I’ve been really thinking about the phrase eternal life and what it meant in Jesus’s day compared to our current understanding or interpretation. I I am beginning to believe that most of the mentions of eternal life that we here in the New Testament are dealing with not the Heavenly by-and-by eternity that we have been led to believe but more a day-to-day worthwhile and meaningful life a life that gives one’s self into or unto the world around that person at that time.
When discussing the question of eschatological judgment, defenders of traditional doctrine immediately appeal to our Lord’s teaching on hell. It is simply obvious that Jesus taught the eternal damnation of the reprobate. Certainly that is how almost all the English translations render the relevant New Testament texts. The classic passage is Jesus’ parable of the sheep and the goats (Matt 25:31-46). The parable concludes with these words (Matt 25:46):
καὶ ἀπελεύσονται οὗτοι εἰς κόλασιν αἰώνιον, οἱ δὲ δίκαιοι εἰς ζωὴν αἰώνιον
And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal. (KJV)
And these will depart into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life. (RSV)
And these shall go away to punishment age-during, but the righteous to life age-during. (YLT)
And these shall be coming away into chastening eonian, yet the just into life eonian. (CLNT)
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If I were asked if I were a Christian or what denomination or sect I would call myself I would go wirh something like an Atheistic Theist or Atheistic Christian. Seems like some sort of any oxymoron but let me explain.
I grew up believing and listening to preachers from a very youmg age. My parents were part of an ACLU Lutheran church in small town Wisconsin. They were involved with the youth grpup. Somewhere along the line they started to ask questions and want more.
They went and looked around at other churches and eventually found a church that preached a simple salvation message. They beacme “savedcc and so did i. I tried to live upright. I followed the rules lived a Christian life. I went to a Christian college married a Christian wife and even partook in being a youth pastor.
I did everything I thouhht I should but I was living yet seemed to be missing something. In 2012 I literally fell apart, lost my job, ministry, and pretty much my family. I hit rock bottom and over the next couple years deconstructed both spiritually, emotionally, and mentally. Leaving me to go through a total me overhaul.
I came out on the other side a totally different me. A better me (Ben 2.0+)
The way I look at God and who he is, is light years away from my 40+ years of how I did.
So, by saying Atheistic Theist or Christian , I.mean.”yes, I believe in God but just not the version that most do.
I read the following article and it states much of my current me. It’s a good read, enjoy. I know I did.
The God I No Longer Believe In
JUNE 14, 2017 / JOHN PAVLOVITZ
“Do you believe in God?”
People have asked me that question for my entire life.
The answer used to be simple and quick, almost involuntary. I had a tidy little collection of the platitudes and Bible verses I’d stockpiled, committed to memory, and carried around should I be asked. That’s what good Christians did, I’d learned. It’s especially what good Christian pastors did.
My job was to sell God—and I could do it well.
But little by little, I gradually grew less comfortable with those easy answers and I had less and less peace in my spirit with what they implied. I began looking around at many of the Christians whose God I was expected to fully share and amen and defend—and I realized that I couldn’t.
I listened to the celebrity evangelists and the partisan politicians and the brimstone street preachers, and knew that we were not speaking about the same thing. We couldn’t be.
As I read the Bible and prayed and studied; as I reflected on the world I’d experienced and the people I’d encountered; as I watched what Christians were doing and saying in the name of God, I came to the conclusion that I had to make a distinction between theirs and mine—because the two were simply incompatible.
I do believe in God, but there is a God I no longer believe in:
I no longer believe in a God who is male and white. (though I will use masculine pronouns below, as this identity is critical to the beliefs I’ve discarded.)
I no longer believe in a God who created women as less-than; who assigns certain tasks to them, who ascribes different value to them, who reserves church and home leadership solely for men.
I no longer believe in a God who doles out blessings like a cosmic Santa Claus; adding up our naughty and nice stuff, giving us good things if the scales tip in our favor and withholding them if we don’t measure up.
I no longer believe in a God who answers prayers based on volume; who will move to bring healing and help—only if enough appeals are made to Him, when a critical mass is reached.
I no longer believe in a God who is capable of permanently writing off His children for their mistakes, their rebelliousness, their unbelief; who would craft a place of eternal torment and suffering and separation—and then send them there for good.
I no longer believe in an all-powerful God, who would allow a devil dominion anywhere—let alone in the place where His supposedly treasured children spend their days, as hurting, vulnerable, and scared as they all are.
I no longer believe in a God who commands me to forgive others unrelentingly—and then holds a grudge against me should I fail one too many times; a God who is as petty, judgmental, thin-skinned, and vain as I am.
I no longer believe in a God who spoke to a handful of people a few thousands years ago through divine dictation—and who is now silent.
I no longer believe in an all-knowing God, who would create men and women with a specific identity and natural inclination to love—only to find them repulsive as they lived into those deepest truths.
I no longer believe in a God who would choose sides in any war; who would revel in violence, who would rejoice in death, who would celebrate genocide.
I no longer believe in a God who blesses America—or any other nation.
I realize that to many Christians, this means that I am no longer a proper Christian; that my faith is illegitimate, my religion heretical, my testimony nullified. I’m okay with that. I know that any bitterness or condemnation that they respond to these words with, is the voice in their head of the God they believe—and I understand. They are, just as I am, just as we all are: trying to figure out what God is and what that God’s character is—and how we should live accordingly.
All any of us can do, is to be as honest as we can at any given moment, about where all our searching and studying and praying and living has led us. This is where I am. I can’t be anywhere else. God knows this.
Today when people ask me, “Do you believe in God?”, especially when other Christians ask me—my reply isn’t quick or simple or nearly as tidy.
Now my response is, “How much time do you have?”
Quitting your calling….
I used to be a youth pastor who was really involved in activating 10 yr olds and up. I took teams of youth and traveled with worship and intecressory teams motivating and training churches in how worship and intercession worked together to move mountains and change the temperature of a generation (yeah about that).
I was a motivator giving a yu rah rah to change the world…
I spoke of calling an destiny, throw in a little hootzpah! Add a plan and create desire call forth Joel’s Army and the Esthter’s call forh a Nazarite or two bring on emotions, puberty, zeal and guilt.
Cast a vision cteate a false future narrative and name it “your calling “.
I now look at it and I may have been talking in order to sound like a voice rather than being a voice. I did not get it.
I used to think I had to do to BE, and to fall short was a disgrace and to have a God who was disappointed in my failure.
Have you ever watched one of those #fail compilation videos on YouTube? More than likely you have, there are plethora of them put there. Have you ever watched a #success compilation on YouTube? Yeah me neither. I don’t know if they exist.
I know that setting goals is important but what should those spiritual goals look like?
I’m going with Isaiah 58:6-7
…To loose the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the heavy burdens,
To let the oppressed go free,
And that you break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out;
When you see the naked, that you cover him…
I’m ok not having a pulpit ministry, I’m ok with not having a title follow, I’m ok without the praise of people. Anonymity is my friend it’s my calling to be in the shadows helping, feeding, upliftig, being there one on one.
My calling is not preacher, teacher, prophet, elder…..
It is to be human and an integral part of that humanity..
Had the opportunity yesterday to work with a client. Was getting her an insurance quote. She looked as if she were possibly lesbian (looking at the stereotypes). I knew she had two teenagers and as we were talking i found out the kids were adopted young, she and her partner have been together 23 years, and even though they share the last name are not married. I did pick on her about fear of commitment at that point. We talked about adoption, I have 11 adopted bro & sis in laws.
She had come in a little after 5:00 so our office actually closed and it was a Friday night so everybody had left early.
That left the two of us alone and as we were working and talking I just felt that I just had to say sorry, I apologized for what Christians have done to the LGBT community and she actually got a little bit emotional when I did that.I did to. I explained I had been in the ministry. I was a youth pastor and was one who was in the category of love the sinner hate the sin. To me now, that is a messed up that mentality is. I had a chance to really connect and I probably spent way longer than I normally would with a client. It seemed like it meant a lot to her but the more I think about it, it meant a lot to me just being able to open up and apologize for the crap in my past.
To be able to love someone for just them being them, not about their actions, character, abilities, sensibilities, religion, sexualitu, excetera that’s where I want to go.
If there is a God, is that God limited or limitless?
Is that God conditionally loving or unconditional?
For most of my life I put God in a box that fit my parameters and what I thought was possible and just. But what if that God was something that couldn’t be boxed couldn’t be held in by my limitations?
I was talking with probably one of my best friends today. I was laying out some things in my life that I have not put into words with anyone else face to face. We talked about God, heaven, wrath, love amongst other things.
In there came up a real story of tragedy that happened here in the Kansas City area. A mother and father murdered one of there 6 children, cut up the remains and fed to the family pigs. The question came up, could that mother be forgiven or does there have to be some sort of justice and retribution? Justice, wrath, eternal condemnation…
In the church there has been a need for justice, in the world outside the church there is also need for justice. In the life of Jesus he spoke more of mercy and loved than justice. In a cursory search the word “Grace” shows up between 113 – 131 times in the NT all depending on which version you read and the word “Justice” approximately 0. I found the word “just” but not “Justice.”
I personally have been involved in a ministry that prays around the clock for God’s justice to poured out and seen on the Earth. Most automatically assume that justice is needed or demanded outcome. It seems only natural and right.
But what if God is more than that? As a child I pictured God up in the clouds listening into some super natural police scanner waiting for that transmission where He would then pull out a lightning bolts and throw a lightning bolts down on said offender.
How can a God made of unconditional love also be a God who torments the offender? Picture a father or mother (which is ever easiest for you). That parent brings five kids into this world, that parent knows three are going to fall short of the parents standards and will then torment three of the five because of short comings forever. Does that sound like a loving being? I am going to confess, if that is the God that is that is not a God I choose to love or follow. If you heard the words “love me, or I will burn your and rip the flesh from your bones.” Sounds pretty creepy, right?
So, back to the beginning thought, are there people that God cannot forgive and are not worthy of His love? Is a parent who slaughters their own child unforgivable? Is God limited by my parameters?
Are you limiting God? In biblical times the Pharisee thought they were pretty smart and had the answers. They thought they new how the Savior would be coming and Jesus was not it. Jesus shows up and is like guys, you thought you knew but you have it wrong.
I believe I had it wrong for most of my life. I thought I knew or had answers for most anything. I now believe I know way less than I thought I did, matter o’ fact I now probably have more questions than answers…
What if God is way better than we ever thought God could be?
Contemplating life this morning, my personal life has had numerous ups and lots of downs in the past few years. I have noticed I have even become jaded towards many of the things I used to take for granted. Because of the downs I have had issues with dealing with others happiness moments, I’ve been jealous and my inner me has shut off emotions and possibly even fostered bitterness inside.
This has a tendency to isolate. I have not noticed it as much due to the fact at the same time I have become very open and honest with other areas in myself. The Cure by John Lynch has been excellent in helping me see the facade I have had put on for 40+ years. Although I still have had areas where I continue to mask. With that being said I have felt I have been more real than ever before. Ask me a question and you may hear more than you want.
But back to the contemplating….
I have shut my self off but in error. I have perceived others happiness but have realized that often my perception is based on what the other person or couple is wanting to have portrayed. Talking with people who seem to have things together or in comparison more together than me… Guess what? They are human to and possibly have more issues than you or me. We are all-out there trying to keep things together, some better than others.
When you see people or things and think that their lawn is greener than yours, remember they are people and have struggles that you may not know that they may be trying to hide whether it’s shame or pride it doesn’t matter. When you see people try looking beyond the mask, look at the person within not the outer facade or mask.
Those people that annoy you, look beyond the actions, change your perspective. Being jaded is not a good thing, it brings bitterness and isolation.
- My identity is not based on my abbilities or what others think about me.
- Be real with yourself and others
These are bringing me freedom.
If your Gods mad, time to learn who God really is and how he loves you for you not some potential future you…
I was listening to Caleb Miller and he brought up an analogy of a good father. ..
If you have a baby who has just learned to crawl and you are watching him crawl around on the floor. You see your child heading for the stairs ….
Do you as a father wait for the child to fall down the stairs before stepping in or do you be proactive in the situation?
A good parent steps in before there is an issue. Ask yourself, do you think you would have better parenting skills then God? He has made a way, he has already responded and rescued man before we knew there was a danger. He is not a monster waiting to punish those who don’t measure up. A good parent loves and takes care of the well behaving and the misbehaving child with the same level of love and affection. You don’t have to gain some mystical brownie points before he saves you from falling down the proverbial stairs.
He loves, accepts, and has already provided for his kids.
Go(o)d parenting 101