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Archive for September, 2018

God Does Not Demand Respect! So What?

It is said that God demands worship and awe which may discourage a close relationship and oppose God’s wishes.  God, like any loving parent, only hopes to persuade through mutual respect that their love is in one’s best interest. We weren’t created to worship God so shut up and give God the glory. God surely created us to share life together.

Doesn’t the Bible command respect for God?

It is easy to read the Old Testament and think that God demanded respect from the Israelites or else! The OT also speaks of Abraham and Moses thinking of God as a Friend. It matters how one reads the Bible. The writers in getting to know God were influenced by their culture where gods were to be feared and revered. But, then Jesus who claimed to be God in flesh didn’t initiate relationships by demanding respect. Jesus got His dander up the most with the religious elite who portrayed God as demanding obedience rather than desiring a relationship.

God’s uncontrolling nature suggests God’s desire for genuine relationships.

If God was controlling or demanded obedience or respect, wouldn’t there be a lot less evil in the world? God doesn’t appear to be like the God of extremists who think that controlling or destroying free, moral decisions result in true love. It may that a God who respects freedom can’t always intervene to stop evil. God may know what we humans know – freedom not force likely leads to genuine, lasting transformations.

The Bible isn’t the only place to understand God and relationships.

The Bible doesn’t even claim to be the specific or only guide to Truth. Jesus when leaving this earth said His Spirit, not some Book, would guide us in truth (Jn. 14:16-17; 16:13). Jesus didn’t seem worried that Truth always requires discernment. Those who claim biblical writers always understood God perfectly likely accept that God created us in God’s image (Gen. 1:27). That passage has a sense of God desiring we represent God here on earth. How can we represent an inaudible God who leaves us with a Book subject to interpretation if we don’t share moral and relationship expectations influenced by God’s Spirit?

Who do you have the most genuine, closest relationships?

I know some may consider it heresy to suggest parents should earn not expect respect as their children age. My parents grew up in the generation where children were expected to be seen and not hear. Parents weren’t seeking to earn their child’s respect must less become close friends as they grew older. Parents were always parents and children were always children.

I was convinced that my children were more likely to act on my guidance, which should be in their best interest, when they desired to do so out of respect than commanded to do so. “Do as I say and not what I do” didn’t make sense to me. Our obedience has absolutely nothing to do with God’s love or a parent’s love for us. Employees or parents have genuine followers not by demanding respect but when there is a sense of mutual respect.

God seeks a close relationship through mutual respect.

God never thought fear led to life-changing transformations. Has gloomy uncertainty as to God’s favor conquered your battles against self-centeredness or long-standing habitual sins? Getting to know what God is truly like can inspire us to be the kind of persons we deep down truly want to be. You can’t get enough of a person or God because you have so much respect, not because you are commanded to love. Love out of fear often only leads to brief obligations out of guilt. My prayers alone or with others doesn’t begin: “Dear God, the Holy One, the Feared Creator of the Universe…” Such talk doesn’t invite getting to know one’s Creator. I talk to God as if a close Friend, and I haven’t been struck dead yet!

 

Does God Really Oppose All Violence And Why It Matters?

It is suggested Jesus showed a better way through example and words, than the Old Testament, by dealing with enemies and relationships by non-violent means. But, would Jesus condemn a nation who sought peaceful means to resolve terrorist threats but when necessary protected themselves? Would Jesus really condemn an individual citizen who opened fire on one seeking to kill all in site in a school setting? If you would protect your own children, why not consider means to protect children in a foreign land from a dictator who enslaves them for sex and other evil acts?

It matters how we represent God when it comes to violence.

Condemning others in God’s name when we aren’t absolutely sure of God’s disapproval can drive people to unwarranted feelings of guilt with God or cause people to reject God for wrong reasons. One may think: “Why would a God who doesn’t intervene always in evil not allow me to protect myself.”  Obviously, God is opposed to beheading others for their religious beliefs. When we advise God opposes all violence, implying it is wrong to protect ourselves against evil, such words condemn military individuals fighting for freedoms or private citizen forced to protect their family or others in a dangerous situation. Does God really condemn all violence?

The Bible can’t be our only source for guiding us about God. 

The Bible surely wasn’t written to be an answer book as to what God would do in our unique situation. Jesus often didn’t answer questions directly. Jesus sought to change hearts which changes how we solve our problems. Imagine a world where all looked out for the interests of others and not just themselves when dealing with difficulties. Besides, literature requires interpretation and we don’t always agree what the writer meant speaking for God. Even the Bible tells us the Word of God has never been the Bible but flesh in the body of Jesus (Jn. 1:1-14). Jesus’ Spirit now lives in us to guide us in truth (Jn. 14:16-17; 16:13). Reading the Bible with a questioning spirit rather than blind obedience can lead to more accurate understandings of God.

Does Jesus really oppose all violence?  

As you might suspect since the Bible must be interpreted, there is disagreement about the passage most often used to advice Jesus speaks to a new way in dealing with our enemies: “But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also…You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you (Mt. 5: 39, 43-44). I just don’t know anyone in their right mind that would advise a wife being beat by their husband to turn the other cheek or not protect themselves. It is possible the literal translation of Mt. 5:39 is “do not resist by evil means” which is more in line with Rm. 12:17: “Do not repay anyone evil for evil.”  

I am opposed to pulling verses from the Bible to prove a point, but there are passages which can suggest God is not opposed to protective violence. In Acts 23 the Apostle Paul, who wrote much of the NT, defended himself quite strongly and then requested military protection from being killed by religious leaders. Jesus didn’t exactly turn the other cheek when struck while defending His innocence (Jn. 18:22-23). Parables are not meant to be taken strictly literally, but one might think if Jesus was opposed to all violence His teaching would have less violent metaphors (i.e. Mt. 13, 18, 25; Mk. 12; Luke 20). Evil is real and may require a violent response.

What we can know for certain about God and violence.   

The majority may agree that God would oppose violence if more peaceful means were available to individuals or nations. More often than not violence begets violence. If we are always looking to meet violence with violence and never consider peaceful means, there will never be room for changes of heart and forgiveness. But, if you think niceness always begets niceness and a soft answer always turns away wrath, you may be leaving a slew of victims behind. In fact, some may only change when forcefully confronted with the pain they are causing. Though we may not know exactly what God would do in each situation, human shortcomings suggest violence should be our last option. If you are anything like me, I am quick to defend myself and confront others without consideration of other possibilities.

Lack of certainty what God or Jesus would do doesn’t have to lead to chaos.

Supposed certainty in the name of God has led to justifying genocide, sexism, homophobia, racism, and other atrocities. Being unable to declare the certainty of our opinions about God forces us to listen, think carefully, and come to an agreement. I don’t always know what God would do in personal or national situations. I do think the Bible as a whole encourages not seeking revenge and praying for ways to change hearts. I can’t say God would never advise a nation or individual to meet evil with force.  Future lives may be saved. I do think the Bible as a whole encourages exhausting all peaceful ways possible. God surely desires a world where all look out for the interests of others and not just themselves when dealing with difficulties.

 

What News About God May Change Your Mind About God?

Do you hear things about God that lead to not wanting to even bother with God? Are you a person of faith but some teachings about God create questions or difficulties in talking about God to others should the subject naturally come up? I heard teachings about God in the church that just didn’t seem true of a good or loving God. It is only human nature to have a close relationship with those you respect. Why wouldn’t that be true of our relationship with God? Maybe we shouldn’t believe everything we hear about God!

What can we know about God?

Even scholars can look at the same passages in Scripture and come up with different interpretations. Jesus spoke in hyperboles and metaphors which can lead to vastly different interpretations. Besides, the Bible can’t be the only way to know what God is like since over half the people born in this world never had a Bible to read. We all seem to have an inborn desire to treat others like we want to be treated – there are “oughts” in our relationships. God surely has given us a moral, intuitive sense what a loving God must be like.   

God can’t possibly be a homophobe.

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

God can’t possibly be a sexist by favoring men in leadership positions.

God surely knew what many of us sense – appointing men as authority over women can encourage dominance on the man’s part and dependence on the woman’s part, which can be conducive for domestic abuse and the other atrocities women face at the hands of men. Women don’t need male leadership in marriage; women need men who have the heart of a servant (Eph. 5:28-29). When the Bible says: “Women should remain silent in the churches” (I Cor. 14:34), maybe the writer would encourage men to be silent in certain situations for the sake of peace. The same writer had just assumed women, without condemning, could prophesize during worship (I Cor. 14:34). See here for rethinking if God is a sexist!

Hell!

The Bible says nothing about the traditional understanding of the word Hell. Hell seems to be an invention over the centuries to scare people into submission and obedience. Our traditional understanding of Hell is no more a translation of the Greek word Gehenna (the name of a real valley near Jerusalem) in the New Testament than Atlanta is for Chicago. 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!

Can God be dogmatic about which religion you choose.

The majority of people born in this world have never heard of Jesus in the Bible. Suggesting a loving God insists one can only come to God through Jesus is to ignore the realities of our world. The vast majority of people born choose or rebel against the religion where they are born, whether be Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, etc. Those who have heard of Jesus often have a distorted view of God. When the Bible speaks of being saved, it isn’t about escaping hell and going to heaven but allowing God to help avoid self-destructive ways for our own best interests. Do you believe that? 

God doesn’t encourage hidden agendas in relationships.

People often avoid God-folks because they can smell a hidden agenda a mile away. It simply is wrong to engage in friendships with others for the purpose of converting them to believe as you do without advising them upfront of your agenda. God-folks struggle to talk about God, for how do you explain a good God is supposedly a homophone, sexist, or sadistic torturer. It turns out God wants for our relationship what we want – not a means to an end (conversion) but an opportunity to share life and love one another.

God can’t be a religious extremist.

Extremists wish to force you to believe what they think is true of God according to some Book. What is not acknowledged is literature requires interpretation so their understanding may be wrong. A truly, loving God would never force one to love but give the freedom to love or reject Them. Forced love is an oxymoron. You can’t get enough of a person or God because you have so much respect, not because you are commanded to love. Love by force only leads to brief obligations out of guilt.

God is not cruel by being invisible and inaudible.

If God cared why doesn’t God make their Presence obvious? God’s awing or overpowering presence may only lead to fearful obligations to obey. When parent push their agendas, even if in their children best interests, they may rebel against coercion and never turn back. If God communicates in less demonstrative ways, this may more allow moral development for lasting convictions. A Creator may not reveal themselves for reasons we haven’t thought of and would accept in time. The road traveled of learning, reflecting, and freely choosing personal convictions may better lead to heart-felt lasting choices that turn out to be in our best interests.

Imagine God really is good news!

Listen to your moral inner voice. You may be right about God! If God claims to be Love and encourages us to be perfect like God (Mt. 5: 48), how can we follow in God footsteps unless God has empowered us somehow to know. And what loving Parent, earthly or heavenly,  doesn’t seek to help you be the best you can be for your best interests and the interests of others!

 

If God Exist Why Worth Pursuing A Relationship?

How can we know God even exist?

I’m not sure why some are inclined to believe in a Creator more than others. I am not always a better human than some who don’t believe in God; I do know I am a better man with God’s influence. Don’t reject God because you can’t believe what others claim about a loving God. They may be wrong! It takes faith to believe that God or Heaven exist or that “we live and we die.” I am convinced my belief in a loving God isn’t wasting my time on earth.

How can we know what a relationship with an invisible God is like?

If there is a Creator, it is plausible they instilled in their creations a way to know them. An invisible, loving, perfect God – which most demand if One claims to be God – could reveal themselves through perfect human love. God is like a perfect human parent! God or parents don’t ask for worship or respect for egotistical reasons, but so we might become more like them. A relationship with God is surely better than any amazing human relationship we wished we had.

So, what is perfect human or Godly love like?

Until we believe God is worth respecting, we will never have the relationship with God we desire.  When loved by another person you deeply respect and care what they think, you feel total acceptance not judged. You can never get enough of their wisdom, but you never feel forced in what decision you make. I so long for a relationship with a older person that I have a deep respect for, so to grow more in wisdom. You just cannot get enough of humanly or godly perfect love!

What God doesn’t promise in a relationship?

I don’t like to make promises about or for God. I can tell you that the prosperity gospel is miserably false. A person who believes that all their troubles will be swept away through a relationship with God is left with the logical explanation that God has failed them. Why don’t these false teachers take their message to those in extreme poverty or go to hospitals and heal the sick? The Bible is clear that lack of faith is not the reason for physical ailments or economic hardships. In my experience I can promise you once you understand God you will be a better person than you were.

What may be God’s greatest promise in a relationship?

Think of God’s Spirit residing in us as other influential voices in our lives. God promises to influence and empower us to be the perfect partner, parent, or friend we desire to be deep down. We know the Spirit’s influence when we have wronged someone, we quickly confess and make amends. That just isn’t always natural. We know the Spirit’s influence when we don’t seek to control our friends or children. Such freedom leads to heart-felt lasting choices, not brief obligations to obey motived by fear or guilt. God speaks to when we hear: I love you; I forgive you; I won’t abandon you.

God isn’t offended you thinking what’s in it for me!

God seeks to encourage not condemn, so we might be the person we deep down desire to be. A relationship with God empowers us to be more like God. God isn’t pissed if you ignore them any more than a loving mom or dad is. They will do whatever it takes to convince you they love you and have your best interest in mind. They seek to influence you and your relationships for good.

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