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What Is The Bible (Book Review) June 9, 2017

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I’ve read the Bible cover to cover.
More than once.
I’ve read much of it dozens of times, and some of it hundreds of times.
I’ve studied it.  Meditated on it. Dissected it.  Taught it.  Preached it.
Made it much the focus of my life.
Eventually, to some degree, I discarded it.  Dismissed it.
I’ve considered that it may be a book to be banned.
(OK.  Not really. The book shouldn’t be banned.  But many people should be banned from owning a copy until they learn some responsibility.)

How I wish I had had the eyes to see, and the ears to hear the kinds of wisdom, insight, approach, and understanding that is represented in Rob Bell’s profound book “What Is The Bible?

 

A lot of the basic understanding here is understanding I’ve had for awhile now.  Some of this was addressed in Brian McLaren’s “A New Kind of Christianity.” But, the specific perception of various individual passages that are discussed here are really, really eye-opening.
You’ll revisit stories with which you thought you were well acquainted.
Noah and the flood.
Abraham and his son.
Jonah and the big fish.
The parable of The Good Samaritan.
The “take-away” on these stories has (at least in my tradition) almost always strayed from the real point. But, they will take on a breath of fresh air as you understand them the way the original audience would have understood them.  And we find out why Americans often miss the major themes of the Bible!

There are stories we look at and think, “How backwards and barbaric!” And a lot of it was backwards and barbaric!  But, looking closer, in the midst of this we can see actual steps forward in the evolving understanding of God.
We go through lots of passages, Old Testament and New.   We get into all the violence that causes some to pronounce “There is no God,” and others to just accept it (or even appropriate it, so to speak) and use it as a justification for their own hate.  There’s a chapter titled “What’s the Worst Question to Ask When You’re Reading the Bible?”
It’s a question that believers and atheists both ask!

One portion discusses the word and concept of “sin.”  It’s become, for many of us, a cringe-worthy word.  Here you’ll find what may be the best material on the subject I’ve ever seen.
Rob also addresses many of the standard questions he gets, like “Did Jesus have to die?” “What about all that wrath?” and (concerning Abraham) “What kind of God would ask a man to sacrifice his son?”  I LOVED the answer to that one!
The last chapter, “A Note on Growing and Changing,” has some great advise for those of us with family and friends that dont see things the way we do.  (And who doesn’t fit that catagory?!?!)

I once suggested a book to someone thinking he might enjoy the unique perspective.   He didn’t read it (which is fine) But, what he did do was “analyze” the book based solely on it’s title, and then arrogantly proclaim “Book solved!”  I remember thinking, “WTF?”

This is not a book to be solved.  This is a book to be eaten.
Chewed slowly.  Swished about like a fine wine.
Will you agree with everything in it?  Not likely.  Can you find (or make up) reasons to tear it apart?  Of course you can.
Can you be inspired, encouraged, educated and entertained?
I sure was.  There is just so much here!

I wish every atheist and fundamentalist evangelical would read this book (and, well, everyone else).
It’s been my experience that both tend to approach the Bible in the exact same way.  But, as is often the case, many who could benefit the most will shun this book as either heresy or fantasy.  Religion has a long history of calling truth heresy, and intellectuals have a long history of dismissing anything “spiritual.”
Still, for those who let it, it can be another compelling part of their journey.  With lots of “ah-ha” moments.

I suppose once you’ve read “What Is The Bible”, that you can leave the experience unchanged.
But I can’t see how.

 

(Buy the book.  Click HERE.)

Some Quotes:

  • It’s possible to resist the very growth and change and expanding consciousness that God desires for you by appealing to your religious convictions.  (Read the story of Peter in Acts, chapter 10!)
  • You can’t take people where they don’t want to go.
  • The deepest forces of the universe are on the side of the oppressed, the underdog, and the powerless.
  • I’ve heard people say that they read it literally.  As if that’s the best way to understand the Bible.  It’s not.  We read it literately.

(Buy the book.  Click HERE.)

  • [In the story of Jonah] the dude who sees himself as us is furious because of how chummy God and them have become.  He’s so furious he’d rather die than live with the tension.
  • I would often hear people say, We need to get back to how they did it in the early church.  But reading the Bible, you learn that it’s not about trying to be something you’re not.   We open our eyes to the divine invitation right here, right now in this [world].
  • When people debate faith vs. science they’ve already missed the point.  Faith is about embracing truth wherever it’s found, and that of course includes science.

(Buy the book.  Click HERE.)

  • To make broad dismissals of the scriptures as having nothing to say to the modern world about what it means to be human is absurd and naïve.  These are radical, progressive, open, expansive, extraordinary stories… told from the perspective of actual people living in space and time.
  • The divine is always at work.

And, a few golden oldies:
“The moment God is figured out with nice neat lines and definitions, we are no longer dealing with God.”
― Rob Bell, Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith

“Most of the Bible is a history told by people living in lands occupied by conquering superpowers. It is a book written from the underside of power. It’s an oppression narrative. The majority of the Bible was written by a minority people living under the rule and reign of massive, mighty empires, from the Egyptian Empire to the Babylonian Empire to the Persian Empire to the Assyrian Empire to the Roman Empire.
This can make the Bible a very difficult book to understand if you are reading it as a citizen of the the most powerful empire the world has ever seen. Without careful study and reflection, and humility, it may even be possible to miss central themes of the Scriptures.”
― Rob Bell, Jesus Wants to Save Christians

“Eternal life is less about a kind of time that starts when we die, and more about a quality and vitality of life now in connection to God.
Eternal life doesn’t start when we die; it starts now. It’s not about a life that begins at death; it’s about experiencing the kind of life now that can endure and survive even death.”
― Rob Bell, Love Wins


Critical Praise for “What Is The Bible”

“Rob Bell is at it again. Love him or loathe him, the theological provacateur says it’s time to rethink the Bible.”  — Relevant

“With pastoral prodding, Rob Bell helps us see that scripture is a masterpiece of penetrating subtleties crafted by ancient authors with a transformative vision for humanity. Bell reminds us that the Bible is neither simple nor mundane, but worthy of our full attention.” — Peter Enns, author of The Sin of Certainty

“To my ear, Rob Bell is a preacher, a poet, and a scholar, drawing from a wide range of disciplines without ever making me feel like I’m reading a textbook. The style and format are poetic, moving, and almost breezy at times.” — Robert

(Buy the book.  Click HERE.)

 

TORN November 23, 2012

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TORN
Rescuing The Gospel From The Gays-Vs-Christians Debate.
– Justin Lee

I’ve read a number of books and articles concerning “gays-vs-Christians.”  (I found Mel White’s “Holy Terror” to be very informative.)

Anyway, when I heard that Justin Lee was writing a book about the subject, I thought “Well. That’s nice.”

I figured it would be an OK book.  I mean, I’m a fan and promoter of his ministry. Still, with all I’ve read, I didn’t really expect anything, well, “special.”

Let me say now, this book is special.

I read one reviewer who said that, much of the time, it was like he was reading his own story.  There are strong marked differences between Justin’s story and mine.  Still, there is much here to which I can relate.

This is an incredibly intimate, raw, real testimony of an amazing young man (nicknamed “Godboy” as a youth) who’s heart for God is primary to his being. [The Force is strong in this one.]

“Torn” is a memoir, but it’s more than that.  It’s also an expose on misinformation.  And, it’s a call, not to arms, but to peace.  It’s written, not with animosity, but with truth spoken in love.  Love towards those whom, greatly due to a lack of understanding, continue to cause damage, oppression, and heartache to God’s LGBT children.

We’re told many personal stories.  If this were a work of fiction, the first chapters of “Torn” would be considered “character development ”  It’s like we really get to know Justin.  He tells us of his realization of being gay, coming out to family and friends, the rejection and hostility from those who should be providing help and support, and later, his experience with the ex-gay movement ( a movement with which I also have first-hand knowledge.)

Speaking of which…

If I have one “fault” to find in “Torn,” it’s that, while discussing the “ex-gay” myth, Justin more than once mentions gay men stuck in “straight” marriages they are not happy with.
That’s fine.  It’s a common occurrence.
But he doesn’t seem to acknowledge that there are those who,  while reconciled with and accepting of their same-sex attractions, are happily married and genuinely sexually attracted to their opposite-sex spouse, with that spouse being the only opposite-sex attraction.  [Many may fall into the EXex-gay category.]  Yes, these are a minority within a minority, but I’m finding there are more than one might expect.

Moving on.

In the 5th chapter, “Why Are People Gay,” the theories, research and science of why people are gay is addressed.  If you’ve never really looked at the facts that we have (and what we don’t have) this is good introductory material.

In the mid 70’s, someone in our youth group would jokingly say to another, “You know the way you are?  Quit being that way!”
In the chapter “South Park Christians” we examine the reality of that flawed philosophy.  We see that all too often, Christians end up imitating Job’s “comforters” rather that Christ.  Sometimes, sadly, a Christian friend is the last person you can trust.  Well-meaning people, generally loving people, can sow seeds of discord and hate when they think they know things that they really don’t know.

At one point, Justin discovers “The Other Side,” and gets to see what the “party” life is like for many gays.  The thing is, gay or straight, that kind of life is a dangerous road.  It’s a life that Justin knows simply doesn’t mesh with his belief system.

In “Back to the Bible,” we examine the historical, cultural, and “translational” context of the so-called “clobber passages” which some Christians are so anxious to quote (misquote).  Mr. Lee is by no means the first to offer this study, but I must say his presentation is one of the best I’ve read.  Again, his love of God and commitment to truth shine through.

We glean truth from “The Princess Bride, and later from “Fiddler On The Roof.”   Justin quotes from Philip Yancey’s “What’s So Amazing About Grace,” which is a book I also highly recommend.  (Actually, I used that to teach a Sunday School class years ago.  It was that book that provided one of the first steps that led to my “coming out” of right-wing fundamentalism.)
Justin is also honest enough to show that he, too, is not immune to stereotyping the “other.”

There are many insights that Justin gives on how to relate gay friends and family members; material very much needed in the evangelical community.
We’re given suggestions on how to create a better world and “see the church become what God has called her to be.”

One very important factor to remember here is that Justin was not sexually active.  He was not looking for any justification of his actions.  He did and does believe in committed, monogamous relationships.  He was seeking God for whatever God wanted of him, no matter where that would lead.   You’ll be hard pressed to find a more “Bible-based,” Christ-centered approach to the subject matter than you’ll find in “Torn.”

As you read “Torn,” and as Mr. Lee shares from his heart and life, one of two things, I think, will happen:
Either your heart will soften, or it will harden.  I can’t imagine it would remain unchanged.

I check my blog stats often, so I know I have had hundreds of readers from all over the globe.  Most of them, of course, I’ve never met.  Many are now facebook “friends.”  I’ve no idea how many “non-virtual” friends or family members read my writings.  But to all reading now, near and far, known and unknown, if you ever considered reading a book I recommend, make “Torn” that book.
Wherever you stand on gay equality, or the Christian/gay “debate,” if you’ve the slightest interest in having an informedrational discussion of the subject, if you honestly seek understanding, if you want to be a part of reconciliation instead of alienation, you owe it to yourself, and really, to the gay and lesbian friends and family you may not even know you have, to read “Torn.”
I ask you, I encourage you, I implore you, please, read this book.

– df

Buy the book.  Click HERE.


“The most important book I’ve read in years.” – Rachel Held Evans

“This is the book that every Evangelical, Charismatic, and Roman Catholic Christian should read on the question of homosexuality.” – Brian D. McLaren

“This book is full of three things that are not always much in evidence in our debates on sexuality; fresh air, common sense and manifest love of Christ.” – Dr. Rowan Wilson, Archbishop of Canterbury

Buy the book.  Click HERE.


A few quotes:


– Though none of them knew it, they were talking about me.  Laughing at me.  condemning me.  And it was getting to me.

– Dialogue means we must set aside our own prejudices and language preferences for the sake of communication…
gracious dialogue is hard for a lot of people.  It feels wishy-washy to them.

– The church’s “antihomosexual” reputation isn’t just a reputation for opposing gay sex or gay marriage; it’s a reputation for hostility to gay people.

– Because of the way Jesus read and applied Scripture, I could no longer justify condemning a loving, committed, Christ-centered relationship based solely on gender.

– More than anything in the world, I wanted to represent my God well, and I prayed every day for the opportunities to do so.
Buy the book.  Click HERE.

– Some parents have kicked their kids out, disowned them, and written them out of their wills.  Some have even told their kids they wished they were dead.

– Gay…straight…bi-sexual…These words don’t tell us anything about the person’s behaviors, beliefs, or plans for the future; they only tell us to whom the person is generally attracted.

– I believe our goal should be truth, not ideology.

– Outsiders say our hostility toward gays–not just opposition to homosexual politics and behaviors but disdain for gay individuals–has become virtually synonymous with the Christian faith. (Kinnaman/Lyons in “unChristian”)

– I knew things were going to be okay.  And God was going to be with me.  The church, however, was another matter.

– A little information can alter our entire understanding of a situation.

– No one wanted to wait tables on Sundays…[Christians were] usually the most demanding, and they’re always the worst tippers…
if you see your table praying before a meal, you can mentally subtract a third from your tip.  [To see how this relates to the subject matter, Buy the book.  Click HERE.]

– So when Jesus healed people on the Sabbath, it was a big deal.  Here he was, claiming to represent God, and yet he wasn’t even following one of the most important of all God’s commandments.

– The law was put in charge to lead us to Christ.  Christ did not come to lead us to the law…
everything in the Bible points to Jesus.

– What if we were turning people away from God by misapplying the Bible?

– It is possible to live in loving, Christian community in the midst of significant theological disagreements.

– Stephen Covey reminds us…”seek first to understand, then to be understood.”  We can’t skip the first step in order to get to the second.
Buy the book.  Click HERE.


Related Links:

Through My Eyes

GCN Online Teaching Videos

For The Bible Tells Me So

A Time To Embrace

Fall To Grace

Give A Damn: Faith

For some of my related experience, read

Tribbles

and

Here I Am

 

Woman Of God June 29, 2012

Here’s my first attempt at turning one of our songs into a “Lyric Video.”
This is from our second Re-Union CD, “Inside Out.”

In case you are unaware of the back-story, my wife and I were separated, then divorced.
Two-and-a-half years later, we were re-married (or Re-“Unioned”).
It was, in great part I believe, the prayers of my wife that brought, shall we say, my “salvation” (not in the modern born-again sense. But more in the way of Jesus’ teachings).

That, in the tiniest of nutshells, is the basis of this song.

I hope you enjoy it.




Click this image for more about the CD:




AND to read an article about Kathy and I that was in our local newspaper, click HERE.

 

“The Naked Gospel” February 9, 2010

“Conviction or Counsel?”

Convict means to find guilty.  The root convict only appears eight times in the Bible.  And not one of those appearances has anything to do with the daily life of the believer!  The gospel of John contains the only passage that joins “Holy Spirit” and “convict.”  [READ John 16:7-9]
Who’s being convicted here?  It’s the world, characterized as people who do not believe in Jesus.

[The Holy Spirit is] our Counselor, or Helper, our Comforter, our Advocate — and the one who guides us into all the truth (John 16:13).  He prays on our behalf (Romans 8:26).  And he testifies to us concerning our identity as children of God (Romans 8:16).  Rather than dredging up the past, the Holy Spirit trains us for the future.  When sinful behaviors occur in our lives, he reminds us of Jesus’ work on the cross.  We need to know that we’re pure and made for good deeds.  Too many Christians succumb to the Accuser while wrongly attributing these attacks to the conviction of the Holy Spirit.

Buy “The Naked Gospel” HERE.

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– My Review:

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Yet another great addition to my library. 
With all the ground that has been covered by previous readings, this book managed to cover new ground.  It really helps show how religion has added so much to the gospel that the true gospel is considered heresy by much of the “church.”  It’s amazing how far we’ve fallen from truth.
One of my favorite sections is called “Crossing The Line.”  It, alone is worth the price of the book.  It discussed how the dividing line of time, and covenants, was not Christ’s  birth, but his death and resurrection.  I, of course, knew this, but I hadn’t considered the full ramifications; especially concerning the teachings of Jesus under the Old Covenant.
There are some areas that are at opposition with my personal beliefs.  Andrew believes, like many, that Father-Son briefly lost fellowship at the cross. Despite what Jesus felt on the cross, the Father didn’t turn His back on Jesus.  God cannot turn God’s back on God’s self.  (For a great understanding of this, read “He Loves Me” by Wayne Jacobsen.)
But, reading a book like this, and disagreeing with one or two points is no big deal.  I will add this to the short  list of books that I will give away multiple copies of.

I can see why earlier versions of this type of material were banned and burned by organized religion, and why the promoters of said material were tortured and killed.  Of course, Jesus was tortured and killed for pretty much the same reasons.   Anyway, thank you, Andrew Farley.

— dave
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Here are more excerpts from “The Naked Gospel,” by Andrew Farley

Buy “The Naked Gospel” HERE.

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“Jesus spoke truth to every audience he encountered. [But]We often attempt to apply directly to our lives every word Jesus said, without considering his audience and purpose. Jesus was born under the law. His audience was under the law, and they needed deliverance from it. Jesus exposed the futility of life under the law.

He exclaimed, “Gouge out your eye” and “cut off your hand” if you truly want to keep the law (Matthew 5:29-30), so that his Jewish listeners would reach a crossroad. They would decide to try harder or to give up. Once they gave up, they could consider a radical new way.
Jesus’ impossible teachings of “sell everything, sever body parts if necessary, be perfect like God, and surpass the Pharisees with your righteousness” are not honestly compatible with salvation as a gift from God.
Couldn’t we resolve all of this by realizing the dividing line in human history? Peter, James, John, and Paul wrote epistles about life under the New Covenant. Years earlier, Jesus was teaching hopelessness under the Old. The audience wasn’t the same. The covenant wasn’t the same. And the teachings aren’t the same.

Jesus’ harsh teaching aimed at the religious kill you every time. One thing about distinguishing the Old from the New – it always liberates.
Jesus was born under the law. As Hebrews tells us, the Old wasn’t replaced by the New until Jesus’ death.
Trying to mix Jesus’ teachings directed to Pharisees and zealous Jews with the epistles will inevitably result in confusion.

Buy “The Naked Gospel” HERE.

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“There is no greater test as to whether a man is really preaching the New Testament gospel of salvation than this, that some people might misunderstand it and misinterpret it to mean that it really amounts to this, that because you are saved by grace alone it does not matter at all what you do; you can go on sinning as much as you like because it will redound all the more to the glory of grace.  If my preaching and presentation does not expose it to that misunderstanding, then it is not the gospel…There is this kind of dangerous element about the true presentation of the doctrine of salvation.” – D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. –
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One hindrance to understanding the real gospel as life restoration is an obsession with “book knowledge.”  The life of Jesus in us is what matters most.  We shouldn’t equate “Bible smarts” with spiritual maturity.  They’re certainly not one and the same.  As in Jesus’ day, it’s often those who are puffed up about their good handle on what the Scriptures say (not what they mean!) who resist the counsel of the Holy Spirit.
(Jonh 5:39-40).

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Buy “The Naked Gospel” HERE.
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Adam and Eve didn’t eat from a “tree of evil.”  They ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  They weren’t pursuing sin as we normally think of it.  They were pursuing a form of godliness.  God never intended for humanity to take upon itself the burden of developing and following a code of ethics.  Adam and Eve reconsidered their confidence in God’s way and opted for morality instead.
Today, we can be deceived by the same offer.  We may find ourselves pursuing the knowledge of good instead of listening to our heartfelt yearning for an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ.
Fulfilling the law is something that God did in Christ.  Its fulfillment isn’t an ongoing event in the lives of believers today.  God set us free from the law, so that we’re not under it or supervised by it (Galatians 3:25).
The Holy Spirit isn’t motivating us to keep the Mosaic law, nor do I think we should consult the law as our guide in daily living.  This is why we have the Holy Spirit in us instead:  “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law” (Galatians 5:18).  Furthermore, if God were motivating us to adhere to the law, it would be the entire law, not just part of it (James 2:10). [By the way, God did write His laws on our hearts, not the law of Moses.  God’s law, according to Jesus, is “love God, love people.”]
I believe it’s quite clear that believers should have no relationship with the law.  Romans 7 explains that we’ve died to the law, and we’re now married to Another.  God views a return to law-based living as spiritual adultery.  Living by rules is cheating on Jesus!
Christianity was never rooted in the Law, not even in the Ten Commandments.  The commandments aren’t intended to supervise Christians (Galatians 2:19).   In fact, the law causes more sinning (Romans 7:5,8).
Paul warns that if we add even a pinch of law to our life in Christ, He’ll be of no value to us (Galatians 5:2-3).  It’s preposterous for Christians to adopt portions of the law of Moses as our guide for living.  We’re presuming that God grades on a curve.  But the law is completely incompatible with our attempt to “do our best.”  Law is a pass-fail system.  And one strike means you’re out.  The law only breeds two things: defeat if you’re honest and hypocrisy if you’re not.

[I’ve always heard people say “I know we can’t keep the law, but we should try and do our best.”  WHAT?!?!?  Scripture never says “Try to keep the law.”  It never says “Do your best.”  It says “Keep it all.  Period.”  The very scriptures they quote completely negate their proposal.  Neither do the Scriptures teach that we do what we can and Jesus does the rest.  God didn’t say that to make us try harder, but to raise the bar so high, we can never do it.  Thank God, Jesus did it for us.]
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Buy “The Naked Gospel” HERE.
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Christ is the end of the law (Romans 10:4).
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Buy “The Naked Gospel” HERE.
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Sure, the flesh is delighted to coerce us toward obvious evil.  But the flesh is equally satisfied to initiate religious or moral living admired by others!
Don’t believe for a minute that the flesh is limited in its scope to producing ugly behavior.  The flesh will build any kind of identity, as long as it gains love, attention, and acceptance from someone.
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The Sabbath:  The reality is Christ, and a genuine Sabbath-rest is found in Him; ceasing from the dead works we thought would gain us favor with God.
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The Tithe:  The same law that mandates a tithe doesn’t allow the pastor to own a home, own property, or own possessions.
(Also read “Tithing and Clergy Salaries.”  Click HERE.)
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Buy “The Naked Gospel” HERE.

 

 
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