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I had a really top day yesterday, full of energy, got a lot of work done around home, accomplished alot. I thought to finish a great day, I would read the chapter of John in my bible, I hear so many poeple claiming such joy from the bible and I wanted to experience it too, although I am not to always too good at finding the meaning behind the words. There are definitely some parts that are very harsh, and wont ever hear at mass. What I am doing here is not up for debate, I just have a hard time, with things I read. So much of it contradicts.

"Love is made perfect in us in order that we may have courage on the Day of Judgement; and we will have it because our life in this world is the same as Christ's. There is not fear in love; perfect love drives out all fear. So then, love has not been made perfect in anyone who is afraid, because fear has to do with punishment.
Well I have been hit with a brickwall. :fall

I am not deriving this so called joy from reading the bible. I am feeling exclusion, like a lot of areas in my life. Not intelligent enough, not funny enough, not pure enough, not righteous enough.

I'm not good enough anywhere!!!!!!!!! :afr

I'm having a very difficult time with this. Nothing is ever clear.
To me it seems, a criteria needs to be met, to go to heaven, and fear is not one of them.
I have fear, extreme fear, in the face of normal everday stuff. Imagine my fear on the day of Judgement. If I keep going I'm going to drive myself into the abyss.

jenky :afr
 

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1Jo 4:13 Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit.
1Jo 4:14 And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world.
1Jo 4:15 Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God.
1Jo 4:16 And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.
1Jo 4:17 Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world.
1Jo 4:18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.
1Jo 4:19 We love him, because he first loved us.
1Jo 4:20 If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?
1Jo 4:21 And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.
I think the fear that is being refereed to is the fear of being judged during the day of judgment. So in other words christians do not need to fear the day of judgment that's all. The day of judgment I think refers to the same thing as what is called the white throne judgment mentioned in the book of revelation. A future time that hasn't occurred yet.
 

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{{{{Jenky}}}} It's good to see you here again.

I think the fear that is being refereed to is the fear of being judged during the day of judgment. So in other words christians do not need to fear the day of judgment that's all. The day of judgment I think refers to the same thing as what is called the white throne judgment mentioned in the book of revelation. A future time that hasn't occurred yet.
I agree. In fact, I looked up the greek word for boldness which is parrhesia and its translation means having confidence. We have confidence as Chrstians that we need not fear or torment or punish ourselves about what will happen to us on the day of Judgment.

As I researched this I found some interesting things about how the word love is used in those verses...The greek word for love in that scripture is either agape or agapao. From what I understand, this is the highest and purest form of love, which is used to describe God's love. Another greek word for love in the new testament is phileo which means "tender affection".

God is love (agape) 1 John 4:8

So what is (agape) God's love like?

The verses in 1 Corinthians spell it out for us. In every instance of the word love, it's translated from the greek word agape

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not selfseeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails.

This kind of love is not based on what we feel, it's about our actions toward others.

I don't know about you but I'm pretty lousy at agape love. But this is the love that God wants us to attain and give to others. His love is perfect. His perfect agape love casts out fear. I believe we are all works in progress and if we will just keep abiding in Him and allow Him to change us and heal us, He will mold us and perfect this love in us, and if we can get to a point where we can agape love ourselves and others we'd no longer fear.

"And I am convinced and sure of this very thing, that He Who began a good work in you will continue until the day of Jesus Christ [right up to the time of His return], developing [that good work] and pefecting and bringing it to full completion in you." ~ Philipians 1:6 (Amplified Version)
 

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You can always count on me giving my heretical opinion.

I hear two things from you. One, being a sense of frustration that you don't enjoy reading the bible the way you (perhaps) "should". The other thing I hear is a worry that if you are filled with fear, then you won't go to heaven. Maybe a third thing is a feeling of isolation, as if you don't fit in or can understand your beliefs or that you feel like they exclude you unfairly.

Number 1: you know, I don't always like reading the bible either. There are a lot of passages that are just "blah blah blah" as far as my interest level is concerned. Sometimes I read something in the bible and it strikes me as completely wrong or unethical, and yet somehow God commanded people to do these things!

I think that's okay. Feelings of confusion and aversion are normal and part of the spiritual path for me. I don't believe that the bible is meant to be a history textbook, or an ethics textbook, or a metaphysics textbook. I think that whole approach misses the entire point.

When I read the bible I read it from two different perspectives: one is a historical perspective. I read it understanding that it is a document (or rather, series of documents) of a group of people's religious experiences. It's a historical record in this sense. I am able to come to understand what a religious community many years ago understood of themselves and the universe. That doesn't have to be my belief - who says it has to be?

The other way I read the bible is in an iconic way. The concept of icons is a very relevant concept to Christianity, but unfortunately most people don't know much about it. In Orthodox Christianity you've probably seen what are called "icons". These are paintings of religious figures, saints, Jesus, Mary, etc. done very stylistically and beautifully.

Icons are considered to be "windows" of a sort into the Sacred. One looks at a beautiful gold-leaf-embossed picture of Jesus and looks not only at a picture but at God. NOW. That doesn't mean that God is a pretty picture. It means that one can get a glimpse of God in the interaction that occurs when a person looks into these icons. A lot of emotions can come up at the time and the worshipper brings those to the whole experience. It's a way of interacting with the Spirit, but it's not the Spirit itself.

In the same way, the bible is an icon. It is a window to the Sacred. It is a window to God. When I read a biblical passage I see it in that iconic sense, and I let the words bounce off me and intrigue me and challenge me and comfort me, or whatever they do, they do. The point here isn't that the bible is my road map to "how things work" but rather, it's more like an icon that lets me interface with the Spirit. And from that interaction and the things that happen when I listen to the Spirit, that's my guide to "how things work. Not the words themselves but what they point to in my soul.

So in other words, I don't take the bible literally. I don't understand why people do. But that's my belief, I don't know about you, so maybe that doesn't help. :stu

Number 2: I don't know what to say for this. If you really think that being afraid will keep you out of heaven. I don't personally have any afterlife beliefs. I would say, however, that I think you are being too hard on yourself. It's not your fault you have anxiety, and you do the best you can with it. I really believe that people almost always do the best they can when they can, but we don't usually realize that because we compare ourselves to some imaginary idealized standard of how we "should" be. That's a shame. We don't need to do that.

Number 3: I can understand the feeling of alienation from what I'm reading or my own religious faith. Those are normal feelings and, despite what you might hear from some people, do not make you a bad person.

One of the best decisions I ever made was to stop beleiving in a theistic God. I had such severe doubts that it was eating me up inside to have to fake it. I just jettisoned the whole idea and it was liberating. I felt free, I felt alive! I felt that I was finally being honest with myself.

I would simply encourage you to be honest with yourself, at all costs, even if it seems bad at the time. So you're confused and angry with a bible passage? Be confused and angry! That's okay! Heck, you wanna read about people being angry and questioning God, read the book of Job. It's filled with poetry about "what is wrong with my life and why is it like this?". Judeo-Christianity has a long and wonderful tradition of not only prayer but indeed argumentation - and disagreement - with God.

There is a wonderful story I once heard about a number of rabbis who were discussing some theological point and they all agreed that God wanted them to do some certain thing. It was God's will. Their response to God was, "yes, okay, we hear you. Now we're going to do it our way."

I love that story because it points to the reality that we always have to do what we believe is best, no matter what the cost.

Well, I'm trying to walk that fine line between not saying things that go against your beliefs, but also say what I think is helpful and encourage you to discard things that I think are harmful. Sometimes religion can really harm people - I don't think that's any big secret. So, I hope I've walked that line okay. These are just my thoughts. You don't have to believe any of them. But maybe something I said while I've been rambling on has helped you. :)
 

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jenkydora,

I can understand the feelings you have. When we don't understand difficult passages in the Bible and we don't feel any sense of joy or enjoyment from the times we spend reading the Bible, that certainly is frustrating and discouraging. I think everyone experiences that at some point. So I hope that you won't feel as if you are the only one who has experienced that.

From what I've read (correct me if I'm wrong here), it sounds like you feel as though you need to be "pure" enough, "righteous" enough or "good" enough to be acceptable to God. Do you realize that as a believer in Jesus Christ that you are already accepted by God? God's acceptance of you is not dependant on your being "good" enough or not being fearful. God accepts you and loves you as you are because you are a child of God. You have been forgiven of all your sins, past, present and future because of the sacrifice of Jesus. The Bible says that anyone who accepts Christ as their Savior is a citizen of heaven - that is, your ultimate home is with God, and struggling with fear here on earth doesn't change that.

I know what it is like to feel like you aren't good enough, not pure enough and not righteous enough. I think the fact that our consciences speak to us of a standard which we have failed to live up to points us to God's standard of perfection. But I hope that you can see that God does not want you to be burdened by trying to be acceptable to Him or earn His favor. He already accepts you. Even if you may feel not intelligent enough, not funny enough, not pure enough, not righteous enough, or have extreme fear, God accepts you and loves you as you are. The last thing God wants you to feel is exclusion from Him - because you are His child and He cares for you. I think it is important to often remind ourselves that how we feel about something does not always reflect the truth.

As far as having trouble understanding what the meaning is behind the words in the Bible - do you ever pray to ask God to help you with that? I believe the guidance of the Holy Spirit is absolutely essential in understanding the Bible. Because there are a lot of difficult portions of scripture that at first glance don't make sense and can even seem to contradict another portion of scripture. Everytime I read my Bible I pray for God's guidance. I might say something like "Lord, I pray that you will open my eyes and heart and give me wisdom and understanding as I come to You seeking Your word. I ask that You will lead me by Your Spirit and enable me to see the truth. Help me to take to heart what You reveal to me and apply it to my life."

One of the best things I've done (and I would encourage you to do) is to seek out a better understanding of the Bible. By this I mean seeking out different resources that help you understand difficult parts of the Bible and difficult questions. There are a lot of books out there by people who have spent most of their lives studying the Bible and seeking out answers to tough questions. I'm not sure what your exact beliefs are, but I would think that your church either would have resources available or may be able to point you to some? If not, I'd certainly be willing to share some of the resources I've found helpful to get a better understanding of the Bible.

I don't think I would find the joy or enjoyment of the Bible that I do now if I did not seek out a better understanding of what the Bible teaches. If I came to the Bible each time with all these unanswered questions in my mind, feeling confused and like things don't really make sense, how could I really get much out of it? That's why I think it's important for us to seek out answers to the questions we have through whatever means we can - whether it's by asking others in our church or by searching the net, or reading books, listening to sermons, etc. Most of all I think we need to start by asking God to help us. If the Bible is really one of the main ways in which God intends to reveal Himself to us and grow our relationship with Him, don't you think He would honor our requests and prayers to enable us and help us to better understand His word?

"If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him." James 1:5


I pray that God will help you in your frustrations right now - that He will help you to grow in your understanding of His word, and He will help you to find meaning and joy in the time you spend with God in His word. Because I really believe God wants to help each of us grow in our understanding as we come to Him. I hope something I've said has helped you.
 
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