Archives For May 2011

Memorial Day….

May 30, 2011 — Leave a comment

Being Memorial Day it is a time to mourn all the people who have lost their lives in the world’s many wars. If only we would learn the lessons of Jesus they could all have been prevented. God grieves with every death, especially when we futilely take up weapons against each other.

Jesus said two thing encompass all God’s laws:

  • To love God with all our hearts
  • To love each other
If only we could learn to obey them……
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An Act of God???

May 30, 2011 — 1 Comment

Given the large loss of life due to the Goplin Missouri tornadoes recently I got to thinking about why we call tornadoes and other such events an act of God? Isn’t it really just an occurrence in nature? Did God really conger up these weather events to kill so many people in that city?  Many search throughout the Bible for the answers to these types of questions and they seem to come up with an amazing variety of answers depending on which segments of the Bible they choose to use.

I tend to believe that events in nature are just that; events in nature. I would certainly not take that power away from God  but at the same time I would ask why he would need to kill people in that way? Being a scientist of sorts I can understand the factual reasons for weather events. I understand that when weather fronts collide they produce powerful updrafts that become tornadoes.

I am just not one to believe that God finds it necessary to kill people for whatever reasons in natural disasters anymore than he finds it necessary to kill people by making them slip in the tub. So, to conclude this story yes tornadoes are an act of God in as much as God set down the original laws of nature that sometimes combine to make it happen.

Some believe that absolutely everything that happens in the universe is directed by the hands of God and is his will.  They go on to say that we can’t possibly understand the reasons for instance why God makes a drunk driver to kill an innocent person but they say he does it for a purpose.  The God that I pray to and adore is a God of agape love; who has an immense love for each and every one of us.  He grieves for every life lost in Goplin this last week. It was not his will that it happen but yes he set the law of nature in place that came together to create the event.

So here it is Monday and I am right where I was last week. What happened to the predicted rapture?  Of course this prediction that failed to happen is among a long line of similar predictions. Every time someone insists that they know the heart of God in minute details they tarnish Christ a little more. He seems to be very tarnished  lately. The only thing this latest rapture prediction has done is to bring out thousands of jokes about those “Christian wackos drinking their cool-aid”. Cool-Aid refers to one of the most gruesome Christian events where Jim Jones and hundreds of his believers committed mass suicide some years ago.

Much of these types of events are spurred by those who believe that every word in the Bible is directly from God and therefore must have meanings, and sub-meanings, and sub-meanings. If only we dig we can find those secret messages of God that they are certain are contained therein. I’m pretty sure that like many others before him the pastor in California was convinced that he was the one to unravel the rapture mystery that is “hidden” in the Bible. But then again maybe he was doing it to get more donations in the door. He did receive over $30 million last year. I wonder what he did with all his funds last Friday?

While trying to discover hidden mysteries in the Bible are good for all the conspiracy theory people out there and for an occasional Hollywood producer they do much harm to the body of Christ in general.  If only people would accept that the Bible was written by man with a certain amount of direction from God then maybe they would stop all these foolish things that put us in a bad light. God did not write the Bible and he certainly didn’t hide messages only for those who dig deep enough to find them. The Bible is an awesome book about Jesus Christ and the plain and clear messages he wants us to learn. The Bible is about God it is not God! The sooner all of us realize that the sooner we can totally concentrate on the messages that Christ meant for us to follow. That is what being a Christian should be all about.

Has the phrase “I am a Christian” lost its meaning in today’s world?

A Christian is a person who adheres to Christianity, an Abrahamic, monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as recorded in the Canonical gospels and the letters of the New Testament. That is one definition out of many.

Here are some of the words in Wikipedia describing a “Christian”:

The term “Christian” is also used adjectivally to describe anything associated with Christianity, or in a proverbial sense “all that is noble, and good, and Christ-like. It is also used as a label to identify people who associate with the cultural aspects of Christianity, irrespective of personal religious beliefs or practices

A wide range of beliefs and practices is found across the world among those who call themselves Christian. There is usually a consensus within a denomination about what defines a Christian, but often little agreement among members of different denominations on a common definition of “Christianity.”

So to be a Christian means many different things to different people. To many in the U.S. being a Christian means that we totally support our country and all that it stands for, or at least what we perceive it stands for. But defining Christianity separate from Jesus Christ can be a damaging thing. For instance, the Klu Klux Klan during the 1930 and even up to today claim to be a Christian organization who believe in the purity of the races. They cite verses from the Bible (mainly the Old Testament) to back up their stand.

A recent poll showed that a good majority of the citizens of this country think that the U.S. is a Christian nation and that God has a special love for us that he doesn’t for other countries. They believe that every war we enter into that God is on our side and against our enemies. The common mantra that a real Christian in the U.S. idolizes four things: God, Guns, Guts, and Country (not particularly in that order).

Of course Jesus had other words about this. He told us that all of God’s children are special to him. He also told us to keep a very fine distinction between God and the sectarian governments  of this earth (ie. pay to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God”s). When Jesus told us to love one another he did not limit that to only citizens of the country where you reside. If we follow Jesus’ words then we mourn the death of that child who dies every three seconds due to starvation or inadequate drinking water somewhere in the world the same as if he/she were a member of our own family. In a sense he is as we are all children of God. That to me is what being a Christian is all about.

So, to wrap this up being a Christian means many different things to different people.  I didn’t begin to cover the vast differences between Christian denominations in the world today.  Those beliefs are so vastly different to be almost comical if they weren’t so tragic. The term “Christian” as been diluted to such a degree that it is almost without meaning in today’s world.  For that reason I don’t necessarily call myself a Christian anymore but instead call myself a disciple/follower of Jesus Christ.

About the Bible

May 20, 2011 — 1 Comment

Source: http://cosmiclog.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2011/05/19/6677671-is-the-bible-full-of-forgeries

Just a short note to refer you to the article above. It is about the Bible and how it was written. For those who think the Bible is 100% from God this article will probably be somewhat disturbing. The article reports that through the ages many believe that most of the books of the Bible were probably not actually written by those whose names are attached to them. By providing you with this source article it is not my intent to get into a theological debate about the subject.

My purpose for mentioning this subject goes to the quote below by the Catholic News Service:

The Catholic News Service’s Agostino Bono makes a similar point: “Even if a specific letter was not done by Peter or Paul, it could well have been written by someone drawing from the oral tradition passed down by one or the other,” he writes.

So it appears that my beliefs that the Bible was written by men who many times got their info from oral traditions that may have been passed down from generation to generation before put in ink.  For me this doesn’t take away from the value of the Bible as a man-made document but for those who hold the literal and inerrant belief making the Bible a second, or third, or even fourth hand account is probably threatening indeed.

As I always say the Bible is not God; it is about God. Keep your eyes on Jesus and let the Bible be what it is.

Source: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/42769004/ns/travel-destination_travel/

The above article is about the ten most beautiful churches in the world. Since I take my life lessons from Jesus I went to his words to find his opinion about building monoliths to God. I did not see anything that remotely suggested that God wants us to spend massive amounts of our resources in monuments to Him. Quite the opposite appears to be true.

Building massive churches is probably in reality much more of a human power type thing. The Popes, various affluent Christian, and even very popular Evangelists in todays word,  wanted to leave a legacy of their time on earth. To do that they spent church funds that could have been spent for much more Christ centered purposes. If Jesus was about anything he was about

  • Preaching  good news to the poor.
  • Proclaiming freedom for the prisoners
  • Recovery of sight for the blind
  • Releasing the oppressed
  • Proclaiming the year of the Lord’s favor.” 

Luke 4:16-20.

I don’t see anywhere in His words about building monuments to God. To me this is a very misguided concept that started very early in church history and continues through today. If we stuck to the words of Jesus we would all likely be having our Sunday services in abandoned warehouses, parks, foreclosed houses,  or at least co-rented spaces shared with others that used them throughout the week.  Some say if we don’t build lavish facilities then there will be those that won’t come. If we get people to come for the creature comforts are we really giving them the true message of Jesus? I think not….

When it comes to the Bible some Christians seem to fall to the concept of  “can’t see the forest for the trees”.  That is they concentrate so much on the words they totally miss the underlying messages. Some, at the drop of a pin, can quote chapter and verse for many of the sayings in the bible. I am definitely not one of those people. Yes, I have read the New Testament many times and when prompted I can cite some of my favorite verses but I spend the majority of my time looking for and trying to follow the messages contained in the words. I do not idolize the words themselves or the document that contains them.

When I was an information technology engineer more than a decade ago we had a famous saying and that was “drowning in data but starved for information”.  Given today’s technology it is not difficult to accumulate massive amounts of data but turning that data into truly useful information is where the value come in. That is where the true talents shine; I can say I had some successes in that area of my career.

I am currently reading a book by Richard Stearns entitled The Hole in the Gospel. This book is mainly about the forest/tree syndrome. Jesus’ opening words to his three-year ministry are contained in Luke 4:16. It is always available on the right side bar of this blog but I will repeat them here

Luke 4:16-20 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

It is interesting that as his first words he chose to talk about the poor, prisoners, handicapped, and the oppressed. But these are not  by any means the last words he said in this area.  The Gospels are overflowing with this message.  I believe that Jesus was years ahead of all of us in that he gave his mission statement up front and center at the very beginning of his ministry. This is the Christian forest.  Here is a quote from the above referenced book:

The Gospel Jesus described in Luke 4 is indeed something solid. If there is a hole in our gospel, in our understanding of the nature of God’s call upon us, His followers, it is not because Scripture is unclear about those issues. Rather it is because we have chosen to pay little attention to God’s unmistakable message  to bring the whole gospel to the whole world….

Don’t spend your life obsessed with the words of the Bible. They are just words. Make it your every effort to glean the underlying messages. There are a couple of saying that help me do that:

Keep your eyes on the prize

Just give them Jesus, everything else is just small stuff

This series was about looking at the Bible as a human document. That is, it was written and assembled by humans with different life experiences, viewpoints, and passions.  Much of their thoughts and words obviously came from inspiration from God. When I study the Bible I try to understand the reasons why some of the writers might have penned what they did.  Of course, I am also a human who has had unique life experiences and passions, part of which surely shaped by what I have studied. What I have said in this series is of my own understanding. But, what I have studied also very likely leaked through in some cases. If I failed to give some credit during these and other posts I apologize.

When we view the Bible as a document written by humans who were to one degree or another inspired by God it takes on a unique shape and understanding.  Those who insist that the Bible was, more or less, dropped down from heaven by God himself deprive themselves of this valuable view.  Understanding the background and circumstances of the writers helps us to gain a better understand the meanings behind their words. Every word in the Bible was not intended to be taken literally for all the ages. Much of what was written must be understood with first century eyes and then translated into twenty-first century circumstances where appropriate.

I will finish this series by saying again that I am not a trained theologian; I am just a simple guy who has studied the Bible and other related documents and come to some personal understanding about them. One thing I avoid in my posts, and I think I did a pretty good job here, is “theologian speak”. There seems to be a complex multisyllabic word to tag almost all studies of the bible. Although I am familiar with some of them I try to avoid them in my posts.

I hope this round of posts had at least a small amount of value for some of you.

May all the glory go to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Don’t lose your focus on him and him alone.

This is the fifth post on this series about the Bible. If it is not obvious by now I want you to understand that I put my Christianity on Jesus Christ not on a book about him. I will try to keep this brief as it is really a wrap-up of the past posts.

About the Literalists:

  • Panic – In some cases I see almost total panic in people when I say not all the words in the bible are literally true. This belief is so ingrained in the foundations of their faith they cannot imagine it could not be true.
  • Irrational – Some say if you doubt any words in the Bible are not literally true than you must doubt all of them and therefore the Bible would be worthless! Nonsense..Living with that sort of belief makes life itself totally unlivable. There is nothing in this life that man has touched that is 100% accurate. This is like saying that I must throw out everything I know about George Washington, and I have read a lot about him, because someone wrongly wrote that he chopped down a cherry tree.
  • Acceptance? – Eventually the literal and absolutely true belief will be totally disproved even to the current day doubters. What will happen to those who tied their Christianity on that belief? Will they lose their faith? I just pray that when that day comes they will realize that Jesus should have been their total focus all along not a book about him.  What would happen to me if the Bible proved to be totally inerrant as they claim? I would be very surprised but it would not cause me to take my eyes off Jesus as the absolute center of my faith.  
About the Bible:
  • At Jesus’ Feet – To be able to read stories from those who actually sat at Jesus’ feet is just so valuable in our walk with Christ. It helps us to understand that Jesus came down to earth and became one of us! Why did he do that? He did that to die for our sins and also to teach us how to live.
  • A Brother’s Narrative – There is one person who wrote part of the biblical text that most likely spent almost his entire life with Jesus and that was his brother (or maybe cousin depending on which theologian you might follow). It saddens me that James did not provide us more info about Jesus’ earlier years. But, then again maybe he did and it was not uncovered during the search or canonic documents. If not,  I guess he chose to concentrate on just what he thought was the most important of his brother’s messages. To hear James say that faith and works are one and the same and that faith without works is a dead faith is enough for me.
  • About the Founders – To be able to read all the stories in the book of Acts about the first few years of Christianity is very enlightening. It certainly helps us to understand how Christianity got started. But, all of those things that occurred during these early years were not necessarily meant to apply to future Christians. Some are just for lessons learned at the time of the writing and should be understood as such.
  • Early Conflicts – To see how Paul dealt with some many of the problems in the early church is interesting.  But again we cannot assume that all the resolutions he provided apply to all circumstances today. One size does not necessarily fit all.
Just give them Jesus:
  • Keep your eyes totally focused on Jesus. Everything else is simply a distraction.
  • Tell others about Jesus and how he lived his life.  That is the purpose of the Bible.
  • Tell others about Jesus and how he died for our sins. That is the purpose of the Bible.
  • Tell other about Jesus and how he taught us to live.   That is the purpose of the Bible.
  • Tell others about Jesus and what he commanded us to do.   That is the purpose of the Bible.
  • Use the Bible stories as lessons in these matters and don’t become fixated on the words themselves.  When you do that you may end up treating words as idols.

Never take your eyes off Jesus.

This, the fourth post on the Bible centers around where I see some others may have gone astray in regards to their beliefs surrounding  the Bible.

  • Some have replaced the Holy Spirit with the book called the Bible... They put so much power in the Bible and so little in the Holy Spirit. Compared to the others in Trinity studies there is very little in-depth theological study about the Holy Spirit. The main exception to that might be  the Society of Friends otherwise known as Quakers. They treat the Holy Spirit as a very equal member of God’s team. Jesus had very clear words about just what the Holy Spirit was going to do for us after he left this earth. Many Christian denominations today seem to downplay our relationship with the Holy Spirit.
  • The Bible is about God; it is not a replacement for God...The Bible is a valuable document in trying to understand the nature of God but it was never meant to replace God. This idea goes back to a recent post with the question of why Jesus did not write a book? Jesus did not write a book because if he did then we lowly human being would end up having a relationship with the book instead of with God. God intends each of us to have a personal relationship with him. I believe that sometimes the Bible actually gets in the way of that relationship.
  • Every word in the Bible are Jesus’ words… This is just simply something that I can’t conceive. With my study of just how the Bible was assembled in the late fourth century by a council directed by King Constantine it is very clear that there is a very human element in the creation of this book. To say that every word written by the Apostle Paul came directly from Jesus is to deny some of the very words of the Bible itself. Paul states in some of his epistles that some words were simply his opinion and were not necessarily inspired by God.   I personally take some of the words of Paul to simply be that of a crankety old bachelor putting out his opinion. There is certainly nothing wrong with that since his letters were written to human beings with particular problems that Paul addressed.
  • Everything in the Bible is literally and absolutely true… This belief causes some to deny other aspects of God’s revelations. We can learn nothing in this world unless God allows us to learn it. And this includes scientific things like carbon dating and geological strata. Much of scientific discovery today adds weight behind one interpretation of the Bible in opposition to another interpretation.
  • The “Slippery Slope” is one of the most misguided beliefs… This belief goes like this.  If you can’t believe absolutely every word in the Bible then you must throw it all out as unbelievable. In other words if you can doubt anything then you will eventually fall down a slippery slope where everything is doubted. I have gone round after round with some on this topic. But, as the saying goes “you can’t reason someone out of a position that they never reasoned themselves into”.