Archives For November 2010

Works and Heaven….

November 29, 2010 — Leave a comment

With the previous post about works being on my mind I am thinking of my Christian friend who, at least in my mind, is a “No Assembly Required” Christian. Whenever I mention works he immediately says that I must be doing works in order to gain heaven. No matter how many times I have to told him that is not the case he continues to bring it up.

So, once again for my friend no, I don’t do good works in order to earn my way into heaven or certainly not to obey some ancient Old Testament laws. As anyone who has been following my blog for any amount of time knows I don’t put much effort into studying the Old Testament especially the traditions and laws. Jesus made it clear that we cannot gain heaven by fulfilling those ancient laws. I take him at his word to that. I know the Jewish faith continues to believe they can but I rejected that many years ago. Too bad I just can’t convince my “No Assembly” friend of that fact. Most Christians, but I’m sure not all, believe that the sole purpose of the Old Testament was to point to Jesus. Jesus himself said that not one iota of the law and Old Testament prophets would be abolished until it was all fulfilled. I am one to believe that Jesus by his life, death and resurrection did indeed fulfill it so it therefore becomes not very important to me now. I am totally into the new covenant brought by Jesus not the old one that it replaced.

Then why do I seem to constantly emphasize good works? I do it because Jesus told me to obey him and do good works in his name. I do it because he is my Lord and Savior. I choose to not worry about Old Testament laws and traditions. I choose to not base my entire spiritual self on the Bible being inerrant. Instead choose to just follow Christ. Everything else is just small stuff.

Assembly Required….

November 28, 2010 — Leave a comment

Since we are into the beginning of the Christmas season the above title came to mind. Although I was not fortunate enough to be a parent I certainly sympathize with those who are when it comes to having to assemble things like bicycles and such for their kids for Christmas. I imagine to many parents the words “No Assembly Required” is a much sought after feature when it comes to Christmas presents.

Ok, so now what does all this have to do with Red Letter Living? In my mind there are two basic types of Christians: 1) the Assembly Required Christian and 2) the No Assembly Required variety. Let’s start with the last type first. The No Assembly Christians are those who believe that due to our totally sinful nature we are incapable of pleasing God with absolutely ANYTHING we might be able to do. Many of these Christians believe that all that is required of them is, depending on their denomination, baptism, an alter call, or a maybe another type of proclamation of faith. God expects nothing else from them as any effort they might expend is totally worthless in God’s eyes. I.E. one-size-fits-all or “No Assembly Required”. Once they make the original leap of faith they only need to sit back and wait for the end.

The other type of Christian is the “Assembly Required” type. They like the first group believe that they need to make a leap of faith but to them that is a starting point not the end point of their Christianity. Strangely in some ways this type of Christian is more of a literalist than the first type. They take Jesus’ words to heart when as he tells us in his Great Commission to obey what he has commanded. They realize that Jesus meant for us to be active in our faith as faith without works is dead and really no faith at all. They truly understand that Jesus loves each and every one of us and is joyful with our acts of kindness to others in his name. To them coming to faith is just a starting point. Yes, Assembly is indeed required throughout our Christian lives.

Which type of Christian are you? Are you a “No Assembly Required” or an “Assembly Required” Christian? As for me I am without any doubt whatsoever an “Assembly Required” one. Yes it does require more work on my part but that is just what it means to be a Christian. In my mind words without actions are totally meaningless.

Were the Apostles Baptized??

November 22, 2010 — 1 Comment

Maybe someone can help me out with this question. Were all the Apostles baptized with water? I don’t recall seeing this in the Bible. If water baptism was so important then surely Jesus insisted that all his immediate disciples be baptized. If they were baptized this surely would have been a major event in their lives and someone would have reported it.

If I change the question to remove the word “water then I can absolutely say yes to the question. Their baptism occurred at the Pentecost. The holy spirit coming into our lives is the real baptism for all of us. In my beliefs the other one is mostly symbolic in nature. Some say the two event happen concurrently now but I just don’t know? I know that I was baptized as a baby but I also know that there was a point in my life where I truly felt the Holy Spirit come into my life.

There are different theological view of these two events. I could just pick and choose any one of them I guess. Jesus made it a point to distinguish between water and fire baptism. What did he mean by that explanation?

I Believe…

November 21, 2010 — 4 Comments

  • I believe that to constantly harp about our sinful state is more harmful than anything it might accomplish.
  • I believe that we should teach our children that they were made by God and God does not make junk.
  • I believe that God means for each of us to accomplish certain distinct things while we are here on his earth.
  • I believe that God is very displeased with the way we have trashed his kingdom on earth.

A Long and Agonizing Death…

November 15, 2010 — 1 Comment

A close member of my  extended family died yesterday after a long and agonizing downward spiral.  For the last two years she was no longer of her own mind and became a very spiteful person. It was totally sad to see her in that state for so long.  It is not that she was a superhuman before that but she was not unlike many today in her very self-centered world view. I am relieved that she finally passed and went into our Lord’s arms. She can finally enjoy some peace.

I know I have read several treatises about suffering in the world. I think that is one of the theologian’s favorite topics. But I personally still wonder why the Lord, who has infinite compassion for each one of us, puts some of us through such agony before we die?  I know the bible says otherwise but in my mind it kind of gives credence to the concept of purgatory. If we suffer so much before leaving this life does that give us a little less judgment by our maker?

Even though it was eventually expected and actually hoped for the end of her life still came as somewhat of a shock. I can still feel the shutter when I was told of her demise. I just hope and pray that I don’t have to suffer in the circumstances as she did for such a long period of time. Thank you Lord for finally ending it. I may not understand the reasons behind those years but I can accept that you  allowed it to happen for a reason.

Beatitudes

November 12, 2010 — 2 Comments

In line with the last post about possible bias by the Gospel writers in relation to the Beatitudes let’s look at some modern day interpretations. To those of us who think one of the primary reasons Jesus came to us was to show us how to live the Beatitudes are front and center among Jesus’s words.  In light of the last post I am going to include Matthew’s version here as well as Luke’s . You can see the differences yourself:

Matthew (beginning 5:3)

  • Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
  • Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
  • Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
  • Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
  • Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
  • Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
  • Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.
  • Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
  • Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.

Luke (beginning at 6:21)

  • Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
  • Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied.
  • Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.
  • Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man.

    (additional connected verses in Luke)

  • “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their fathers treated the prophets.
  • But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort.
  • Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry.
  • Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep.
  • Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets.

I recently came across an interpretation of these verses with a very different twist. The author of this view says that Jesus was really talking about all of us in our current state and didn’t intend to single out any particular minority or group for favor or attention. This seems to align with the supposed difference between Matthew and Luke as reported in the last post. One of the examples given in this recent portrayal was that when we try to evangelize someone and they return our attempts with less than civil language then we are peacemakers when we don’t attack them back?? The author of this interpretation went on to give similar examples to most of the other verses above.

I am afraid that this type of misalignment seems common among some Christian denominations. They start out with their founder’s basic views and then try to “interpret” the Bible, red letters and all, to match the founder’s philosophy. Where they don’t want to have to do what Jesus says they downplay the words into non-significance. Sometimes this twisting can become so extreme that surely even they do it don’t really believe what they are saying.

Rather than simply laying back and letting the Lord’s grace flow over me I will continue to treat the Beatitudes, along with the other red letters in the Bible as a call to action. Jesus meant what he said and he meant for us to listen and act upon his words.

How much of an agenda did the original Biblical authors have when they were writing their words? Were the differing parallel verses found in the Gospel text simple misinterpretations or remembrances or were they intentionally different because of the differing views of the authors. How much different did Matthew and Luke view Jesus’ messages.

Looking at the differing parallel verses of the Beatitudes found in Matthew and Luke some theologians feel that a large part of Matthew’s variance from Luke is attributed to Matthew not approving of asceticism as a way into heaven in and of itself. That is Luke believed we should try to live a more Godly life as Jesus instructed and Matthew didn’t.  Hence Matthew changes what Luke has as ordinary physical deprivations into spiritual ones—by changing  poor into poor in spirit, and hungry into hunger . . . after righteousness. These types of arguments tend to re-enforce the feelings of some that even the gospel writers had particular theological stand and agendas that may have actually been different than what others believe Jesus really taught. For those of us who treat the Bible as a historical document written by man trying to understand God’s nature and not one of literal and absolute truth this type of disagreement is not terribly troubling. But for those who treat the bible as if it were dropped from heaven this type of discussion is mortal indeed.

Obviously given the 35,000 Christian denominations that now exist theological stands and agendas flourish to an ugly extreme today. God seems to be doing nothing to set us straight on which of these views if any truly reflect his messages. Perhaps none of them do. Do we have to wait until the end times to find the true message. Some say just look in the bible for the “true” message. But that is what almost all Christians say they do today. Will these differences keep some of us out of heaven. If universal salvation is true then of course it won’t. But since it is clear, at least to most of us, that we will be judged it most have some kind of consequence.

As for me, I will stick to the action oriented Christ and not depend on words alone to please God.

Why Red Letters??

November 9, 2010 — 2 Comments

In many Bibles, some words are set apart with a red font. Why is this? It is to remind us that when God became Man and personally gave us words that those words are probably something we cannot afford to miss. So why don’t many churches today take the “red letters” to heart? Why aren’t we doing more to be Christ’s hands and feet to the poor, the disenfranchised, the weary, the ill, the fatherless, and the prisoners? It’s all there–in red letters. Why has the Church shirked its responsibilities, leaving the work to be done by governments, rock stars, and celebrities? We leave it up to our governments to do those tasks and then we complain when they take some of our tax dollars to accomplish it! Shame on us!!

It is quite troubling to me the number of Christian denominations that totally downplay those red letters. They instead deem all the words written by men and accumulated into what we know as the Bible to be of equal importance! I understand that the foundation for this misbelief goes back to the slippery slope idea that I have covered before. They want to believe that all the words were authored by God instead of just the red letters. This makes studying the Bible much easier for them as then they don’t have to discern what is currently relevant and what isn’t in that document. They just refuse to accept that some of those biblical words were written with a two thousand year old mentality and mindset and are no longer relevant to us today.

I choose not to take the easy way when it comes to following my Lord and savior. I will not just say the words and then lay back and let his grace flow over me. I choose not to solely depend on the “experts” to tell me what God’s message to me is. Instead I will take his grace and turn it into action as he commanded me to do. I will study the Bible and other similar documents from the early times to find what is relevant to me today and discount those things that come from pre-21st century knowledge and understanding. I will study the Bible and other such documents to find the messages in the underlying text but understand that that text could be just a story or myth passed down from the generations between when Christ roamed the earth and when the document was solidified four hundred years later.

It is quite refreshing to accept that I have a responsibility to actually do what Jesus commanded me to do and to study the words from the founding fathers to find those relevant to me and my daily life. I will not leave that important task up to others to do the work for me. It is not up to the theologians or even today’s clergy to push me into heaven or maybe more importantly to do God’s work here on earth. God gave me free choice and I choose to follow Him alone.

Jesus warned us not to pledge our allegiance to worldly things but instead to give that honor to God alone. His most often example of idolatry was money. But today there is literally a myriad of things that we have chosen to put up as idols in God’s place. One of these in my mind is the greed around the concept of universal healthcare.

Jesus clearly told us to be our brother’s keeper. I can’t think of a more poignant area where where are not following his command to be our brother’s keeper than denying healthcare  to those of meager financial means. Healthcare should be a right for all citizens of the U.S. as is the case for much of the rest of the world. In order to accomplish this it would be necessary for many of us to contribute some of our resources for those who cannot afford it. This greed of “I don’t want you taking away my money to benefit others” is no different than putting money above Jesus’ commands. Some say the money we would have to contribute is actually less than what we currently spend on pet supplies. While I love my pets I do not put there value above my fellow man!

This ambivalence toward universal healthcare comes primarily from the radical right in our political spectrum and unfortunately evangelical Christians are thought to make up a good segment of that population. Shame on us for, by association, putting a Christian name on this greed filled issue. Let’s show the world that we are Christians by insisting that we join the rest of the world and provide universal healthcare for all our citizens. To do otherwise is to do great damage to Jesus’ name and to his kingdom on this earth.