Free God from the Bible

I wrote a short ‘review’ on a children’s Bible that I found to be a little harsh for the target audience.  It was obviously my opinion, but I wanted other parents to know that this book jumped right into the gruesome bits of our history and for a “First Bible” I thought that was on the questionable side.

Are ALL of the old testament stories important?  Yes*  You see that asterisk?  That is important.  My son is going to start off his journey with Christ… and this might be difficult for some to understand… with Jesus.  He is going to develop a personal relationship with God.

Will he learn about wandering Israelites, drowned sinners, and beheaded disciples?  Of course.  But those are far behind the most important messages of his eternity.  First, he is learning who God is.  What God does.  How to pray.  How God works.  Etc.  My whole point in the review and in my parenting opinion is that we get the cart behind the horse.

If I were to teach you about baseball, do I start with how they stitch cowhide around cork to assemble the ball?  That may interest you, that may even help you in some way, but not until you have a rudimentary love for the game.

And that is where I feel this needs sharing.  Do we have a fundamental love for our creator?  Or do we start with the genealogy and try to work our way backwards?  I think point one is that we need to make certain that we aren’t logically following human translated rules and histories.

I hope we can all see how there is a strong difference between, “I’m not supposed to do that, so I will regrettably refrain, though I would really like to do that”.  And, “God made me a new person that seeks Him and His will isn’t leading me anywhere near that”.  The first person follows a book while the second has a relationship with their Maker.

It’s very important that we aren’t following a set of rules, but that we actually follow the living God.  What good is it to know how old Methuselah was if we have fear in our lives?  How is it helpful to quote Proverbs if we are alone and hopeless?  So just like my child, I want to encourage all of us to start with what is most important.  Engage in a living relationship with your Father in heaven and solidify that reciprocating love before you dare venture into anything else.

This leads to point 2 (and hopefully you understand I believe that continuous study of the Bible is extremely important, it just doesn’t mean much without the Spirit that wrote it in your life.  Read.  Read daily.  But read in a context of that real and personal relationship with God).

One individual read my short caution of the book and responded that I was in fact wrong.  In a public forum they questioned my faith, called out my parenting, and said I was doing exactly what the Bible warned against.

Is this the “good news”?  Is this what the world needs to see when they see “Christianity”?  Are people allowed to disagree?  Absolutely!  Could they have disagreed with their opinion publicly?  Of course!  But when we judge each other… publicly… as strangers, we not only violate many of the tenants God set forth in the very Bible we were discussing, but we proclaim to the world, “This is what Jesus died for!”  This is what matters!  This is what is important for you to know!

Oddly, much of the world isn’t interested in debating and condemning each other over arguably insignificant details.

He could have disagreed.  But he chose to judge.  And this is what so many of us do when our opinions hit the open air of the internet.  ‘It’s not that you have a different opinion than me, its that you are going to Hell.’  That was rarely the message of Jesus (the only one fit to sit in the judgement seat).  The good news is about salvation.  The great news is about forgiveness and eternal communion with God.

Freedom from debt and punishment.  Undeserved grace.  Love.  This is the gospel.  Is this the message we share?  Is this what your Facebook feed is full of?  Is this what Twitter and Pinterest and Slack and even you weirdos still using Myspace 😉 … is this the message you share?

It’s so terribly easy to see why the world rejects Jesus.  They are rejecting us.  And we are to be Jesus to this world.  But who we call Jesus and who Jesus actually is gets too far apart to be recognizable at times.  This isn’t my personal gripe about someone who disagreed with me on the internet.  This is my plea for us to put first what matters most.  God and God alone.

Some of us have God trapped in the Bible.  He is locked in the stories of old and used only as a weapon against each other.  ‘My God said this…’  ‘Jesus would never condone that…’  I’m not suggesting we don’t read the Bible.  I’m not even insinuating we wait on reading.  I’m offering that we should free Him from the shackles we place on the book and get some separation between the pages that list our history and the actual God who lives and works in this world today.

Right now we have a God who loves us and works to reach us.  He paid dearly for us.  If we develop that relationship as intended the next part gets much easier… to show the real Christ and His good news to the world.

 


Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

I’m Special, You’re Not

One of the verses we often use to ‘comfort’ each other is the famous line from 1 Corinthians 10 that says ‘he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability’.  Further if tempted… ‘he will also provide the way of escape’. 

I put the word comfort in quotes because it’s rarely accomplished.  When the devil is beating you down, does this ancient quotation make you feel any better?

I call this verse a Just-Them verse.  It never really helps to hear it but we can’t stop saying it to them.  It’s almost like it makes us feel better… like we are really in there helping someone in need.  But what I think happens most often is our judgemental side starts to show.

Here is the condensed version:  “I’m tempted to steal while times are tough”.  “If you steal, its a sin because God gave you the ability to resist AND a way out!”.  Please understand that even if you don’t mean it that way, there is a high probability it still gets received that way.

The problem with temptation is that it appeals to each of us differently.  In the shortest terms, the devil is epic good at tuning his whispers directly to our situations and personalities.  So we develop this sense of understanding towards our own needs…. but we don’t forget that scripture for Just-Them.  They have a way out.  They have a God given ability to resist.

But for me… They don’t understand what I’m going through.  My pain is different.  My struggle is real.  My situation is worse.  I had no way out.  I had no option.  We may even claim abandonment in our struggles.  These verses of ‘comfort’ are just for them.  They could do better, but I have no choice.

We can fall into this trap for at least two different reasons.  The first is something we need to work on as a society.  This is the result of handing out trophies and certifications and helping everyone to feel special.  While we all are, especially in God’s eyes, we aren’t encouraging unique self appreciation in healthy ways.

If we only teach that everyone is special we set up future generations for this type of self pity and outward judgement.  A healthy, God’s-eye-view, mixed with reality will go a long way.  Which brings me to the second thing we can do.

We can stop skipping the verse that comes right before the ones I pointed out above.  Verse 13.  “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man.”  That hurt, that massive pain, that thing that no one could possibly understand or even begin to imagine… yeah, we are all going through it.  The names may change, the details may skew over time, but temptation… all of it, is common.  

Not only should that help us put ourselves in the correct perspective between God and us and the rest of us and us… but it shows how diligent the devil really is.  He works so hard at ruining and condemning your life, that every single soul in the world has experienced the same level of torment.

What if instead of judging each other, we were there for each other, helping each other overcome the many schemes that are dealt out to ALL of us?  We may have resisted one sin someone else didn’t, but we neglected to find the way out on others that they did.  We can’t pick and choose which passages are for which people.  If the judgement is just for them, so is the reward.  I’m beginning to think of ‘them’ as a bad word.

Only God can use it accurately.  He is the only one without sin.  When we use it, we use it selectively to divide.  Them that failed.  Them that look different.  Them who speak different.  Them who score lower.  From our point of view, it should be about us.  The Bible is for us.  Jesus came to save us.  This passage of hope is about and for us.  We are God’s creation.  And, in two things, we are certainly equal.  God’s love for us and Satan’s desire to drag us kicking and screaming to hell.

That is another ‘us’.  The enemy wants us.  All of us.  Equally.  His attempts to drive us away from the love of God is common.  It is something we have all experienced.  And it is something that we can all help each other with based on first hand experience.

 


Photo by KEEM IBARRA on Unsplash

The High Table

17 seconds. That is how long it took for me to find something “offensive” on Facebook from someone I love. It comes much faster from the faceless, nameless, and anonymous. What concerns me is not that we are offensive. Jesus was considered offensive to most and I’m very proud when I can offend the way He did.

My concern is that we are not fighting His battles. With dust fully settled in our own eyes, we fight the battles that do not belong to us, hoping to cure others of their blurred vision. Jesus offended others because He pointed to God. Are you so in tuned with the image of God that the self righteous hate you? Or, is it just that you hold different world views?

Biblical examples are difficult to bring up. They didn’t solve issues by social majority or by social repetition. They compared their issues to the word of God. They compared themselves to the image of God. They compared their leaders to the chosen of God.

I think everyone is able to step back and perform two simple life checks. Paramedics check for pulse and breathing when they approach a body in need. We should do this too. As we approach the hungry, lost, confused, thirsty, homeless, widowed, etc (the people Jesus challenged us to take care of). As we approach them, how much time runs off the clock before we offend them? There is no question to us, that we do love them. But from their battle hardened eyes, what do we reflect to them?

Do they see Jesus? Or do they get a lecture? Do they receive love, or do we yield judgement? You don’t have to change your political or philosophical beliefs. You don’t have to change your vote or which parties you align with. But before you engage, can you check to make sure you are spreading God’s love and the name of Christ to the lost in the world?

Secondly, check which table you are at before you start speaking. There is a table at the far left and there is a table at the far right. They are both full and extremely loud. This is where most of the talking occurs. Talking, blaming, shaming, name calling, yelling. It all comes from these two tables. There is a third table in the middle. Sadly, this one sits empty. No one wants to leave the safety of their own biases and beliefs to meet in the middle.

The middle table is where compromise, communication, and decent business would happen… should anyone dare to meet there. But the fourth table is the one I need you to be at. This is the Father’s table. This one doesn’t look like the left or the right. It doesn’t seek out to solve the issues of the middle either, however noble those may be. Lets call this the high table. This is where we belong. When we speak from the wrong table, we offend for all the wrong reasons. Invite others to the high table. Its not about solving the issues of the right or left. Its about sharing the love of God.

Jesus offended people by pointing to God. If you set out to not offend ANYONE, you will have to compromise the word of God to accomplish that task. It is a fact that we have to accept, that not everyone will receive God. It is our job to try and get that message to them, not to make it palpable. They will discern for themselves whether to accept it or not. Offended or not, we must move on and share with the next.

Two checks that Christians need to make. First, we need to make sure that we speak the truth with love. The truth will offend. We have to accept that. But that leads to the second check. Which battles are we fighting? Our own? Societies? or God’s? That will determine who we offend and how. 17 seconds is all it took when someone I love decided to fight a battle that God hasn’t called us to fight. What message do we give the world when we fight the wrong battles? The world needs a paramedic. Lets give it breath and a pulse by sharing the word of God with love. Lets approach them from the only table that can heal and restore.