage such fear. Who doesn’t want to avoid being kept alive to be tortured forever? Good news! Hell doesn’t really exist. See here. So, since Hell doesn’t exist maybe God didn’t create us to whip us into submission.

What does the Bible really say about God? 

I am not going to quote you Bible verses to defend God is loving or wrathful. Verses can be quoted to suggest God is an angry son-of-a-bitch and you better get in line. Then, I could quote you bible verses that defend God is merciful, graceful, and loving. I am appealing to your common sense about love. Why would a Creator desire anything different relationally that what we were created to desire from others in relationships? 

Why would a loving God desire fear?

How do you want to be treated by your parents? Do you want to visit a parent who demands or instead seeks to earn respect? Do parents want us to fear them and visit out of obligation or like just hanging out. Do you want to be able to go to your parents for support or rebuke when you continue to mess up? I have a hunch God knows also fear doesn’t lead to change.

Where does fear get you?

Fear doesn’t work in spiritual or human relationships. People may suck up to you because you have something over them. They need a job, they need money to survive, whatever. Good luck when they don’t need a job or money. Genuine relationships happen not in an environment of fear but mutual respect.

Fear of God doesn’t make you a better person. 

Do you every think God needs a break from you at least for a day or do you think God can’t possibly forgive you for the 10th or 100th time? Guess again! God’s love and mercy, not gloomy uncertainty of God’s favor, is our necessary nourishment for breaking free from habitual habits or bad behaviors. God isn’t looking to pile more guilt on us. God already knows we heap enough guilt on ourselves. God seeks to continually assure us of God’s mercy, forgiveness, and love so we don’t every give up no matter how demoralized we may feel. 

But, don’t we need fear to control selfishness?

Has fear of consequences always stopped your selfishness? Fear only leads to trying to not get caught or doing enough to soothe others’ feelings. A great advantage in being a God-follower is being secure in knowing good enough isn’t enough. Relationships aren’t about just being good enough or not as bad as other partners. I have the “want to” to be perfect. My God allows me to pursue perfection while not being paralyzed by guilt when failing.

God’s approval can be a breath of fresh air.

Some parents beat down their children all their life, reminding them constantly how worthless they are. You aren’t thin enough. You aren’t pretty enough. You aren’t smart enough. You aren’t successful enough. You are worthless! God will never betray us like parents or partners can. A relationship with God always entails mercy, acceptance, and encouragement when seeking change.

 

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By Mike Edwards

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This Post is longer than usual. It is an essay I wrote that was recently published in a book Open And Relational Leadership. Such a view of God, as opposed to a closed, standoffish God can be a game changer. Leaders proclaiming certainty have not allowed God’s open and relational ways to guide individuals in their own time.

I am grateful for pastors of churches I attended in the past who encouraged getting to know God. In retrospect, it seems pastors felt compelled to proclaim certainty of what God thought, according to their understanding of Scriptures. Perhaps they felt an internal pressure due to leadership expectations from parishioners. Didn’t pastors, though, read books where biblical scholars, who respect the authority of Scriptures, do not always agree? Total certainty is an illusion because even if God is Truth, we still have to discern what is Truth. For example, can preachers or priests be women or gay? Many are leaving the institutional church because of the lack of honest, open dialogue. God’s example seems more open and relational because of the freedom given to understand God in our own time.

It’s hard to be relational when you are so damn certain.  

One would think Christians would be the least judgmental people in the world. After all, they believe in loving others like they want to be loved. Catholics and Protestants, or whatever other representation of the church may apply, seem compelled to establish creeds, as if uncertainties about God are a sign of weakness. It isn’t always voiced that you are required to accept their doctrines to participate, but try challenging them and see where that gets you! If God was so concerned about beliefs such as the Trinity, angels, the Bible, the Virgin Mary, or hell, it seems there would be more agreement. Maybe Christians would be more united and less judgmental if religions only encouraged the Creed of Love as the Spirit guided individuals. 

No, uncertainty doesn’t have to lead to lawlessness!  

I am not suggesting anything goes in the declaration that we can’t be certain. No one questions laws against murder. Criminals don’t deny their actions are wrong; they deny they committed such a crime. Unless you are a terrorist, it is almost universally accepted that it is morally wrong to kill or behead someone because of his or her beliefs. We don’t have to fear uncertainty. Different opinions, expressed without physical or verbal aggression, can stand side by side, as we continually evaluate the most loving approach or understanding of God. 

The idea of an infallible or inspired Bible may be a reason Christians claim certainty. 

The Bible certainly is a resource to discover what God is like, though the majority of people born into this world didn’t have a Bible or knowledge of Jesus. There must be other ways to know God! Infallibility is a non-starter because we don’t have the original manuscripts. The many translations or versions of the Bible we have today suggest copying is not an exact process. Even if we had the original autographs, interpretation is still required. Scholars who believe in the authority of Scriptures disagree regarding what the Bible says about critical issues such as homosexuality, gender roles, divorce, and hell, among many other things.

Interpretations are fallible, but most people do not begin a discussion with “I may be wrong…” Keep in mind that we can’t prove that God inspired every word of the Bible, unless you argue a biblical writer making such a claim is definitive evidence. The possibility of a fallible book encourages questioning rather than demonizing views to the contrary. We have every right to question interpretations that suggest a Creator does not love in the way we were created to love. God-followers seem unaware of how often they appear to be unopen and morally superior based on their assumptions about the Bible. 

How can we know God?

Some declare God is mysterious when their interpretation of the Bible makes God appear immoral, but how can we have a relationship with a God we can’t understand with the brain God gave us? Is evil sometimes mysteriously good? The Bible assumes we can understand God by challenging us to be perfect like God (Mt. 5:48). We can only understand God’s perfect love by the way we humans were created to love perfectly. It is intuitive to think that the perfect love of God and human are the same. That is why the mystery card is used when God seems unloving from a human perspective. A Creator surely loves others and us in the same way that we were seemingly created to love others. 

Where has certainty in God’s name gotten us? 

It is logical to suggest we can’t be certain of what an invisible, inaudible God thinks. But supposed certainty has led to justifying slavery. It has led to revered theologians such as St. Augustine and John Calvin not firmly opposing the execution of those who didn’t agree with their theology. The Bible can’t be the definitive guide to what God would do because scholars who respect Scriptures disagree on so many issues. And it clearly is wrong to behead people because they don’t share your personal beliefs about God. 

Jesus didn’t judge uncertainty.  

Jesus performed many miracles, but his disciples/followers still didn’t believe. Jesus didn’t cast away Peter when warning him he would deny Jesus three times; I believe Peter now is called the “Rock.” Jesus hung out with all kinds of people that didn’t share his certainty. Jesus didn’t unload on others when their beliefs weren’t his, unless you were a religious authority who was misrepresenting God. My hunch is that God, like parents, would rather be doubted than ignored. 

Is God unloving by not being more visible, thus more certain?

We may wonder why God isn’t more obvious in our lives. God’s awe-filled or overpowering presence may only lead to fearful obligations to obey. When parents push their agendas, even if in their children’s best interests, a child may resent or rebel against coercion and never turn back from that rebellion. If God communicates in less demonstrative ways, this may allow for heartfelt choices. God may know what a controlling parent never learns: the road of learning, reflecting, and non-coerced choices may best lead to lasting convictions.

God’s love is not controlling. Controlling love is an oxymoron. Authenticity, the highest good in relationships, is impossible without freedom. Not even an almighty God can force true love. It isn’t that God has the power to do something and doesn’t. God can’t control or violate freedom and love perfectly. God, like parents, had a choice—not to create or to create knowing suffering was a possibility in the pursuit of intimacy. Divine love limits divine power. God is open to changing the world at relational speed. 

Uncertainty can lead to acting more lovingly.  

Being unable to declare the certainty or morality of our opinions forces us to listen and express ideas openly. God understands, as much as humans do, that forcing beliefs does not lead to long-lasting changes. Starting a conversation with “I may be wrong…” will more likely lead to new understandings and creative solutions. Conversations change when humility is part of the tone. Certainty, when it comes to political matters such as taxes or health plans, has led to justifying verbal or physical violence in the name of God or morality. Differences don’t have to lead to chaos but can be resolved by remaining open-minded to the most loving ways.

The Bible tells us the Word of God is not the Bible; it is flesh in the body of Jesus (Jn. 1:1-14). Jesus, when leaving this earth, didn’t promise to leave us with a Bible, but with God’s Spirit to aid in discerning good from evil (Jn. 14:16). Doesn’t the Spirit speak to us somehow when we have thoughts to be the perfect partner, parent, or friend we desire to be deep down, despite our constant failures? It may be good that that the Spirit doesn’t communicate audibly. The Bible may be more direct communication, but it has been used to force beliefs on others despite being subject to interpretation. Leaders who admit uncertainty, rather than certainty, about God, keep from imposing beliefs on others, which is just not in God’s open or relational nature.

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by Jim Gordon

I imagine we all have been in a relationship with a family member or close friend where we had some misunderstandings and miscommunications. These can often cause hurt feelings and arguments. That is bad enough but there are times when we get treated downright unfairly by others.

I know there are people who are just an acquaintance and we really do not know them. When they treat us badly, we can move on with no real concern. Yet the people who are close friends, relatives, siblings and parents can be just as mean at times. For me, I have always believed in treating all people respectfully and kindly, but those who are close are the people we really do not want to allow the unfair and unkind treatment to continue.

I have seen it many times over the years. People you love and respect seem to take you for granted and do things that are unkind, disrespectful and demeaning. When it first begins to happen, our usual response is to ignore it. We think they did not mean it or they were just in a bad mood at the time.

This may be the case. Often times it can be a simple misunderstanding. Yet if it goes on and on and it happens time after time, it will eventually start to be a major problem. Good communication is key at this point. You need to think enough of yourself and the relationship to speak up. This does not have to be done in a mean or hateful way. Just a calm private talk explaining what is going on and how you are feeling can put an end to such treatment.

I have personally seen a few people who were treated disrespectfully and taken for granted time after time, month after month, year after year. So much that eventually they gave up on the person and the relationship was damaged. When we continue to accept being treated badly, we are not only damaging the relationship but we are destroying our spirit. As we continue to accept such treatment we begin to think less and less of ourselves.

Very often the way people treat others is done out of ignorance. They may not even realize how they come across. Again, good communication and standing up for yourself can straighten things out. The main thing is do not allow yourself to accept this kind of treatment. Think of yourself more highly than to take whatever bad treatment people dish out.

When people are treated with such disrespect and taken for granted the best thing to do is (for you Andy Griffith fans) pull a Barney Fife…. nip it, nip it in the bud.  When we allow others to treat us unkindly year after year after year, it eventually takes a toll on us and we come to a point where the relationship is lost. Stand up now, speak up now. Do not allow this kind of treatment to continue for the sake of maintaining a good relationship with someone you care about.

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by Jordan Hathcock

 “We are part of something more than we are observing something. How does that feel to you? From the perspective of participation, we can recognize that most of religious and church history has been largely preoccupied with religious ideas about which we could be wrong or right. When it is all about ideas, we do not have to be part of “it”; we just need to talk correctly about “it.” We can avoid actually living out our beliefs and walking our talk.”– Richard Rohr

When it comes to the history of Christendom, it was mostly about obedience then participation. We see this through the various traditions. This concept of obedience ends up being more of “having the correct” beliefs rather than living out a loving way of life. When we get to caught up in the ideas of faith, we wind up being consumers rather than doers.

When we come to experiential trust, we can recognize that it’s really about connecting with others through relationships. It’s making oneself encounter the whole of being rather than worrying about if you have the doctrine of the atonement right (which it all boils down to a theory rather than an experience). See, when we get to caught up in “who has it right” we create an us vs. them paradigm which only causes division.

We have to come to the table of reconciliation and be always for coming together unified despite our differences. Yes, there is a way to participate that involves some type of decision to “obey”-which a better term would be taking action. Unfortunately, from many people’s stories and experiences with obedience, it was more of a blind allegiance rather than a divine connection. It is a dangerous thing when one loses himself to the higher powers of authority. This will lead to unhealthy abuse as one study showed regarding blind authoritative control:

“Decent people participate in horrific acts not because they become passive, mindless functionaries who do not know what they are doing, but rather because they come to believe — typically under the influence of those in authority — that what they are doing is right.”-Science Daily

When we come to a place of authoritative obedience, we become oblivious to the harmful effects to ourselves and others. This is not what having faith is all about! Faith is having the courage to step into the unknown and experience the process of bringing about love that heals and liberates. God is not interested in obedience as much as entering in a relational space that endows growth and connection. Yes, we make the decision to trust and follow God, but if we do not believe that the center of all being is already connected to us, we will never fully allow this relationship to God and Her creation blossom and take hold of our reality. If its just obedience to an idea and not to a reality, we will not see the transformation bloom in ourselves and our surroundings.

Coming to a place of desiring the divine connection is a difficult journey. Its not all skittles and rainbows, that is for damn sure! It does take a great amount of patience and letting go of egotistical habits. Jesus wasn’t lying when he said, “to find life you must lose your life”. It is action that really drives a reaction. If we just sit on the sidelines of statements of beliefs, we will never truly experience the divine transformation that breaks us free. If we don’t take seriously the Orthopraxy of this whole Jesus movement, we are not going to survive. Its time we become participants of the God who is love and let go of the idea of blind obedience if we ever want to see dynamic change…

“New and stirring things are belittled because if they are not belittled the humiliating question arises ‘Why then are you not taking part in them?” ― H.G. Wells

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by Rocky Glenn

As I sit here on the couch working on the next post in the Enjoy The Moment series, What About The Love? from Amy Grant’s 1988 Lead Me On begins to stream on Pandora.   The song gave me pause and brought to the forefront once again the issues we are facing today concerning religion and self-righteousness versus love aren’t anything new but were being spoken about thirty years ago and all the way back to Paul.  Below are the lyrics of the song followed by the words of Paul from Galatians.

“What About The Love”

I went to see my sister, she was staying with a friend
Who had turned into a preacher to save the world from sin
He said “First deny your body, Then learn to submit
Pray to be made worthy, and tithe your ten percent”
I said “Is this all there is, just the letter of the law?”
Something’s wrong.

I went to see my brother on the 32nd floor
Of a building down on Wall Street – You could hear the future’s roar
He said “Here we make decisions, and we trade commodities;
If you tell me where there’s famine, I can make you guarantees”
I said “Is this all there is, Power to be strong?”
Something’s wrong.

Something’s wrong in heaven tonight
You can almost hear them cry
Angels to the left and the right
Saying “What about the love, What about the love, What about the love?”

I went to see my neighbor, he’d been taken to a home
For the weak and the discarded who have no place to go
He said “Here I lack for nothing I am fed and I am clothed,
But at times I miss the freedom I used to know”
I said “Is this all there is When your usefulness is gone?”
Something’s wrong.

I looked into the mirror proud as I could be
And I saw my pointing finger pointing back at me
Saying “Who named you accuser? Who gave you the scales?”
I hung my head in sorrow, I could almost feel the nails
I said “This is how it is to be crucified and judged without love.”

Galatians 5:4-6 from The Message:

I suspect you would never intend this, but this is what happens. When you attempt to live by your own religious plans and projects, you are cut off from Christ, you fall out of grace. Meanwhile we expectantly wait for a satisfying relationship with the Spirit. For in Christ, neither our most conscientious religion nor disregard of religion amounts to anything. What matters is something far more interior: faith expressed in love.

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Rocky

More posts in the Soundtrack of a Churchboy’s Recovery series:

 

 

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by Rocky Glenn

One weekend, late March of this year, we awoke to a house twelve degrees colder than the preferred temperature of our home. With assistance diagnosing the issue from a friend, we determined it was very likely time to shell out the funds to replace the furnace. While the timing of the news was unexpected, the news itself was not a complete surprise to us. When we purchased the home in 2015, the home inspector informed us of the HVAC unit’s age and advised replacing it would soon be on the horizon. We got another four years out of the system. After all, why replace something that is working and meeting your needs? It was mid-March when the heat quit working and temperatures in East Tennessee were starting to warm up. Given the fact the cooling functions would continue to operate normally, could we delay the expense for another four to six months until fall just before onset of winter? We made the attempt. The very next morning we awoke to a cooler than normal living quarters and made the trek to purchase a couple of space heaters and make our best efforts to live without the benefit of central heat. While not entirely unbearable, it was unpleasant. We watched the weather forecasts closely to see exactly what we were in store for. Temperatures were warming up with the onset of spring, but as lifetime residents of the region we were very aware they generally do not remain warm for the season until after Easter. Sure enough, freezing temperatures were coming within the next three to four days and we were all silently dreading it. Silently? I must pause here to commend my family of four. All of us were colder than we wanted to be, but never once do I recall anyone complaining, whining, or grumbling about the situation. Though it was never really a stated discussion, all of us seemingly set our mind we were going to make the best of it.  The space heaters were spread strategically throughout the home to accommodate our most common resting spots and we learned very quickly exactly how many it would take to kick the circuit breakers!!  Within seven days of the unit breathing its last, the aforementioned friend had not only secured a new furnace for our family, but it was installed and heat was restored to our home. It was only at this time did we all admit to each other how cold and frustrated we truly were during the week. The sense of relief flowed through the four of us like the warm air through the floor registers.

What’s the point of this? I’m not simply telling a story to share what happened and I’m certainly not trying to buy your sympathy or make you feel sorry for us. I am well aware heat is not necessary for survival and am not so callous as to disregard those living among us who are unable to afford the comfort of climate-controlled living. My reason for sharing this tale is to illustrate what happens when we end up in situations where our comfort is lost.

Comfort can be defined as a state of freedom from pain or constraint in which you are relaxed and do not have any unpleasant feelings.  We are all born with a natural instinct and desire to seek comfort.  From the newborn baby crying to be held to the rebellious teen seeking to break free from the constraining demands of an overbearing parent to the newlyweds seeking to establish a home and financial security for the future, we are all striving to live relaxed in our own space shielded from the pain and unpleasantness of life.  We strive for comfort in every part of who we are: our physical being, our mental being, our emotional being, and our spiritual being.  The only issue is there are times, many times, when comfort is lost and simply can’t be found.  What happens when you or those you love are faced with an unexpected death, tragedy, loss of income, or threat to your security and well-being?

A loss of comfort can be a conflicting time.  What is going on?  Why is this happening?  How can I fix it?  Often there is nothing to be done to remedy the situation, but there are times when a loss of comfort is the motivating factor to affect change.  Regarding my family’s furnace failure, I mentioned we knew four years earlier something needed to be done; however, we waited until our comfort was lost to actually do something about it.  Although the furnace is a very practical example, reluctance to relinquish the comforts we are accustomed to can cause us to remain in places maybe a little longer than what is ideal.  With the knowledge hindsight is twenty-twenty, we often look back and wonder why it took so long to take action when we knew in our hearts change was needed weeks, months, sometimes years before we were willing to move. A little more than ten years ago a career change from a job which drained me of who I was and stole my mind from my family even when I was home would have never occurred if I had not been presented with a decision from my employer which greatly threatened my comfort.  Through much discussion, tears, and prayer, the decision was made to leave the company I had been a part of for thirteen years in hopes of a better quality of family life.  Honestly, it was a decision my wife had come to months earlier, but it took the loss of my personal comfort to drop-kick me into action.  The twelve to fifteen months which followed that decision were very uncertain and uncomfortable, but I can now say I am a better man and my family is in a better place because of it.

I believe it’s in those uncertain and devastating situations we learn the true meaning of comfort.  To limit the definition of comfort as freedom from pain and unpleasantness is short sighted and shallow.  Comfort is best described as a feeling of being less worried, upset, or frightened during a time of trouble or emotional pain.  Synonymous with security, this is the kind of comfort Jesus came to bring us.  We will not prevent the ups and downs, ins and outs of life but we can experience peace when such situations arise.  John records Christ as saying, “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart cause I have overcome the world.”  Knowing He has overcome the world and knowing nothing will ever separate us from His love, we can live at peace and in true comfort despite our circumstances.  Paul describes this as a peace that passes all understanding.

Stepping out in that comfort Jesus offers is what finally gave us the ability to pursue living life outside the institutional church after years of discomfort feeling like square pegs being forced into round holes.  Much like the decision to leave a long-time employer, the departure has made me a better man, but it did and has produced more uncertainty than certainty.  The journey over the last few years has been at times lonely, at times confusing, and even painful as we have been forced to answer questions and inquiries from friends, family, and lifelong relationships which we may not yet have answered for ourselves.  We are coming face to face with our beliefs and why we believe them instead of simply accepting what’s been force fed and handed to us.  Only by living in the peace which defies understanding and realizing it was the Father who placed these desires in our hearts as our Creator have we been able to fully embrace who we truly are and continue on this path.

I have no idea what the road ahead looks like or where it may take us.  It would be foolish and naive to expect it to be free from pain or any unpleasant experiences, but I do believe as we live in Jesus we can live less worried, upset, and frightened during those times of trouble or pain.  Circumstances may affect us externally and cause a loss of external comfort, but they should never threaten our true internal comfort.  Returning our focus to Him is a choice we must make when comfort is lost.

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by Jordan Hathcock
Guest Blogger

You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.

When it comes to the chaos in life, it’s hard to determine the best course of action. I mean, the “technology driven, non-stop on the go” culture we find ourselves in, who can blame us? It’s almost as if we arrived in a whole new terrain that only functions at warped speed. Where do we find the tools to assist us through the path that will lead us to healthy and liberating results?

Well, research is showing that this new technology-driven on the go lifestyle is having some unhealthy results. As, psychologist Dr. Stephanie Brown keenly points out:

Researchers note that this push for speed is changing the way people think. The need to be efficient and instant leads to a dumbing down of information intake so that people become scanners and “decoders” of information, cruising horizontally across the screen to pick up bytes, rather than delving towards a deeper understanding.

Maybe the biggest cost we’ve encountered already is the harm to human relationships. Instead of enhancing close bonds, technology has facilitated avoidance of direct person-to-person contact, which takes too much time. We maintain the illusion that we’re connected more closely than ever by the number of Facebook “likes” we accumulate. But it’s all fast, now, this instant. Everything is impulse. Our sense of connection exists in the action, not an accumulated, deepening experience.

Yikes! So, our relationships are unhealthily inauthentic and our capacity of obtaining information is declining! What are we to do? This mode of being is becoming more and more prevalent the more we succumb to the status quo. Does there need to be some type of revolt to end the madness?! Well, I think we have to really step back and ask ourselves “what really is important”? I know, to simple right? But I think this mind of contemplation is really key to getting us grounded back to a more healthy social atmosphere.

Look, we all have access to so much information at the tip of our fingers. It’s hard not to be addicted (yes I said it) to this extraordinary power! The thing we need to come to grasp with is that to really “connect”, we have to encounter flesh and blood relationships. This goes from the snip-its of information we obtain on Wikipedia–to our most avid “like” sessions on Facebook. There is nothing like the real McCoy.  True connection comes into full fruition when we stand face to face with either a real book (yes, try it sometimes) or a real person (I know it can be hard for us introverts). Actual contact matters! Lets get spiritual (within the material) here for a minute. When we understand that the true reality–Logos, the Christ–works through a “gathering” of people (Mat 18:20), we come to recognize the need for community.

Here is the paradox of this all.  I truly believe for us to come back to a more interrelated social structure, we first have to step back and center ourselves in the quietness of life.  The ever-present moment is calling us a species back to her folding arms. This reminds me of how surfers ride waves. Let’s see if this analogy works for you as it did for me (haha). As a rider of the waves myself (I just don’t like labels), I am constantly battling the on slot of the never-ending tide push of waves, when out paddling in the salty seas.  It is always seems that to really be present and ready for the ability to finally catch a wave, I first need to understand that this constant ripple of waves can be used as a very enjoyable ride of bliss.

It is a matter of practice and technique to finally find the perfect set, pass the break, to surf. See, there is a moment in all things of life where within the chaos, we can find a moment of mercy to go with it. In this, we discover a way that deeply matters and shapes us for the better. I can tell you first hand that there is nothing like starting your day off by catching an amazing wave of nature (yeah, I know, so cliché but I can give two shits hehe).

It reminds of this verse in Psalms:

Deep calls to deep at the sound of Your waterfalls; All Your breakers and Your waves have rolled over me.

Deep calls to deep! We have to awake to the things that matter in life. When the constant push of waves come over us, we have to learn to center ourselves back into the Divine Balance of the universe. When all else is spinning out of control, let us be reminded of Love and how it never fails to bring us home. Let us paddle with the waves of chaos and be energized by the ride that brings us to shore with mercy. Where we find people laying on the shores, enjoying the Sun of everlasting warmth, and laughing with others who are experiencing the stillness of life…

A healthy social life is found only when, in the mirror of each soul, the whole community finds its reflection, and when, in the whole community, the virtue of each one is living.

https://welcometothetablesite.wordpress.com/2019/04/19/waves-of-mercy/

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It is amazing to me the variety of voices and views there are in the christian world vying for our attention.

Everyone has their own views and interpretations. I think we can learn something from everyone. Whether it is something new, a better way of doing things, a different way of thinking or just realizing we do not agree with what we hear and it bolsters our own faith.

The problem is that everyone has an opinion. That does not mean everyone is right or wrong. God works in each of us in different ways and what may be right for one person is not right for another.

We need to seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit each day, listen for his voice and ask that He will lead us into truth. God will speak and lead us through the Spirit, through the bible and through words spoken from fellow believers. The bible says his sheep know his voice so we need to be sure we are hearing from him, yet we can be assured we can know his voice.

Our relationship with the Father is a day by day experience. What we know and understand today may be completely different from what we believed when we were younger. What we believe today will probably change in the future. God leads us into His truth in His timing as we are ready and open to it.

Our goal is to daily seek the guidance of God through the Spirit and seek His truth. To many of us want to put our focus on a man, a popular evangelist or pastor. Obviously, we can learn from listening to others views and opinions but when we focus on people we can get off track and confused very easily.

Everyone has a different opinion. You can listen to one person or group and hear what they think is the truth, then find another person or group who has a completely different take on the same subject. Putting our trust in people and their opinions often leads to fighting and arguing. Many times, when we have been shown something or led in a particular way we expect everyone to see it our way and to believe the same thing.

The only way to get past all the different views and opinions is to focus on Christ. He will teach us and lead us into the truth. That is not to say we are all going to think and feel the same way on everything. God deals with us personally and in different ways and as followers of Jesus there are many different paths we will walk throughout this life.

We need to remember that the Spirit speaks from within us, he speaks to us from the written word and he can speak to us through other people. We need to be sure we are hearing his voice and know he does not always speak the same way and does not always have the same life experiences for everyone.

It is time we become followers of Jesus and stop being followers of men. Nothing wrong with listening and hearing the views of others, but take it as that. It is their view and opinion. Only Jesus is the one to follow and to be our everything.

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Have you ever taken time to sit down and start talking about old memories with someone?

My wife and I spent the other evening doing just that. It is enjoyable sometimes to just talk and bring up old times from childhood. It is amazing the things that came to mind that we remembered from pre-kindergarten up through young adulthood and the present.

I can actually remember an event when a photographer came to our house and set up a big light and a chair in the corner of the room. I remember seeing it all from another angle in the room but was not sure why I remember it from that angle. Only after talking with my parents and telling them of the memory they told me that my dad was holding me while the photographer got the camera set up. They said there was a bright light against the wall focusing on the chair in the corner. It was a big surprise to me when they told me I was only six months old at the time yet I can vividly remember the scene in my head.

The brain we were blessed with sure is a remarkable member of the body. It is amazing the things you can remember. My wife and I talked about so many events over the evening from the earliest memories all the way up to the present.

We sat and talked for what seemed like twenty minutes but was actually over an hour. The time flew by and we both enjoyed talking and listening to each other discuss our childhood memories.

Communication

I truly think, for married couples especially, this is one way to grow closer together with those you love and trust. Opening yourself up more, sharing things you might not have shared with anyone before and having good honest communication helps build trust and respect for one another.

Some of the events were funny, others sad and some just down right embarrassing. My wife pointed out that all the events of the past make us who we are today. God takes the good, the bad and the ugly and uses it all to make us the person we are today. A person he can use to help others who may be going through similar events right now who need someone who can understand and provide encouragement.

Take some time and enjoy the memories of the past, realizing that the past is over and done but it made you what you are today. Then be ready to encourage someone who may be going through a tough time because of some of the choices they made and are feeling bad about. The bad choices can be used as stepping stones to much better things.

The funny thing was, after talking about all the memories of the past and remembering things from so long ago, when my wife asked me what I had for lunch at work a couple days ago….I could not remember. Can anyone relate?

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Fellowship is an important part of living as a follower of Jesus. Fellowship with other believers can be encouraging and helps build one another up.

When we hear about fellowship today we usually think of church. Several churches even have the word fellowship in their name.

According to the dictionary fellowship means friendly relationship; companionship; an association of persons having similar tastes, interests; friendliness.

I grew up in the organized church and thought for years I was having good fellowship every time I attended a Sunday morning service. As time went on I began to question if we were actually enjoying good fellowship or not. If fellowship was a relationship or companionship with others how was that being obtained by sitting in a pew every Sunday looking at the back of someone’s head? We never really showed friendliness just sitting there and we never knew if the person in front or back of us had the same tastes or interests. How were we having fellowship when we just sat and listened to a select few run the program?

sundayservice

After my wife and I decided to leave the organization and live outside the walls of religion we wondered how we would find fellowship with others of similar tastes. Truthfully it did not take long. God started bringing people across our paths in places and at times we never expected.

We were sitting in a local cafe one morning relaxing and drinking our morning coffee when we noticed two men at the next table. One was a young long-haired rock group looking person talking with an older gentleman. We could not help but hear their conversation at times and we kept hearing them talking about God and life in Christ.

After some time of listening we decided to politely ask about their conversation and found that the younger guy was in a christian heavy metal band, had left the traditional church a few years ago and was living outside the walls of religion like us. This was an encouragement to us because it showed us that God will bring about the people for fellowship any time and in any place.

We have met many people over the past two years who have similar tastes and interests on our path outside the walls. We have joined in with people many times at a restaurant or in our homes for fellowship and food. Most of the time it has only been 3 to 5 people, but we have had so much more meaningful fellowship with others outside of traditional church than we did sitting in the typical service.

As written in 1 Corinthians 14:26… what then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up.

To my wife and me the church mentioned here is not a building of four walls with a select few people running the program on a set day and time. The Church is a community of Christ followers who have a friendly relationship and associate any day, any time, any place when Christ brings them together to lift up Christ and his love, to encourage one another and to get to know the tastes and interests of each other.

communityofbelievers

Obviously fellowship can also happen with people of different tastes and interests, different faith, different lifestyles. We can be loving and accepting of all as we get to know and understand each other and treat each other with kindness, respect and friendliness.

Yet fellowship among believers is needed for us to be encouraged and built up. As mentioned in Hebrews 10:25… not forsaking our own assembling together as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another and all the more as you see the day drawing near. This verse in no way says we must assemble in a building with a set program on a set day or led by a select group of people. This verse just means as followers of Christ we need each other. We need time together getting to know one another, build one another up in Christ and live a life that shows the world the good news of the gospel, which is that God loves each and every one of us.

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