Love NEVER fails!

Is this true?
Does love fail?
Isn’t God love?
Does God fail?
What is God’s plan?
and through him to reconcile all things to himself, by him, whether things on the earth, or things in the heavens, having made peace through the blood of his cross.—Colossians 1:20
Is God really interested in reconciling all or is it just rhetoric?
Have we really studied the Bible and what was meant?
When we say, “The Bible clearly says” have we clearly understood what the Bible was actually saying?
Are we using scripture to justify ourselves while condemning others?
Is that what the Bible is for?
Are we truly ready to be judged in the same way and by the same measure that we judge (Matt 7:2)?
Is there any darkness in God (1 John 1:5)?
Why do we continue to resist what the Bible says?
Did Jesus really represent the Father in bodily form (John 14:7)?
Why do we continue to insist that God is malevolent and that Satan will win the majority of souls in hell?
Why do we continue to believe Satan has any such power to ruin even one single part of God’s ultimate plan?
If we continue to insist this, aren’t we insisting that God loses?
Can any single part of God’s plan fail in the end?
Why do I ask such things? I truly believe that God is love, that God does not and will not fail—that love wins, completely, in the end! I believe in the power of love to win everyone!
Is that too much to hope for?
Is God not also the God of infinite hope?
Are we limiting our love by insisting that this can’t be?
Are we attaching “buts” to water down God’s love—to bring God’s infinite power into our human forms of justice, revenge, and limitation?
Do we dare to truly believe that God is infinitely powerful, infinitely merciful, and infinitely loving?
What would be the result if we truly had that kind of faith—that God is love without limits?
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Moving Forward

Last week I was writing a post about the withering away of my bitterness towards institutional religion. I never got around to publishing that piece as some other things came up. After some beautiful conversations with God this weekend, I was rereading that draft and could see, after only a few days, how much my viewpoint was changing.
Admittedly, I’ve had my objections to the institutions, and still do, but many were from a place of severe disillusionment. God didn’t really try to force me out of this state, but gently guided me and eroded away all of my disappointment and heartache. Now, I’m beginning to be able to love the religious people again but in a better, more real way.
Before, I loved those who were raised to acknowledged the same views as me while distancing myself from, if not vilifying, those who were different. As I studied the Bible and talked with God more and more, I started seeing discrepancies with that approach. One day, after asking a series of questions, the carpet was ripped from under me as I saw just what I was supporting.
My heart was broken to say the least, but I felt Jesus’ presence strongly comforting me. It was like he was physically there wrapping his arms around me. I began to interact with those I was led to believe I should avoid. To my amazement, they were surprisingly human. The dehumanization techniques I had been blinded by were blown away when I actually entered into their individual lives to try to understand them more, while laying aside any of the presumptions I’d had before.
After that, I became quite bitter with religiosity. Now, I’m beginning to be able to love more openly. I don’t think I’ll ever be a part of an institution again, but I feel like I’m able to find common ground for loving discussion with others even if we don’t see eye to eye. I don’t feel a need to force my viewpoint, but rather just openly and honestly listen and respond as the Holy Spirit guides me.
This journey is wildly unpredictable, but I’m loving the new things God is showing me everyday. Regardless of how obstinate I’ve been, he has led me to a better understanding and a deeper relationship. Jesus has turned the negative experiences and attitudes I’ve had into beautiful opportunities to love others. Maybe that’s a part of the plan—to redeem all of creation through even our most despondent conditions.

The Temple’s Destruction

I came across a statement yesterday that made a good point in the line of reasoning I’ve been researching lately. It reminded me of something Col. Quaritch said in Avatar: “The hostiles believe that this mountain territory is protected by their… deity. And when we destroy it, we will blast a crater in their racial memory so deep, that they won’t come within 1,000 klicks of this place ever again.” This seems to be what Rome was going for during the war in 66-70 AD—destroying the center of the Jewish faith to demoralize and scatter them. Saying that the two times the temple was destroyed (first by Babylon in the Old Testament) were major events to Israel is almost an understatement. These would have been events of a magnitude that would have echoed throughout their entire society for centuries.
So what’s my reasoning for pointing this out?
One of the more popular traditional views is that Revelation was written in 95/96 AD and speaks to future events (i.e. The Rapture, the “Left Behind” series). There’s one huge catch to me though. The New Testament, including Revelation, from this viewpoint, doesn’t speak anything of the (past) war of 66-70 AD which would have been far more relevant to the recipients of that time. This leads me to believe that all of the New Testament was written before the war and the prophetic passages were speaking of its’ coming. Why would such a major event not be mentioned in any of the Bible as a past occurrence? For me, seeing the Jerusalem/Temple invasion as being a prophecy that was going to happen soon (Rev 1:1, 22:20Matt 16:28, 24:34) seems far more accurate as to what is actually written. Why would the Roman invasion of Jerusalem not be mentioned at all in the New Testament other than a future event especially since most everything else relevant to Jewish society was? If any of the New Testament was written after 70 AD, surely it would make some mention of the Roman invasion and the temple’s destruction.
Yes, I know this can sound radical. Yes, I know it’s challenging. Yes, I know this opens up a whole lot of if/then scenarios. I’ve been considering this for a few months now and isn’t a conclusion I came to lightly. However, it is a conclusion I personally accept that seems to align with everything else going on in the Bible. As usual, you can throw this whole idea out as heresy if you wish. I encourage not just taking my word for it but researching for one’s self.

Another Reading Cycle

Books

I’m feeling the urge to go into another heavy reading cycle. The pic is about 1/2 of the books that I’ve collected up over the past few months for when I next got this hunger.
For me, I’m thoroughly enjoying learning more about God. Can I ever know it all? Of coarse not! However, knowing God more intimately causes me to fall even more in love with him. I don’t ever want to get to the place of complacency where I stop desiring to know him more.
Recently, a few questions have piqued my interest and I’m excited to dig in to find the answers and grow more in this amazing relationship.

Jesus’ Wilderness Temptations

We all most likely know this story. Jesus was tempted after 40 days of fasting in the wilderness. It is obvious where the temptation was coming from and that Jesus could reasonably resist, but what was significant about these specific scenarios? Again, these are my views. Please research and pray to find the relevant answers for your walk with God.
Stones to Bread
What was the big deal here? Jesus was hungry and he had the power to feed himself. Was it just a denial of appetite, or was there a deeper meaning here?
We see later Jesus performing similar miracles when feeding the multitudes. In the Gospel of John, the people see the miracle that Jesus has done and then attempt to forcibly crown him king (John 6:14-15). Perhaps this was the point. Jesus’ mission wasn’t to dazzle people into following him because of his miracles. Then, he would just be a vending machine or genie that would be for the whims of the people tagging along. Jesus knew that this wasn’t the right way to bring the Kingdom though it might be our human reaction if we could perform the same type of feats. How tempted would I be to garner followers for God if I could feed multitudes of people through miracles? The people followed Jesus to the other side of the lake, not because they were seeking the spiritual kingdom, but because they were seeking a physical one (John 6:26-27).
The Temple
The second temptation was at the top of the temple. If Jesus were to throw himself from there, then the angels would catch him. What could be the deeper point in this?
The religious leaders were the ones who had the hardest time believing who Jesus was. A feat like this, in the temple, would certainly prove to all present that he was indeed the Son of God. Once the religious leaders were on board, Jesus would be able to spread the Kingdom much easier….except….this would have just created another religion, with the same religious leaders in charge. They would have seen Jesus’ power and followed him for that and not because they loved him.
Ruler
The third temptation was for Jesus to rule over the world through worshiping the deceiver. Jesus, of coarse, refused, but what could be the deeper meaning here?
Jesus had the power at his disposal to force world peace, but this is the deceiver’s method and has no love in it.
God’s plan has always been to win our hearts through love. If through miracles, we would only follow for the “blessings” he would give. If through religious authority, we would only follow him out of obligation that we have to. If through force and threats, we would only follow him out of fear. I believe these to be the deeper meanings behind why Jesus pursued his ministry like he did. Today, we still try to force a physical kingdom through acts, religion, and/or fear. Jesus didn’t take the expected paths to bring his Kingdom, but instead chose the path of love!

Confessions

I don’t specifically try to hide things anymore. Most of the time I’m just bad at communicating, at least in person. So, here’s a list of how I see certain things. Many of these I may have hinted at or directly stated before. I don’t list these things to tell others how to relate to God. I list these to lay all of my cards on the table as I don’t want to misrepresent to anyone what I personally believe. Feel free to skip around and just read the bold portions if you want to know the summary of my views.
I like Rob Bell. I’ve only looked into some of his work in the past few months and had come to many of the same conclusions previously, but I think he’s closer to the truth of love than a vast majority of our religious leaders today.
I think Satan has a strong foothold in what we call “churches” today. Many have become complacent in their weekly routine and the sermons I’ve heard have just become about pleasing “itchy ears.” The extravagant love relationship with Jesus isn’t displayed. I don’t think this is just a recent occurrence. It’s been fairly consistent for about 1700 years with small respites of reform that only capitulated back to skewed rules, political agenda, financial gain, guilt, manipulations, elitism, and burdensome forms of religion—nothing resembling the Jesus of the Bible I’ve come to know.
I believe Jesus’ Church far exceeds the the man-made structures we’ve tried to contain it in.
I believe the concepts of “hell” and “everlasting punishment” have been blown way out of proportion. I’ve linked my views on these as to not become repetitive. In summary, it seems these have long been a focal point in threatening others into loving God. Think about this statement for a moment. How does that actually make any sense?
I don’t know if homosexuality is a sin. This isn’t a cop-out. I really don’t know. The Bible says a lot of stuff, but more and more I feel called to just love others. Period. If God wants them to change, he will help them with that. Often we presuppose changing a person then they will be our definition of a good Christian. Jesus flipped this upside down. He freed people from condemnation first by entering into their life, then showed them how to be free from that life since they were not condemned. He showed them the love of the Father and that’s what changed their hearts. Aside from this, Jesus never mentions homosexuality that I can find. Maybe he didn’t find focusing on that, as a platform to push religion, was as important as love.
The Bible doesn’t always clearly state what we tend to say it does. Often we will say the Bible clearly states something, but what we are really saying is: I believe, based on my interpretation, this is what the Bible says. For example, we may say that Sodom was destroyed because of homosexuality. Genesis 19 doesn’t mention homosexuality but rather iniquity. Additionally, Ezekiel 16:49-50 states their sins more implicitly. What seems to be the point is—rape is rape whether it is heterosexual or not.
Justice doesn’t mean punishing others. When Jesus mentioned justice, he tied it in to mercy (Matt 23:23). Justice seems to be twisted today to mean we have a right to judge and execute punishment, often displaying very little mercy. Jesus talks about this type of judgment-mercy relationship also (Matt 7:2) as well as James (James 2:13). My view of justice applies more to standing up justly for those who have been alienated and ignored (Deut 10:18, Isaiah 1:17).
The Bible isn’t “perfect.” God let his children tell his story as they understood him at the time. Throughout the Old Testament, God was understood like all the other gods—a warrior that would lead in destroying anyone not following him. Likewise, Israel seems to have assumed that when the Messiah came, he would destroy all the outsiders. We still have similar views in both cases today.
I lean more towards a preterist view of prophecy.
I also lean more towards the view of universal reconciliation. I believe Paul states it fairly well in Ephesian 1:10. In addition, the Bible uses a lot of “all” terminology—(John 12:32, 1 John 2:2, Titus 2:11, Colossians 1:15-17 & 18-20, 1 Timothy 2:4—just to list a few). I believe that every knee will (willingly) bow and every tongue will confess (by the Holy Spirit) that Jesus Christ is Lord! Is that too much to put my hope in?
The Bible is a story revealing Father’s love to us through Jesus and the gift of the Holy Spirit. God has always wanted us to be his children. Dare I say, that’s the whole point of life—to experience what being separate from God is like so we truly embrace what being with him is. That is, love is a choice. Without that choice, it is no longer love. God lets us choose in our time but has already hinted (as mentioned above) that all will choose love in the end. I know this may be quite a complicated thing to comprehend, but I truly believe that God is love and he wins the hearts of all of his children in the end.
So, those are several of my views as of now. These aren’t ideals that I’m explicitly defending but only describing my viewpoint on as to how I’ve come to view the love of God. Please note that I’m not just cherry picking verses so I can establish my view as legitimate. I’m trying to convey the overall story of the Bible—that is, God’s grand plan of the redemption of all of his beloved children…all of creation. My goal is to help people see God’s love so they can come to a greater freedom to live fully in the Kingdom now. I didn’t come to any of these conclusions lightly or because someone else told me to, but rather through much Biblical study and prayer. Throw it all out if you feel you must. Label me heretic, blasphemer, evil, etc…To me, it doesn’t matter anymore as this beautiful relationship and hope that I’ve been given in Jesus surpasses anything that could be said or done to me.