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Scriptures and the Word of God October 31, 2010

bible_manger



[Many of you have heard me say, “The way many Christians approach the Bible amounts to idolatry,” and “The Bible was never meant to replace the leading of the Holy Spirit.” I ran across an article that expounds on those statements better than I ever have. Of course, you need to read the entire article to avoid misinterpretation . That may mean avoiding a “knee-jerk” reaction to my initial statements. As always, feel free to leave your feedback.
Anyway, here’s the article:]

Introduction

The phrase the Word of God occurs nearly 50 times in the new testament, and is used times without number by Christians in books, sermons and ordinary speech. Do Christians use this phrase in the same sense as the Bible does? I believe not.

Using any phrase or word in a different sense from the Bible generally springs from a wrong understanding of spiritual truth, which it in turn perpetuates and reinforces. For example people who use the word priest to mean an ordained member of some denomination, are generally blind to the true nature of priesthood. Those who continually use the word church to refer to a building or a denomination, usually have little idea of the true church of God.

It is pointless believing in the inspiration and authority of scripture and then using its words with meanings entirely different from their original.

In common parlance the phrase the Word of God, or often simply the Word, means the Bible. This is standard terminology among almost all who believe in the inspiration and authority of the Bible.

Firstly I hope to show that, in the Bible itself, the phrase the Word of God does not mean the Bible, but has a different meaning; then we will go on to explore the meaning and operation of the Word of God; after that we will seek to rediscover the right place and use of the Scriptures. May the Holy Spirit give us understanding as we do so.

‘The Word of God’ in Scripture

Probably the nearest the Bible ever comes to calling itself the word of God is in Matthew chapter 15, with an almost identical passage in Mark chapter 7. It is worth quoting in full:

Jesus said: ‘Why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? For God said, `Honor your father and mother’, and `He who speaks evil of father or mother, let him be put to death.’ But you say, ‘Whoever shall say to his father or mother, ‘Anything of mine by which you might have been helped has been given to God,’ he is (allowed) not to honor his father or mother.’ And thus you have invalidated the Word of God for the sake of your tradition.’

At first sight we might construe the Word of God here as meaning the scriptures. However on examination we find that it refers specifically to what God actually said, his words to Moses for all Israel and the world, ‘Honor your father and mother’. Jesus was not using the phrase as a general term for the scriptures as a whole.

Against this one verse there are many passages where the Word of God cannot refer to the scriptures. For instance: ‘They spoke the word of God with boldness’ (Acts 4:31), ‘They preached the word of God in the synagogues of Judaea’ (Acts 13:5), ‘It was necessary for the word of God to be spoken to you first’ (Acts 13:46), ‘… to speak the word of God fearlessly’ (Phil 1:14), ‘the word of God is not bound’ (2 Tim 2:9), and above all, ‘The word became flesh and dwelt among us’ (John 1:14) and ‘his name is called the word of God’ (Rev 19:13).

In Acts 17:11, the word and the scriptures occur in the same verse: ‘… they received the word with all eagerness, daily examining the scriptures whether these things were so’.

The Hebrew Old Testament is divided into three parts, the Law (Torah), the Prophets (Neviim) and the Writings (Ktuvim). When the new testament writers speak of the old testament they use the word Writings (Greek graphai – usually translated Scriptures) as a general term for the whole. They also refer specifically to the Law and the Prophets. They never use the phrase the word of God.

To summarize: the Bible refers to itself as the scriptures, the holy scriptures, or in part the law or the prophets, but it does not call itself the `word of God’. In its pages that phrase has a different meaning. The Bible does regard itself as verbally inspired by the Holy Spirit and having absolute divine authority, and let me stress that I am not in any way questioning those truths.

True Meaning of ‘the Word’

If the Word of God does not mean the Bible, what does it mean?

Much the greatest Word that God has ever spoken is his Son. Jesus is the supreme manifestation of the word of God. The Apostle John began his gospel: ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.’ Later in the same chapter we read: ‘And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.’ Revelation 19:13 gives Jesus the same title: ‘His name is called the Word of God’. Hebrews 1:1 and 11:3 have the same implication: ‘God … in these last days has spoken to us in his Son … through whom also he made the world’; ‘By faith we understand that the world was prepared by the word of God’.

Jesus is the supreme and central manifestation of the word of God. All other manifestations of that word relate to him. The phrase the word of God in Scripture is also used to describe anything that God said to anyone or through anyone. For example, ‘the word of the Lord came to Moses’, ‘the word of God came to John in the wilderness’, ‘the word of the Lord to Israel through Malachi’ or ‘the words of Amos which he saw concerning Israel’.

When God speaks, it is the word of God. In the old testament God spoke directly to the prophets. He spoke to others through them. He also spoke through events in the lives of individuals and the nation. This state of affairs continued essentially until Pentecost, when the Spirit was poured out upon all flesh. The circle of those to whom he wants to speak directly is extended to all who believe. No longer is it only the few prophets and leaders, but it is the common man.

It is contrary not only to scripture, but also to nature and reason, to believe that God wants to use a book as his primary method of communication. Writing is in general a bad way of communicating, as it is static and inflexible. For most purposes speaking is much better, and I should think ninety per cent of human communication is done that way. Writing is only better when you want a permanent record. It combats the failing of human memory and removes grounds for argument.

Several further factors confirm the Bible is not God’s primary method of communication. Only a minority of the human race, and not even all Christians, own Bibles. Before this century’s great increase in literacy the number was much smaller. Before the invention of printing and the reformation privately owned Bibles were unimagined and all Bibles were in Latin anyway. Even for the privileged few that own Bibles today there are further problems. Our Bibles are not the original inspired words, but very fallible translations. Even the best scholar cannot begin to know an ancient language as well as a child speaks its native tongue, because he has only a fraction of the study material. The scholar has a limited number of ancient manuscripts, while the child is surrounded by a ceaseless flow of speech. Even if scholars knew Greek and Hebrew as well as we know English, it is still impossible to translate exactly from one language to another. God has placed limitations on the wonderful book he has given us because he has something better and greater.

Let me stress again, God’s primary way of speaking to man is directly through the Holy Spirit to those who have ears to hear, and then through them to others.

When apostles and prophets in Scripture spoke under the inspiration of the Holy spirit, God was speaking through them. What they said was the word of God to their hearers. When a man or woman today speaks under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, that also is the word of God for whomsoever God intends it. When God speaks a message directly to our hearts by the Holy Spirit, that also is his word.

When Satan quoted scripture to Jesus in the wilderness, it was not the word of God. It was the word of Satan. When scripture is quoted today, it is sometimes the word of God to those who hear it. Sometimes it is just the word of man, and sometimes even the word of Satan.

Well-known verses in a new light.

The Word of God then is Jesus himself, and also whatever God says. With this understanding, we will see many passages of scripture in a new light. Some of these I will consider, and others you may wish to search out with a concordance.

‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God’ (Math 4:4).

Primarily this verse applies to Jesus. How perfectly it harmonizes with his own words, ‘I am the bread of life … I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he shall live …’ and ‘Give us this day our daily bread’. Jesus is the spiritual food on which we live. When God speaks to us we receive life. ‘He that has the Son has the life; he that does not have the Son does not have the life’ (1 John 5:12).

Many people, alas, read the Bible faithfully every day, but are not fed, because they have never learnt to feed on Jesus. He himself said, ‘You search the Scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is these that bear witness of me; and you will not come to me, that you may have life’ (John 5: 39,40). The Pharisees were great readers and teachers of the Bible, but when Jesus said, ‘Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you have no life in you’, they were bitterly offended. To read and study the Bible is good. To put the Bible in the place of Jesus is idolatry.

Secondarily this verse applies to any word spoken under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Those who hear are fed, and their food has been the word of God.

Food is vital for growth. God has provided the five ministries described in Ephesians 4 for the building up of the body of Christ. A spiritual child needs apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers and evangelists to feed him with the word of God and build him up to maturity. However, as with a child in the natural, there should be a progression from milk to solid food through to the time when he becomes mature and is able to feed himself.

‘The word of God is alive and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword’ (Heb 4:12).

Let us reconsider this verse. Firstly Jesus is alive and all power is given to him. We read in Revelation that ‘out of his mouth goes a sharp two-edged sword’. Nothing can stand before him. Secondly when we speak under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit our words will be alive and powerful and will enter people’s hearts. Quoting scripture to people is no substitute for speaking the word of God.

‘My word … will not return to me empty, but it will accomplish that which I please …’ (Isaiah 55:11).

This verse was wonderfully fulfilled in Jesus. He left the Father’s presence to take the form of man and suffer and die and rise again. He did not return empty-handed to the Father, but brought with him a great multitude of brethren. He accomplished every purpose for which God had sent him.

When a man or woman today speaks the word of God, we may be sure that the words will not be in vain, but will accomplish the purposes of God. A few faithful servants who have learnt to speak the word of God will accomplish far more than an army of workers who only know how to distribute Bibles and Christian literature. Such work is good, but to speak the word of God is of an altogether higher order.

‘Born again … by the word of God which lives and abides for ever’ (1 Pet 1:23).

When Gabriel spoke the word of God to Mary, Jesus was born in her. The new birth takes place when Jesus, the Word of God, is born in us. God generally uses a human messenger to speak the word that brings about the new birth. This is the special ministry of an evangelist. The Ethiopian eunuch was puzzling his head over Isaiah when the Holy Spirit sent Philip to him. Philip ‘preached Jesus to him’, and he believed.

‘The sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God’ (Ephesians 6:17).

The sword of the spirit is described here as part of the spiritual armor. On the basis of this verse, some people believe you should always carry a Bible with you as your spiritual weapon. Others feel that texts written up all over their house will help to protect them from the powers of evil. This attitude is based more on superstition and fear than on the truth. The true sword of the spirit is the inspired word of God upon our lips. It is an offensive weapon before which the powers of evil will not be able to stand. When Jesus spoke, all the powers of darkness were put to confusion and flight. When we learn to speak as he did, we will see similar results.

Idolatry

It is enlightening to compare the Catholic attitude to Mary with the Protestant attitude to the Bible. Mary had a unique and wonderful place and privilege in God’s plan of salvation. Through her Jesus came into the world and in a sense without her he could never have come in the flesh. However, to place her beside Jesus, to worship her and look to her for mediation, is idolatry. These things belong only to Jesus. If we take the titles and place of Jesus and ascribe them to the Bible we are equally guilty of idolatry. As with any other form of idolatry, this will be a block to our spiritual growth and progress. We must discover the place and purpose of the Scriptures in God’s plan and use them rightly if we want to walk in the truth and grow in God.

The Scriptures

Having given some consideration to the place and function of the Word of God in our lives, we must now think about the place of the Scriptures. Paul sums up this subject in his second letter to Timothy: ‘All scripture (writings) inspired by God is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for (child) training in righteousness, that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work ‘ (3:16,17). These verses deserve more careful consideration than they usually receive.

Paul here views the scriptures as the man of God’s toolbox. They are part of his equipment for his ministry to others. It is significant that Paul wrote this letter not to a group of believers, but to an individual leader. Nowhere did he exhort believers generally to study the scriptures, though he often exhorted them to pray. Timothy had the task of ministering to others and his knowledge of the scriptures would have been of great benefit in the work committed to him.

Our verses here tell us of four uses of the Scriptures, which we will now consider in turn.

1. The Scriptures are profitable for teaching. Timothy’s task was not to teach the Bible. The Pharisees were well able to do that. Rather it was to impart a revelation and understanding of God to those under his care. He should use the Scriptures as a medium through which he could impart spiritual truth. If God calls you or me to share with others what we have received from him, then the Bible is a language we can use to do so.

The letter to the Hebrews gives us a clear illustration of the use of Scripture for teaching. The writer takes passage after passage and person after person from the Old Testament to illustrate the superiority of the new covenant to the old, and the position of Jesus far above all others. Paul also makes extensive use of the scriptures in Romans and Galatians to illustrate and prove the revelations he had received from God. As far as we know, Jesus only used the scriptures in this way when he opened them up to two disciples on the Emmaus road after his resurrection.

2. The Scriptures are profitable for reproof. We see this most clearly illustrated when Jesus met Satan in the wilderness. He met and countered each temptation with a quotation from the Old Testament. The Scriptures by their nature are written and immutable and can therefore constitute a court of appeal. Satan could question whether Jesus was the Son of God, and whether he was led by the Holy Spirit. He could not argue with what was written.

3. The Scriptures are also profitable for correction. When Jesus corrected the erroneous ideas of his opponents, he frequently used the Scriptures. He quoted David to correct the Pharisaic strictness on the Sabbath. He showed the Sadducees from the Old Testament that resurrection took place. Paul’s letter to the Galatians is similarly a letter of correction. He establishes justification by faith by the example of Abraham. As with reproof, the Scriptures give a solid legal ground to correction. Special leadings and revelations will and must always be open to question. The Scriptures provide a fixed objective standard against which they can be tested.

4. The Scriptures are profitable for child training in righteousness. The Greek word here used is paideia, an abstract noun from the word pais (meaning a child), and its primary meaning is child training. The previous verse to those we are considering reads: ‘from childhood you have known the sacred writings, which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.’ Timothy, to whom these words were written, was the third generation in a godly family. Paul speaks of the sincere faith of his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice. Perhaps it was these two who faithfully taught him from the scriptures and so prepared his mind first for salvation and subsequently for the wide ministry he was to receive. Timothy became a constant companion of Paul. Six of Paul’s letters have Timothy’s name as co-writer. Some people believe that Timothy wrote the letter to the Hebrews. He became a significant leader in the early church, and carried on Paul’s work in Ephesus.

We see interesting parallels in the prophet Jeremiah. His father, Hilkiah the priest, was the man who found a book of the law in Josiah’s day. Both Jeremiah and Timothy were called to minister in their youth. Perhaps the link between them is scripture-loving parents who taught them from childhood. Moses, by contrast, grew up in a palace with ‘all the wisdom of the Egyptians’. He had to spend forty years in the wilderness before he began his ministry at the age of eighty!

I believe then that Christian parents should teach their children from the scriptures. They must learn the law of God. The scriptures will not save them, but will give them the wisdom that leads to salvation. Paul elsewhere stated that ‘the law is a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ’.

I do not want to imply that training in righteousness is only for children. People who are spiritual children also need teaching until they have become spiritually mature. However I believe I have already covered this aspect.

Head or Heart?

Some people pray, ‘Lord I understand in my head; please move it all down into my heart’. That is the reverse of God’s way. Paul wrote to the Colossians, ‘Let the word of Christ richly dwell in you …’ (3:16) and to the Ephesians ‘… that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith’ (3:17). That will happen if we receive his word from faithful ministers who have been taught by him, and then learn to commune with our Heavenly Father. As his word increasingly dwells in our hearts, the scriptures will begin to open up to us, and our minds will receive understanding. Jesus communed with his Father from childhood. When he was twelve, the teachers in the temple were amazed at his understanding. We must turn to God if we want to understand the Bible, not turn to the Bible if we want to understand God. You will never understand the book if you do not have the mind of its author.

Commands and Promises

To summarize what I have been saying: God’s primary method of speaking to people is not through Bible reading. It is initially through his ministers (apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, and evangelists) and then increasingly through the Holy Spirit directly.

I want now to consider two particular ways in which God speaks. Throughout the scriptures God gave commands and instructions to individuals and groups of people. He also made covenants and promises, which were frequently conditional on obedience to commands. Some commands such as ‘Love your neighbor’, are very general. Others such as ‘Take your shoes off your feet’, are very specific.

Promises in the Bible exhibit the same range. ‘All things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive’ is general. ‘I will bring you back to this land’ is specific.

Many people believe and teach that all these commands and promises – or at least the more general ones – are for us today. Whole churches and denominations are built on this approach to the scriptures. However again we find that there is very little backing for it in the scriptures themselves. Certainly no one ever tried to obey a specific command or claim a specific promise that was given to someone else. The ten commandments and a few other general commands and promises from the Old Testament are quoted in the new. However the general principle is, as we have seen, that God speaks by the Holy Spirit. If he has not spoken to us by the Holy Spirit, we will have neither the power to carry out any commands, nor the faith to receive any promises.

To seek to obey commands that were given to other people at other times, and not to you personally will lead you into bondage, frustration and failure. Equally to seek to claim promises that were made to others will lead you to doubt God, or live with a sense of frustration that you are missing the mark because nothing seems to work out for you. It worked for other people; why doesn’t it work for me?

The fundamental reason is that you cannot receive either commands or promises through your mind. You must receive them deep in your spirit. You will then find their confirming echo as you read similar commands and promises in the pages of the Bible.

Conclusion

How may we now summarize this message? The Scriptures and the Word of God are separate and should not be confused. Each has a different function. The Word of God is greater and was there in the beginning with God. The Scriptures must not take its (His) place. Good things in the wrong place can become evil things, and blessings turn to curses. Many an evil thing has been done by people who knew much of the Bible, but nothing of the Word of God. Let us hear again the heart-cry of Jesus, ‘You search the Scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is these that bear witness of me; and you will not come to me, that you may have life’. Let us find the true meaning of the Word of God and give it its rightful place in our lives. Let us also give to the Scriptures their rightful place – the place they give themselves, the place Jesus and the early apostles gave them, and the place given to them by the Word of God in our hearts.

R. Beecham http://www.growthingod.org.uk/index.htmlt;/a>

 

Divine Nobodies October 25, 2010




This book starts off with two, that’s right 2 introductions. So right away you know you’re dealing with someone who’s a bit strange. This, for me, is a good thing. I like strange. With the first page I’m chuckling to myself.
Jim Palmer uses this section to share some personal information about himself. He’s “too self-conscious,” “a sucker for feel-good, tearjerker movies,” “obsessive-compulsive,” and his wife is his best friend. I’m telling ya, I could have written much of his first introduction.

In the second introduction (dubbed the “Real Introduction) he starts getting into the HUGE difference between religion, and loving Jesus. I completely identified with his statement, “Thankfully, on this journey God has provided the necessary epiphanies to save me from complete self-destruction and has opened my eyes to deeper realities.” Of course, this “eye-opening” did not come “through theological and philosophical flashes of brilliance,” but through real life, and real “everyday run-of-the-mill people.”


The first of these everyday people we are introduced to is Kit, the drummer. This first chapter is about knowing God. “Kit had this silly notion that God just talks to people.” “Didn’t Kit know the Bible made all that unnecessary? God has already spoken…there is nothing left to say.”
This chapter asks, “How would you answer the question, ‘Who is God?’ if you could not use any information you’ve learned from the Bible? Describe for me who you have experienced God to be through your personal interaction with him.”

Chapter two exposes how our judgments of others can keep us from looking at their hearts, as God does. Those same judgments keep us from seeing the truth of ourselves, and often, from hearing what God would say to us. “I just never thought Eminem would be the one helping me grow closer to God.”

Next, in the third chapter we get to meet John, Judy, Michael, Candi and Wanda. Wanda is a waitress. She tells our author “about how over the years Christians were often her worst customers.” After one particularly tough group, she was left with only an evangelical tract as her tip.
Side rant:
My daughter-in-law used to wait tables. She confirms the above statements. I’ve heard it over and over in the service industry, that Christians are usually the most demanding, most rude, most unappreciative customers, as well as being the worst tippers.  They march in after “church” with their prayers and piety, and leave devastation in their wake. When my wife and I were part of the IC, we would often avoid the after-church group dinners out, specifically so we could avoid being associated with the rudeness we knew would be a part of the gathering.
Alright, back to the book.


“Chasing the phantom Christian” is the basis for the fourth chapter. It’s about this false ideal of having to be or do something for God. “I worked hard to stay on my game (daily quiet times, attending church, leading groups, and teaching classes) as I envisioned God in heaven perpetually asking, ‘What have you done for me lately?'”

At this point, I had been glancing through the index, and noticed a chapter about Mr. Palmer’s gay friend Richard. Being a subject of personal interest, I jumped ahead to read that chapter (8) before going back to chapter 5. I must say, reading this chapter was a bit disappointing. When I reviewed Lies, and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them by Al Franken, I gave it very high marks. It’s a great book. Nevertheless, there were a couple of chapters, one in particular, I found I should warn readers about. I said, IMHO, that those chapters would be better off skipped.
That is a little how I felt about chapter eight of this book. I’m sure it accurately reflects the experience of the author and his friend, but it leaves, I fear, an impression that gay men are all self-loathing, which can only be overcome by trying to not be gay. He doesn’t actually say that,  but the way he speaks of freedom seems to me to mean “free from being homosexual.”  I submit that many, if not most, LGBT people are not self-loathing. Many have reconciled their faith with their sexuality (For some great testimonies of this, watch: “Through My Eyes“).
Yes, some LGBT persons have had some self-hatred, but most of that is, I believe, not due to their sexuality but rather to the societal and theological brainwashing that tells such people they are not acceptable.  Those we feel this the most are usually from fundamentalist backgrounds. Maybe I’ve misunderstood Jim in this portion.  Maybe he realizes that wholeness for his friend can come from being “OK” with his sexuality.  I hope that’s the case.  It appears this particular individual has tried every approach with no success.
Certainly, as this chapter does point out, we ALL need healing.  Besides, I have to take heed to my own teaching about agreeing to disagree.


Now back to chapter Five.

If the writing in the first few paragraphs would have been “choppier,” and had only one to five words per line, I could have easily been convinced I was reading something written by Rob Bell.  (From me, that’s a huge compliment.)  There’s talk of other dimensions, quintessential metaphysical beings, The Matrix, and cookie-eating mice.  Palmer asks, “What percentage of knowledge about all reality…do you figure you possess?”  “Have you ever wondered what exists in that other percentage we don’t know?”  As Jim says, religion removes the mystery from life.  This chapter talks about what W.P. Young calls “The Beauty of Ambiguity (Mystery).”   About celebrating mystery, rather than trying to eradicate it.

Chapter Six is pretty short, but so very important.  It’s about depression.  Of course, “true Christians” don’t suffer from depression.  Yeah, right.
It needs to be read by all those people who feel they always have to have an answer for everybody’s problems, rather than simply learning to weep with those who weep.  When someone’s hurting, the LAST thing they need is to hear trite phrases or Christianeese slogans.

In the following chapter, “Don’t Mess with the EAMC,” we meet a couple who run a small auto mechanics shop:  Mr. and Mrs. Adams.  This story is one of the best at pointing out the vast difference between institutionalized religion, and the every-day real life that following Christ should be like.  For many, if not most, committed church involvement is simply “an adventure in missing the point.”  “It was like doing church was my relationship with God.”  The way the Adams live and run their auto shop is Christianity and it is church.  “I’m not convinced there’s any value added by a large group of believers gathering in one place at one time compared to the benefit of maintaining a few close relationships.”


Chapter eight was covered earlier.  On to chapter nine.
It’s titled, “Daughters,” and is about parenthood. Jim learned a lot about himself and God through his interaction with his little girl. It’s about the faith of a child. It’s about being child-like, which we sometimes confuse with childish. His statement “There are parts of me that somehow were stunted by the hurts of life back there as a little boy” certainly had the deepest ring of truth. I fully believe the vast majority of immaturity in adults is due to being emotionally stunted in their youth.

Chapter 10 is about reconciling our view of God with the hurt and loss we suffer. For me, this chapter was reminiscent of “The Shack.” The question posed here is “How can suffering and healing, brokenness and wholeness, despair and hope coexist?” When something bad happens to us, we often ask “How could a loving God allow this to happen to me?” If we’re going to ask this kind of question, then we need to ask it every hour of every day. Bad things are always happening to someone, but we don’t usually question it until it affects us. In this chapter we’re reminded of a hard, hard truth. It’s one that is often avoided or denied in many religious circles: “I am vulnerable to loss and suffering, and knowing God doesn’t change that.”

Next up: A chapter on politics. It shows how labeling people is not the best way to go. “I found my stereotypes didn’t accurately describe the ordinary people I knew.” And a quote I really like, “Talk radio is a dangerous place from which to view the world.”
Also read, The Myth Of A Christian Nation.”


Chapter twelve was a very sad, hard chapter to read. I’m sure it was hard to write. Our author goes undercover in South Asia with the International Justice Mission to investigate and “rescue victims of horrific human rights crimes, usually involving children.” At one point, he has to keep it together while a group of ten- to fifteen-year-old girls are paraded before him for his selection. “The littlest girls didn’t come out. You had to specifically ask for them and show you had that kind of cash.”
“Where was God today? Where did he go?”

Religion is the topic of chapter 13. Our author, a raised-Catholic-turned-career-protestant-turned-institutional-absentee, ends up giving a teaching in a Catholic church and becoming friends with a priest. He learns that “Since no church has a final and unambiguous grasp of divine truth, the true church of Jesus Christ can never be fully represented by any single one.” “Maybe we are all a little right and a little wrong and can get closer to the truth only by coming together.”

In “Left Behind,” Jim not only deals with his own scars, but comes to see that we are all scared individuals. “For the first time in my life, I was seeing these people who wounded me as wounded people themselves.” “No longer afraid of them, I feel sadness for them.”


The last actual chapter, 15, starts out with “Despite all the denominational distinctions I’ve come across along the way, for the life of me, I cannot find any other litmus test Jesus insisted upon to authenticate his followers except love.” Here we meet Rick, the tire salesman. “Rick has no Bible degree…does not attend any local ‘church,’…likes a good cigar, has a beer every now and then,” and his “greatest passion in life is knowing God.” We cut to the chase and see in this chapter the importance of just living life. Living life in love. In love of God, and in love of others.

We started out with two introductions.  Fittingly, we end with two epilogues. Well, [OK, then there’s the acknowledgments and “About The Author.]
“Divine Nobodies” has shades of Donald Miller, shades of Rob Bell, but is nonetheless clearly distinctive. It is another sign post on the road I’ve been traveling, pointing me to greater freedom, truth, and love.


Buy the book. Click HERE.


Some Quotes:

“My suspicion was born that a fair number of people in professional ministry are psychotic and unstable.”

“I tend to distrust people who claim to speak for God unless I know they have waited tables when shorthanded or operated a cash register during an early-bird special.

“These past few years I’ve been stumbling into questions that seem to be leading somewhere important.”

“God opened my eyes, not through theological and philosophical flashes of brilliance, but through the unlikeliest people–people I, well, just kind of ran into along the way.”

Buy the book. Click HERE.

“Every good evangelical knows that for all practical purposes, the Bible is God, and you don’t rely on something as subjective as personal experience.”

“One day I realized my Christianity was essentially a glorified behavior-modification program safely rationalized beneath a waving WWJD banner.”

“Turns out in the end, the main thing God asks of us on the road to wholeness is truth.”

“After a long week on my feet at the cafeteria, I realized how overrated sex is compared to the ecstasy of a foot massage.”

Buy the book. Click HERE.

“One of my spiritual gifts is teaching, but I don’t need to stand on a stage before a crowd to use it.”
[I believe that applies to all  gifts of the Spirit.  I’ve been questioned about how gifts function if you don’t attend an institution.  I believe the error was to associate them with that context to begin with.]

“The whole drill seemed to be to strive hard to fulfill God’s expectations and play your 1 John 1:9 card when you failed, earning you the right to start over and try harder.”

“Our church boycotted Disney, signed petitions against gay teachers in public schools, and judged those heretical denominations that sealed their fate with God by accepting gays.  In my world there was no such thing as a “gay Christian.”

“My religion provided way too small a wineskin to contain all that Jesus want to give.”

Buy the book. Click HERE.

“Many of the premises of institutional Christianity…are suspect, given this one cold, hard fact:  Christ indiscriminately, fully, and equally establishes his very presence and life within every believer.”

“God’s parting of the Red Sea seems like a big deal until you experience the miracle of your child sleeping through the night alone in his or her room.”

“Maybe ‘us’ and ‘them’ is an illusionary tactic of the real enemy, and there is really no ‘them’ but just one ‘us.'”

“Rather than a relationship, my Christianity morphed into some sort of divine self-help philosophy, problem-solving plan, and life-improvement strategy.”


Buy the book. Click HERE.

 

The Christian Left October 4, 2010

There is Christian life outside of socio-political right-wing evangelicalism.  Although no political stance should itself be labeled “Christian,” (read “The Myth Of A Christian Nation“)  I personally find the ideologies of the so-called “left” more in line with the teachings of Christ.  For those not familiar with the Christian Left, here’s some basic info:


[From Wikipedia]

The Christian left is a term originating in the United States, used to describe a spectrum of left-wing Christian political and social movements which largely embraces social justice.

The most common religious viewpoint which might be described as ‘left wing’ is social justice, or care for the poor and the oppressed (see Minority groups). Supporters of this might encourage universal health care, welfare provision, subsidized education, foreign aid, and Affirmative Action for improving the conditions of the disadvantaged. Stemming from egalitarian values, adherents of the Christian left consider it part of their religious duty to take actions on behalf of the oppressed. As nearly all major religions contain some kind of requirement to help others, social justice has been cited by various religions as in line with their faith.

The Christian Left holds that social justice, renunciation of power, humility, forgiveness, and private observation of prayer (as opposed to publicly mandated prayer), are mandated by the Gospel (Matthew 6:5-6). The Bible contains accounts of Jesus repeatedly advocating for the poor and outcast over the wealthy, powerful, and religious. The Christian Left maintains that such a stance is relevant and important. Adhering to the standard of “turning the other cheek”, which they believe supersedes the Old Testament law of “an eye for an eye”, the Christian Left often hearkens towards pacifism in opposition to policies advancing militarism.

While non-religious socialists sometimes find support for socialism in the Gospels (for example Mikhail Gorbachev citing Jesus as “the first socialist”),[1] the Christian Left does not find that socialism alone as an adequate end or means. Christian faith is the core of their belief which in turn demands social justice.

The Christian Left sometimes differs from other Christian political groups on issues including homosexuality. This is often not a matter of different religious ideas, but one of focus — viewing the prohibitions against killing, or the criticism of concentrations of wealth, as far more important than social issues emphasized by the religious right, such as opposition to homosexuality. In this case, similar to philosophies expressed by writers such as C.S. Lewis, these members of the Christian Left believe homosexual sex to be immoral but largely unimportant when compared with issues relating to social justice, or even matters of sexual morality involving heterosexual sex.

Some consider discrimination and bigotry against homosexuals to be immoral. These members of the Christian Left affirm that some homosexual practices are compatible with the Christian life and believe common biblical arguments used to condemn homosexuality are misinterpreted. Such views hold that the prohibition was actually against a specific type of homosexual sex act, pederasty or the sodomizing of young boys by older men. Thus, it is irrelevant when considering modern same-sex relationships.

Some Christian groups were closely associated with the peace movements against the Vietnam War as well as the 2003 Invasion of Iraq. Religious leaders in many countries have also been on the forefront of criticizing any cuts to social welfare programs. In addition, many prominent civil rights activists (such as Martin Luther King, Jr.) were religious figures.

Read the full article HERE.

Check out “The Christian Left” on Facebook HERE.

 

 
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