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Archive for March, 2016

Are God’s Morals Ours Or Can God Do Whatever The Hell God Wants?

Many cannot respect or desire a relationship with a Creator that plays by different moral rules than advised to those created. Many argue out of respect that God can do what they want because they are God. Many who believe the Bible is God’s inspired words written down may suggest God lives by a different standard because of their interpretations of Scriptures. I believe many interpretations are misguided; therefore, we can assume God’s morals are the same as perfect human morals. Most understand loving parents, include God, don’t say do as I say not as I do.

It is hard to believe a loving God would actual tortures people forever for beliefs they had while a short time on earth. God doesn’t! No such place as Hell exists according to the Bible. Jesus used the Greek word Gehenna, wrongly translated as Hell, to warn against self-centeredness. Parents warn children similarly of paths of destruction. Gehenna, a real valley never Jerusalem, had a history of slaughtered bodies. Jesus taught spiritual death is even worse than physical death (Gehenna). See here.  Jesus never taught people can be scared into true righteousness. Love and mercy from our Creator is necessary to do good and shun evil.

It is unthinkable for many to think God believes half the world (women) are to be under the authority of men in home or religious settings. Jesus never said any human needs a mediator between them and God. Men are already prone to dominate and need no such encouragement. God did not create a male-controlled relationship between Adam and Eve in the beginning. Nations thereafter chose to be patriarchal. Jesus encouraged equality between the sexes and mutual respect against culture norms. The Apostle Paul advised husbands to love their wives as their own bodies. Some religious extremists would rather be dead than advocate for that.

God is accused of being a lover of war. There are some difficult passages, but do we really think God desired war over peaceful alternatives. God is charged with approving ethnic cleansing but no enemy of Israel was every totally annihilated. God has respected freedom of beliefs from the very beginning; otherwise, God who is powerful enough to create would annihilate immediately those who oppose God by choosing evil. Wars often are unavoidable when other nations have no desire to live in peace but to impose their beliefs. Wars often lead to innocent people dying but do nations simply stand by while others prepare to attack or torture their own people.

God does not claim the right to play favorites but not humans. Israel was not favored over other nations like a parent may favor one child at the expense of other siblings. It isn’t favoritism when all benefit. God chose one nation to bless all nations through the life of Jesus. Some may be familiar with the suggestion that God foreordains or elects ahead of time those who will be allowed into heaven after death. It is immoral to most to suggest God chooses some over others regardless of their beliefs. God s grace does not have a quota!

The Creator referred to a relationship with those created as a Parent with their children. Communication simply breaks down when a parent doesn’t live by moral standards they encourage for others. How can we discern to follow God’s example unless God clarifies each action if appropriate for humans or not? It doesn’t make rational or relationship sense why God would not demand of themselves what actions they demand of us. God intended their words and their actions to convey how to live a life worth living.

Why Do Religions Such As Christianity Need To Get Out Of The Conversion Business?

Religions that don’t advocate the violation of the rights of others may have good motives when attempting to persuade others of their beliefs. I will discuss Christianity since I am most familiar with those beliefs. Having the goal of conversion often leads to people getting hung up on accepting certain beliefs which hinders important spiritual discussions. Spiritual discussions become taboo unlike physical or emotional health discussions. Few object to the importance of treating others like you want to be treated, so we must find ways to have such discussions in more natural ways. There is no more important discussion than how we can be more loving.

The majority of people born have lived and died without any knowledge of the Bible or who Jesus was. It is suspect that a loving God insists all believe in the Christian God they have never heard about. Neither must we convert to Christianity those who possess a Bible. John Hick offers a relational view of a loving God in a pluralistic world where people have never heard of Jesus or have a distorted view of God: “Consider the belief that there is an ultimate transcendent Reality which is the source and ground of everything; that this Reality is benign in relation to human life; that the universal presence of this Reality is humanly reflected (‘incarnated’) in the lives of the world’s great spiritual leaders; and that among these we have found Jesus to be our principal revelation of the Real and our principal guide for living (The Metaphor of God incarnate, 187).

Religion conversations do not have to proceed: “Do you believe in God? Do you believe Jesus was the Son of God and died to save you from your sins? Do you believe that the Bible is God’s inspired communication to us? Will you confess your sins, believe, and begin to go to church?” I would suggest very few react positively or are persuaded with such an approach unless they are choosing to attend an evangelistic meeting in the first place. If one was less worried about converting others to their beliefs the conversation may be totally differently.

We often need to have discussions such as: “How are you doing spiritually or in relationships?” Do you agree the pursuit of loving others like you want to be loved is important? How do you think one can best stay on course in such a challenging world?” I am not suggesting such conversations be forced or that conversations have any hidden agenda other than encouraging one another to be less self-centered. All leaders of the main religions best have one main message – loving your neighbor as yourself – so relationships can better heal and thrive.

The world can be a much better place when more people are actively pursuing less selfish lives. Attempting to convert people to a set of beliefs is drowning out the message. I get why certain Christian beliefs are difficult to accept for many. Christianity often insists Jesus was God in person but logically how can one be deity and not deity? Does it really matter one’s beliefs on such matter rather than the message of how to make the world a better place to live in. Let’s discuss Jesus’ wisdom on such matters or any other credible person who may represent Truth. The question is did Jesus or anyone speak truthfully of what a loving God desires for us.

Jesus seemed to care less about certain beliefs and more about the importance of loving your neighbor as yourself. Jesus conveyed that God desires to help us in this endeavor. What would Jesus do if someone said I don’t believe you are the one prophesized, or I don’t believe you are going to resurrect in three days physically? Even Jesus’ disciples did not have to pass a litmus test of sacred beliefs. I get why people 2000 years later don’t necessarily think that Jesus resurrected. But, we still must discuss how to have better relationships in a troubled world. Jesus encouraged resisting behaviors that lead to personal or relationship destruction. Jesus’ only sacred belief was that our Creator loves and forgives us and desires to inspire us to act the same toward others. Jesus taught God seeks to empower us to do good and shun evil.

No loving God imposes their views on others if the rights of others are not being violated. If you currently can’t believe in a God or Creator, they how do you think we can best love one another? It seems to me there is a lot of spiritual passivity in this world. Let’s remove reasons for such behaviors because we are arguing over beliefs rather than how we can have more loving relationships. It is difficult to argue that the motivation to love your neighbor is wrong-minded. I do not wish to undermine those who believe in a Creator. Loving parents, as God, can be an inspiration to their children in being the person they desire to be deep down. God’s love and forgiveness can be our necessary nourishment that leads to life transformations. But, we must have spiritual conversations if the world is going to have more positive changes.

 

 

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Can One Be Spiritual But Not Religious?

Religions by seeking converts are conveying one must be religious in order to be spiritual. Jesus was more concerned with the religious not being spiritual. Jesus’ biggest grip was with religious leaders who distorted who God is by insisting on certain beliefs. Jesus’ only sacred belief was that our Creator loves and forgives us and desires to inspire us to act the same toward others. A life of self-centeredness is personally and relationally destructive and not going to make for a better world. Spirituality is simply striving to love others like we want to be loved.

Jesus was never a part of any religion. Jesus never referred to followers as Christians. Jesus never ever suggested we go to “a” church. Unfortunately, people who supposedly believe in the same message of loving your neighbor as yourself divide into their separate buildings (i.e. Catholics, Protestants, Baptists, Methodists, etc.). They establish certain rules or customs you must follow to join which drowns out the message. Jesus simply taught God seeks to empower us toward a life of doing good and shunning evil.

One is not spiritual because they go to church or because they have certain beliefs about God. The religious tend to communicate their beliefs as truth, but views of God are fallible so each individual must work out their beliefs about God with God. We must though be able to talk about our spiritual health as much as our physical or emotional health. People don’t need to be converted or attend a church; we need relationships where we can discuss becoming the type of person we deep desire want to be.

Many may struggle for rational reasons to believe there is a Creator. For those who believe there is a Creator, I am convinced God desires to support us in our pursuit of loving others like we want to be loved. In a troubled world being law-abiding citizens is great but not enough. God never loses hope in us despite our failures and hopes we will do the same for others. God always loves and forgives us despite our imperfections in hopes we will treat others the same. God seeks to empowers us to be encourages than discourages for change.

 

Why Do Non-Religious Spiritual People Avoid Spiritual Discussions?

Many people are spiritual-minded but avoid spirituality discussions for good reasons. It may surprise many of the Christian faith that when Jesus was asked how to have eternal life, He simply said to love God and love others as yourself (Lk.10:25-27). This is not exactly a typical evangelistic spiel. God is not egotistical but Jesus understood loving God is being empowered to love others to the fullest. Few object to the notion of treating others like you want to be treated, so we must have discussions without all the trappings of supposed sacred beliefs. 

Followers of Christianity may deter people from spiritual discussions because of the goal to convert others to their religion and beliefs. People often reject dogmatic beliefs rather than the message of loving your neighbor as yourself with the help of God. Jesus’ interactions with others didn’t suggest that God had a litmus test of beliefs. Jesus’ only sacred belief was that our Creator loves and forgives us in hopes to inspire us to act the same toward others. Jesus taught God seeks to empower us toward a life of doing good and shunning evil. People don’t need to be converted; people need to be encouraged to have conversations how to love in their relationships.  

Followers of Christianity also deter people by how they conduct business. The Bible does not encourage divisions among followers – Baptists, Methodists, Protestants, Catholics, etc. Religious people fight over their different doctrines, yet all supposedly believe in the same message of loving your neighbor as yourself. Why would anyone seeking spiritual guidance seek help from people that can’t get alone? We have enough conflict in our families, friendships, and places of work. Christianity or any religion is better off without buildings with names on them. We simply need people meeting with one another to encourage each in their spiritual walk.  

Some many reject God because portrayals don’t make moral or relational sense. Some insist God is a sadistic torturer by insisting Hell is real in the Bible. Some religious suggested God is gender bias by insisting men have authority over women. Biblical interpretations that don’t convey what a loving God should be like are suspect. All are capable of knowing what a loving God is like similar to knowing right from wrong. God is not some immoral, irrational Being. Views of God must be discussed gracefully so each may work out their own convictions. Interpretations are fallible so we mustn’t declare our opinions are the truth. We should focus on the message of how we can we love others in a troubled world with the help of one another and God. 

Those who don’t pursue God are often accused of being internally rebellious. I suggest the main reasons may be because of the way spirituality is presented and lived out. Spiritual conversations are as important as physical or emotional health conversations, but one’s goal to convert or push certain beliefs deters such exchanges. It is also important that spiritual minded people who wish to encourage others confess wrongdoing, seek forgiveness, and make necessary amends in relationships. We need to stop judging others, if they aren’t violating the rights of others, and focus on living up to our own standards. If one is looking for an excuse to not be more spiritual-minded, hang for me a day for I never live out my values completely. But, we aren’t going to believe in any cause if we are waiting for others to fail.  

I doubt anyone who has read this lacks character. I just am convinced having a spiritual compass is essential in our relationships and making for a better world. I am not normally a bad guy but I am a better person because of having a spiritual focus. I believe I had more success as a parent because I sought to emulate God who doesn’t control for the sake of authentic relationships. I have messed up in my marriage, but God has taught me the importance of confessing, taking responsibility and making amends as best I could. I am not quite sure how to explain but a relationship with God, who loves and forgives us, can inspire us to act the same toward others, to not give up being an encourager than discourager, to not give up doing good and shunning evil.

 

 

Why Must We Have A Spiritual Focus?

Many people believe the way they do about religion because of where they were born or the family they were born into. Many either follow or rebel against the religion we are surrounded by. If born in a Muslim family we are most likely to become a Muslim; if born in a Christian family we are more likely to become a Christian. I am not convinced any religion has a responsibility to convert others to their beliefs rather than encourage actions for a better world.

I am convinced all people need some kind of spiritual focus to guide them in their relationships. Jesus and most of the great religious leaders all had the same message which focused on treating others like you want to be treated. One can raise a family or a nation on such a foundation. Reality also insists we must consider when we or others don’t act lovable. If we don’t put ourselves in another person’s circumstances and act accordingly, the world will never make much progress. Relationships will thrive the most when having a spiritual plan as to how we will love others like we want to be loved.

If you can’t buy into the whole Jesus and Bible thing, don’t throw Jesus’ message out as well. At least have some type of spiritual guide in all you do. One would be hard pressed to argue that Jesus insisted upon any belief other than loving your neighbor as you want to be loved. Jesus encouraged resisting behaviors that lead to personal or relationship destruction. Christian leaders who insist on certain sacred beliefs distract people from focusing on why Jesus came. Jesus’ only sacred belief was that our Creator loves and forgives us and desires to inspire us to act the same toward others. Jesus taught God seeks to empower us to do good and shun evil. 

I believe because of the family I grew up in that Jesus was the person predicted in the Old Testament coming to correct distorted beliefs about our Creator. I am convinced God’s message to us is recorded in the pages of Scriptures. My beliefs, often considered Christian, bring me comfort but they may not others. Most important is the message of treating others like you want to be treated, not if you claim adherence to a certain religion or follow certain rituals. If you are able to believe in a Creator, simple determine how a loving God would guide in relationships. Find ways to discuss your spiritual health like you would your physical or emotional health.

A powerful component of Christianity is that Jesus spoke of God as our spiritual Parent who can empower us to make for a better world, just as a parent’s love can inspire us to be the person we desire to be deep down. God’s example of forgiveness toward me empowers me to be open to forgiving others. Parents always stand by a child’s side no matter the past in hopes their child will change for their good beginning today. God doesn’t want us to lose hope no matter our failures. We may not always understand why God doesn’t protect us from underserved suffering, but God is no stranger to such suffering.

Many people don’t spend a lot of time thinking about God. Well, I do and they still treat others better than me. Lots of non-God folks don’t have as many anxieties or bad habits as church-goers. I am though a better husband, father, friend, and person because of God’s influence. I am convinced all are better off with a spiritual influence. Some success I had as a parent was because I sought to emulate God in relationships who doesn’t control for the sake of authentic relationships. I have messed up in my marriage, but I was always influenced to confess wrongdoings and make amends as best I could. I am motived to encourage not discourage others.

 

Why Would A Loving God Approve Of Animal Sacrifice?

One can rightly question why a loving God would have anything to do with animal sacrifice. Some speculation is required for the Bible doesn’t directly answer all the questions one may ask. My suggestions will certainly not be satisfying to all. My goal in thinking and writing about this subject was to get a better understanding from possibly God’s perspective, though I admit it is easier to defend a God who rejects animal killings.

Cultures in Old Testament times were a significant consideration. Near eastern cultures such as the Canaanite religion had a very complicated sacrificial system. Israel surely borrowed and was influence by other religions. People worshipped human-made idols, thus the reason for the first two Commandments, and developed sacrificial ways to please their gods. The God of the Bible doesn’t always force the ideal on others. God knew the Israelites would continue to participate in sacrifices, so God set out to show a better sacrificial system from the other gods. God simply desires a contrite heart and amends when appropriate for the best interests of all.

It is not always wrong to participate in less than ideal situations when unable to convince others of our ideals. Most are not as offended as I am of the excepted practice of coaches yelling at their players, whether children or adults, for motivational reasons. I believe love and calmness rather than fear and loudness is the ideal way to inspire others. Players will excel and act in the interest of the team when convinced to do so is in their best interest. Anger is short-lived and relationally destructive. If I had the power to do so, I wouldn’t necessarily ban sports or coaches who yell. One reason that I coached young people was in hopes to demonstrate a better way.

I am convinced there were difference between God and the other gods who required sacrifice for their own gratification. God did not ask for sacrifice to get on God’s good side but to reveal the deadliness of wrongdoing relationally. God ask for worship not for self-gratification but loving God is loving others to the fullest. A parent should ask for respect if they truly have a child’s best interest in mind. In other religions sacrifices were often thought to feed the gods somehow through the aroma of the smoke. This maybe is why the Psalmist wrote that God doesn’t have to be fed (50:9-12). God never required child sacrifice like the Canaanite religions that sacrificed their children to appease their gods.

I would be remiss to not mention that Jesus was portrayed as the ultimate sacrifice, but did God require human sacrifice in the lives of Jesus and Isaac? Jesus’ death was not necessary to appease God and earn God’s forgiveness. But, Jesus was willing to die for His beliefs in hopes to convince others of His message. See here. Jesus came to clearly reveal what God was really like. Many translators advise “Now, take your son” (Gen. 22:2) in the Hebrew language suggests God is making more of a plea than demand of Abraham. Other gods commanded obedience. Abraham may not have known this was a test but the writers of Genesis, who oversaw the writing of the first five books of the OT,  knew God condemned child sacrifice (Lev. 20:2). In the story Isaac, who was possible in his twenties, was not killed. It is plausible to think God had no intentions of letting Abraham kill Isaac, for it was the other gods who demanded child sacrifices.

Most offerings after an animal is sacrificed and cooked on the altar was eaten as a shared meal or offered to the priests. This may not have always been the case with burnt offerings but often animals were eaten (Deut:12:7). Animals were never tortured but carefully prepared for sacrifice. One could argue that that slaughtering livestock for sacrificial purposes is similar to slaughtering animals for food today. No doubt there were many crazy laws surrounding sacrifices. God was only using sacrifice and extreme animal cleanliness to point toward the important of heart cleanliness. Confession, contriteness, and amends are what lead to healing in relationships.

God did not require sacrifice from the beginning but accepted the hand dealt to point toward the importance of unselfish living. Sacrifice was a means to an end as David wrote that God delights more in a broken and contrite heart and not sacrifices (Ps. 51:16-17). Hosea states that God desires mercy not sacrifice as the Israelites perhaps begin to pervert the purposes for sacrifices (Hosea 6:7). Laws and rituals are not the end all but means to reveal the condition of one’s heart. God only desires to destroy self-centeredness which ruins lives and the world we live in. The sacrificial system of the OT was meant to lead us toward the path of true love.

 

 

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