Ezekiel 18: God’s Message of Hope . . . If You Think there’s No Hope for You

Hope for the Hopeless, by Vana Howell

Hope for the Hopeless, by Vana Howell

I want to talk to you about one of my favorite chapters in the entire Bible: Ezekiel 18.

If you think you’re a goner, destined for the eternal flames of hell, this is the chapter for you. Ezekiel 18 delivers the clear message that no matter where you came from and no matter what you’ve done, you can leave your past in the past, and move forward to a new life.

  • You’re not condemned because of what your parents did or didn’t do.
  • You’re not condemned because of what you yourself did in the past.
  • It’s the way you’re living now that counts.

You can’t change how your parents raised you.

You can’t change what you did in the past.

But you can change the way you are living now.

And that is Ezekiel 18’s message of hope for you.

For more on Ezekiel 18, please click here to read on.

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Posted in Spiritual Growth, The Bible Re-Viewed

Is Masturbation Always Sinful? Does it Always Come from Lust?

Not surprisingly, my article, “What does the Bible Say about Masturbation? Is Masturbation a Sin?” stirred up a certain amount of controversy. A reader’s comment on that article led to this follow-up article: “Can You Masturbate Without Lusting? What about Matthew 5:27-30?

Recently a reader named Boluwade Kujero left a comment—or should I say, a guest editorial!—on the follow-up article. He took exception to my characterization of conservative Christianity’s stance on masturbation, and questioned various statements I made in the article and in its comments section. His comment is much too long to copy into this article. You can read it here.

To fully understand the current article and what it is responding to, I recommend that you read both earlier articles if you haven’t already, and then read Mr. Kujero’s comment.

Or just charge on ahead. Your call.

In response to his comment, this is the third installment in what has now become a series on masturbation.

Here are my main objections to conservative Christians’ usual position masturbation:

  1. They have made a strict law against masturbation when there is no such law in the Bible, thus laying a heavy burden, hard to bear, on people’s shoulders (see Matthew 23:4).
  2. They have made good and evil a matter of stark blacks and whites, overlooking or denying the shades of gray in between. They have tarred even mild wrongs with the same terribly black brush, causing unnecessary guilt and discouragement for many people.

In so doing, they have made the path toward salvation and spiritual life more burdensome and difficult—whereas Jesus Christ said:

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28–30)

We humans are fantastically complex creatures. Conservative Christians have attempted to boil all that complexity down to simplistic formulas and non-Biblical teachings. Unfortunately, their human-made laws don’t work very well. In fact, they make life unnecessarily difficult for people who want to follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ and cast their heavy burdens at Jesus’ feet.

Their hard-line, non-Biblical stance against masturbation is a perfect example.

For more on masturbation, lust, and sin, please click here to read on.

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Posted in Sex Marriage Relationships

The Ten Commandments: Our Spiritual Inventory List

The Ten Commandments, abbreviated Hebrew version

The Ten Commandments

These days the Ten Commandments may seem a bit . . . old. After all, they were delivered over three thousand years ago. Could a set of laws given in such archaic, semi-barbaric times still be relevant today?

The Ten Commandments are not unique. Variations of them have existed from ancient times in almost every culture on earth. These laws are the ancient Israelite version of a common thread that runs through all of the world’s religions.

If these laws are so obvious that everyone around the world knows them, why did God make such a big fuss about giving them from Mount Sinai with great miracles, lighting and thunder, and a huge, booming voice?

Here is the answer: God did it that way not only to get us to pay attention, but also to show that these are not merely human laws, but divine ones.

And since they are divine laws, there is more to them than meets the eye. According to Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772), within their plain meaning they have deeper meanings that touch on our inner, spiritual life.

  • As a code of behavior, the laws contained in the Ten Commandments are essential for the stability of any society.
  • At a deeper level, they cover every aspect of our ethical, moral, and spiritual life.

We can think of them as our spiritual inventory list.

For more on the Ten Commandments, please click here to read on.

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Posted in Spiritual Growth, The Bible Re-Viewed

Is Getting Tattoos a Sin against God?

Here is a Spiritual Conundrum submitted to Spiritual Insights for Everyday Life last November by a reader named Ya’meen fisher:

Is getting tattoos a sin and will god accept you?

Recently a reader named Sunshine submitted another Spiritual Conundrum on the same subject:

Geometric and floral tattoo

Geometric and floral tattoo

Me & my boyfriend have the same religion but different views on it. To be more detail we are both Christian but he is more of we need to go to church class and church every Sunday and I believe in the fact that I don’t need to go to church every Sunday because my god knows that I love him and I don’t need to go to church to show him this. Our big issue right now is the fact that I wanna get a tattoo. As a Christian he believes that your body is a temple witch I agree with but I also feel that my body is my temple and I can decorate however I want. I hope you can help me with my question.

Thanks for the good questions!

Here is the only place in the Bible that makes a clear statement about tattoos—using the old King James Version translation that many traditional Christians prefer:

Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the Lord. (Leviticus 19:28)

It is based almost entirely on this verse that many Christians and Jews believe that getting a tattoo is wrong and sinful. Some Christians also think that the famous “mark of the beast” in the book of Revelation is a tattoo.

So is getting tattoos a sin against God?

Let’s take a closer look.

For more on God and tattoos, please click here to read on.

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Posted in Popular Culture

Will My Body be the Right Weight and Appearance in the Afterlife?

Here is a Spiritual Conundrum submitted to Spiritual Insights for Everyday Life by a reader named Patty:

I know this may seem silly but I struggle with my weight and I’m extremely self-conscious about it. Will my body be the right weight and appearance in the afterlife?

Thanks for the good question, Patty!

You are certainly not alone either in your struggle with your weight or in your self-consciousness about the appearance of your body. Many people have ongoing battles with their weight, whether with being overweight or underweight. And many people—even people whose bodies are a healthy weight—have major body image issues.

The anxiety people feel about their bodies is commonly attributed to the widespread use of idealized and sexualized male and especially female bodies in advertising and mass media. And that certainly does have a major effect.

But there’s more to it than that.

Jacob's Dream, by William Blake, 1805

Jacob’s Dream, by William Blake, 1805

It is through our body that we communicate and interact with the world. Not only our words, but our facial expressions, our gestures, our actions, and the general appearance of our body communicates—or conceals—what is in our mind and heart. Our body is an integral part of who we are and how we relate to our family, friends, and everyone else we see each day. It is only natural to have some concern about the appearance of our body and the messages it sends to the people around us.

Unfortunately—or sometimes fortunately—while we are living here on earth our body doesn’t always reflect the reality of the person inside.

However, in the spiritual world our body will become a perfect reflection of the person we truly are. So the short answer to your question is: Yes, your body will be the right weight and appearance in the afterlife, in the sense that it will fully and accurately express your true self to everyone around you.

Do you find that idea reassuring? Or scary?

Either way, it is a call to action.

For more on our body in the afterlife, please click here to read on.

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Posted in The Afterlife

Is the Doctrine of the Trinity Polytheistic?

(Note: This post is an edited and slightly expanded version of an answer I originally wrote and posted on Christianity StackExchange. You can see the original question on StackExchange here, and the StackExchange version of my answer here. I am now posting it on Spiritual Insights for Everyday Life to follow up on a recent series of comments on the article, “Does Doctrine Matter? Why is it Important to Believe the Right Thing?”)

Retablo of the Holy Trinity, by Alcario Otero, 2001

Retablo of the Holy Trinity, by Alcario Otero, 2001

The vast bulk of Christian denominations, representing the overwhelming majority of Christians, subscribe to the doctrine of the Trinity—which, boiled down to its essence, is “one God in three persons.”

Non-Christian monotheists such as Jews and Muslims commonly charge Christians with believing in three gods (a form of polytheism) based on this Trinitarian doctrine.

However, there are also some Christian groups and denominations that consider Trinitarianism to be a belief in three gods.

The various “Swedenborgian” denominations, which accept the Christian theology of Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772), are among those denominations.

Trinitarians say that they believe in one God. Why, then, do many people, including some Christians, think that Trinitarians actually believe in three gods?

For more on the Trinity and polytheism, please click here to read on.

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Posted in All About God

Heaven in a Snowbot

Edward Snowden has become a household name as the famous or infamous National Security Agency (NSA) document leaker and whistleblower. He notoriously outed the mass surveillance of ordinary American citizens and people around the world by the United States and allied governments, with the cooperation of major telecommunications companies. When Snowden revealed these mass surveillance programs to the public, it led to a major debate on privacy vs. security in the computer age—a debate that continues to rage right up to the present.

To avoid arrest and almost certain conviction on espionage charges that would likely mean decades in jail, Snowden is now in self-imposed exile in Russia.

But that hasn’t stopped him from appearing for lectures, debates, panel discussions, and committee meetings in New York, Princeton, and at many other locations around the United States and the world.

Edward Snowden via "Snowbot"

Edward Snowden via “Snowbot”

How does Snowden do it? For his appearances in the New York area, he uses a 5’2” robot called a “BeamPro.” It has two wheels, two legs, a flat screen monitor, a camera, and microphones, all of which Snowden controls from his computer keyboard at an undisclosed location in Russia. It was quickly dubbed the “Snowbot.”

For appearances farther afield from the Manhattan offices of the American Civil Liberties Union, where the Snowbot resides, Snowden speaks from screens and monitors on location through encrypted video teleconferencing.

For the full story, see “I, Snowbot,” by Andrew Rice, at nymag.com.

All of this modern robotic and communications technology gives Snowden a great deal of freedom, not to mention a decent income from speaking fees, despite his confinement in Russia. Although his body is confined to an apartment and neighborhood in Russia, he can go virtually anywhere he wants, meet new people, and engage in an active public life.

It’s a brave new world!

And yet, to long-time readers of Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772), it all sounds strangely familiar.

For more on Snowbot and heaven, please click here to read on.

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Posted in Current Events, Science Philosophy and History

Does Doctrine Matter? Why is it Important to Believe the Right Thing?

Many articles here on Spiritual Insights for Everyday Life are about how people from all different religions, and even people who have no religious beliefs at all, can go to heaven if they live a good life of love and service to their fellow human beings. Here are some of the more popular ones:

And yet, there are many other articles here that focus on the error of various traditional Christian doctrines, and present other doctrines that we believe to be better and truer. For some samplers with links to more articles, please see:

So what gives?

If people of all different beliefs and doctrines can go to heaven, why does doctrine even matter? Why is it important to believe the right thing? And why do we here at Spiritual Insights for Everyday Life spend so much time saying what’s true and what’s false? Isn’t that just a big waste of time? Isn’t it just a lot of argument for argument’s sake? Isn’t it sort of . . . combative? Why not just leave people alone and let them believe whatever they want? After all, they can get to heaven even if they believe the wrong things, right?

These are all questions that readers have asked. And they’re good ones!

For more on believing the right thing, please click here to read on.

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Posted in All About God, Spiritual Growth, The Bible Re-Viewed

What does the Bible Say about Pornography? Is Pornography Sinful?

Olympia, by Edouard Manet, 1865

Olympia, by Edouard Manet, 1865

Several Spiritual Conundrums have been submitted to Spiritual Insights for Everyday Life in recent months on the subject of pornography. Here are some of them. First from a reader named Tom:

I have a question I would like answered. Is porn considered sin in the Bible? Or is it just based on whether or not the star you are looking at is married, homosexual (I’m straight btw), or if you get addicted to it or not?

And from “newbeliever”:

I struggle with a desire to look at pornography, as well as to read erotic stories and to masturbate. Now, I cannot tell if all of these three things are related. Could any of those things possibly be okay, and under what circumstances? Because I believe that sexual desire is natural but not necessarily sinful, but lust is sinful, and I have trouble distinguishing between the two. Could masturbation be a way of staving off temptations to lust? Could doing things with my girlfriend function in a similar way?

When there is a temptation to sin, God always gives you a way out. Therefore, if I ever sin, it is by choice. I struggle because I feel as though if I ever look at porn, though I would try to choose not to, because I gave into temptation and could have done otherwise, God will not forgive my sexual immorality, as He seems to judge sexual immorality more harshly than some other forms of immorality (1 Corinthians 6:18).

And from a reader named Johnny:

my name is Johnny.. am a practising Christian.. but when I went to high school.. I became a porn addict and later end up in masturbation.. so one day a pastor came to our school, and started to praying to people. after a while he said that the holy spirit showed him that someone is struggling with masturbation.. so he wanted that person to come to the alter to be prayed for. I was really troubled and I refused to go to the altar. is that blaspheming the holy spirit?

The Holy Spirit revealed to a pastor that in a room full of teenagers, someone is struggling with masturbation? No way!

On that subject, please see, “What does the Bible Say about Masturbation? Is Masturbation a Sin?” About blaspheming the Holy Spirit, see: “What is the Unpardonable Sin? Am I Doomed?

And about “doing things with my girlfriend,” please see: “Is Sex Before Marriage Forbidden in the Bible?

Now it’s time to answer the question everyone’s asking:

Q: What does the Bible say about pornography?

A: Nothing.

For more on pornography, the Bible, and sin please click here to read on.

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Posted in Sex Marriage Relationships

The Orlando Nightclub Shooting of June 12, 2016

Annette and I extend our deepest sympathy to everyone affected by yesterday’s mass shooting at the Pulse LGBTQ nightclub in Orlando, Florida. We are heartbroken, sad, bewildered, and, yes, even angry over the slaughter of so many people due to bigotry.

As I write this, the details of what happened are still coming out. It is too early to come to any firm conclusions other than that this was a terrible act of violence and a terrible tragedy.

However, the initial indications are that the shooter was motivated primarily by bigotry and a violent character, which seems to have become mixed up in his mind with various Islamic extremist groups. If you feel spurred to act in response to this mass shooting, please join us today by showing kindness and love to your neighbor, especially any who are gay or Muslim.

We will not attempt to write any analysis or response to this tragedy so soon after it happened. However, we offer these previously posted articles for people who may be seeking some perspective on this horrific event:

 

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Posted in Current Events
Lee & Annette Woofenden

Lee & Annette Woofenden

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