The Bible Tells Me So?

open-bible-11288023214vduXThis post is to lay out my belief about the Bible, it’s authority, and it’s origin.

The Christian Holy Scriptures, the Bible, is not a single work but a collection of 66 books (in the Protestant version). Each book has it’s own unique point or points to make. Often the content of one book conflicts with the content of other books. This is to be expected since there is no single author.

These works span a history of several thousand years, yet the final canon, as we have it today, is under 2000 years old. The biblical books embody various theological perspectives and opinions based on the time they were written. There is no clear, single over arching theology that ties all the books together. That said, I believe there is a single *hope* expressed in all the books, particularly of the Old Testament, of a coming Messiah. Exactly who he would be and what he would be and do, were never agreed on. With the coming of Jesus Christ, all the Old Testament books were turned topsy turvy as the reality set in.

The New Testament books share, with their Old Testament predecessors, the theme of Messiah, and also like the older books, express various opinions and theologies to explain who Jesus is.

I do not believe, as do many today, that the Scriptures were ultimately penned by God himself through some kind of “inspiration”. I find this theory does great injustice to the nature of the Scriptures as well as to God himself.

We cannot turn to the Bible to answer anything definitively. It is the human record of our experience with God through history. It is not a letter from God to humanity. Nor is it “The Word of the Lord” as if it were authoritative and contained the blueprint for morality and theology from God’s own hand.

There is but one Word of God, and that is Jesus Christ himself. He alone is the testimony of God in whom are found all the answers of wisdom, theology, and morality. He is the penultimate Revelation of God to mankind and it is upon Him that the faith of believers is set, not on words written about him.

The Bible serves the church, not the other way around. As Jesus pointed out in a similar principle, the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. Since Jesus is the ultimate Sabbath Rest, it is in Him that we find meaning for the questions we ask; not in the Bible.

The Bible is able to be used by God, yes, as a medium through which he speaks to us. But then, so is any other literature or medium. God speaks through the creation and that includes things made by man, such as the Bible.

At any rate, those are my thoughts.

The Narcissistic Jesus

Jesus-Loves-Me1“Jesus loves me this I know.” How many times have we sung that children’s hymn? The message it teaches is wonderful; Jesus loves us all regardless of color, race, or any other defining characteristic. He loves us when we are weak or when we are strong. It doesn’t matter; his love for us is unconditional.

As we grow older, though, childhood memories fade and those which we can still recall to some degree, we look at through the eyes of experience; reinterpreting them. All too often we fail to retain our childhood understanding of Jesus’ love for us and replace it with something disturbing: The love of a narcissistic Jesus.

Through preaching, teaching and our own reflections on life we often come to feel if not outright believe, that Jesus only loves us in so far as we are like him. If you recall the ancient myth of Narcissus, you will remember that he drowned after falling into a pool of water while admiring his own reflection.

This is narcissism: loving oneself so much that one cannot love anything else that is not in ones own image. The end of narcissism is self-destruction. Death.

Is this really how we want to think of Jesus? Do we really want to cast him as one who only loves those who are like him? Surely this is an affront to the Love of God and twists it into an abominable thing. God is not a monster! He is kind and forgiving, loving, gentle, gracious. He does not love us by twisting us against our will to be what we are not. He loves us as we are. Yes, he offers us transformation, sanctification, theosis. He gives us grace to become beautiful as he is beautiful. But he does not love us on account of how much we are like him. He love us unconditionally. “But God showed forth his love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us”, says Saint Paul. That is to say he considered us friends, even intimate friends, before we ever sought him or knew him.

Jesus, the REAL Jesus, is not a narcissist. He loves me, this I know. Just as I am without one plea. He loves you. Just as you are. He calls you to higher, better, more beautiful things, but he loves you NOW. Do not give in to the narcissistic Jesus: THAT Jesus will drown you in guilt and grief.

Jesus loves me, this I know…

The Opposite of Fear is…

The opposite of fear is not bravery. Bravery is acting heroically in spite of ones fear. No, the opposite of fear is love.
We live in a society that talks a lot about love; it seems to be everywhere. But, in reality, there are few who love. Those few are brave souls who make the most of what they have and shout their good news from the mountain tops. The rest of us follow their rhetoric but seem to never get anything really accomplished. Why, when love is in the air, is our society teetering on the brink of self destruction?
It is because, with the exception of those few, we live in fear. Not just superficial fear, but deep, profound fear. Fear of one another, of the future, of ourselves. We have deep uncertainties because of intellectual commitments that no longer ring true for us but which we cannot rid ourselves of without risking our social status, often within our own families.
Jesus Christ taught us to love one another. Holy Scripture tells us that “where there is fear, love has not yet been made perfect, for perfect love casts out fear.”
In order to save our society, it will take more than a few voicing their love over the media. It will take listening and doing on our part. Self giving is the truest fruit of love and we can all make a difference by putting others first and giving of ourselves, our time, and our resources to those who are less fortunate than we are.
We can be brave and give place to our doubts. Listen to those who’s ideas provoke you to deeper thoughts. Doubt can never be gotten rid of by suppressing or denying it. It can only be gotten rid of by answering the question that has been put to us. Moreover, a pat answer will not suffice. We must examine the question thoroughly and answer just as thoroughly. We must be willing to accept rejection by those who disagree; those who are not willing to step out of fear into love.
Let me make one thing clear, love is not emotion. Love is more than mere commitment, too. Love is determined, resolute, steadfast self-sacrifice. Love never fails. The emotions and the commitment to another come with love, but they are not it in themselves.
Do not do anything out of fear. If you cannot do something in love, then feel no obligation to do it at all until you can do it in love. This is the gateway to personal freedom. It can liberate you from all that binds you. When we act in fear, we are in bondage, but when we can act in love we are truly free. Endeavor to do everything out of of love. Never in fear.
Are you afraid of God? Are you motivated to obey him because of fear of hell or punishment? God will not condemn you for this kind of obedience, but it is not what pleases him most. He wishes you to be free, not in bondage to fear. Serve him in Love and you will be free to experience all that he has prepared for you in this life.
Above all, love one another. For Love is of God and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He that loves not, does not know God, for God is love. Beloved, let us love one another.

Love Believes All Things

Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.

Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.

Jesus’ death on the cross demonstrated to us the incomprehensible love of God. It is often said that God “loved us so much he sent Jesus to die for our sins.” Yet this adage is said in a context neither amenable or conducive to grasping exactly what happened on Calvary. It is generally conceived as a fact that Jesus’ death carried some kind of weight with God so that a transaction was made in and by which sins could be forgiven.

Jesus’ death, it is said, paid the penalty due to our sins and satisfied God’s justice so that we might be able to come to God. God’s love in this is in his willingness to send Jesus to suffer and die on our behalf.

The problem I see with this notion is that God is made to have no other option. Jesus was sent as an expediency, a means to a desired end. That is to say, if God wanted to save us, this is how he had to do it.

But God is not bound by anything. He has no obligation, neither does he have any need to follow a particular method to accomplish his ends. He is totally and utterly free to accomplish anything in any way and by any means. He does not use expediencies.

It seems to me that in order for God to have freely sent Jesus, there had to be no compelling reason or requirement that he do so. Jesus came freely to live among us, to suffer as a man and to die at the hands of his fellow men.

God did this for love. Pure, unadulterated, spotless, clean, ineffable love.


But what is love?

Love is unlike anything else we might envision or consider. Unlike other things, love has no boundaries. It has no requirements. It has no beginning or end. It is free and limitless. Love is not based on what one is or what one does but rather on the bare fact that one *is*.

Suppose I say I love you. Suppose we share a life together as friends or as marriage partners. If my love for you is based on something about you, what if that something changes or even disappears or becomes something else? Can my love withstand that? No. It can’t. My love for you will fail as soon as you change. But God does not change, “I am the same yesterday today and forever.” He then cannot love us like this. His love is unchanging. Not that it is static and cold, but it is perfectly true, faithful and loyal.

Love believes all things; it ultimately does not care what we are or what we have done. Love is steadfast in it’s movement toward us. It is perpetual. If I change, God’s love for me never falters. If I fail him, he loves me still.

Love seeks primarily the happiness, the well being, the “Shalom” of the other, the beloved. It does not pass judgment based on differing attitudes of right and wrong. For instance, God does not say, “I love you, but…” He will never say this. He cannot. There are no “buts” with love. Love is free and unconditional.

Love which attempts to manipulate the other to a certain set of beliefs or behaviors, is not divine love. So called “tough” love is not love unless it is an attempt to rescue us from self-destruction. Suppose I become addicted to some destructive behavior, like illicit drug use. Love does not merrily go on it’s way and ignore my abuse. It seeks to redeem me from that self abuse, yet it does not withhold itself in any measure. Love seeks the happiness of the beloved. It does this by giving oneself to the beloved. If I am a drug addict, and you tell me “don’t do that” but do not give the means to accomplish what you are asking of me, then you are not loving me. You are attempting to manipulate me and love is not manipulative.

Jesus is the epitome of love. He freely came to human kind. He became a man. He gave himself, in his humanity, to us out of his love. We chided, abused, mocked, scorned and murdered him. Yet his love remained intact to the very end. Father forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing. Not only did he not judge those who killed him, but he overlooked their malice as only love can do. To death he treated humanity as his best friend, his beloved.

Jesus said that no greater love can someone have than to lay down his own life for his friend. Yet while we were enemies of God, Christ died for us. Even while we were nailing him to the cross he considered us more than acquaintances, more than a mere friend. He considered us his beloved. His bride. He abandoned all his “rights” as God in order to show us his love.

That should make us think twice before we go about claiming our rights of one another.

Self giving coupled with the desire to achieve and attain the shalom of another at any cost, that is love.

I could go on about the various kinds of love we humans have and what they mean, but none of them hold a candle to the love that Jesus Christ showed us when he opened the Father’s heart to us and loved us to the death on the cross. This is the love that all other loves are to imitate. This is the love that saves the world.

Being Good and Doing Good


God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good – Acts 10:38

5560077We spend much of our time attempting to be good people, at least those who are conscientious about their morality and ethics. As westerners, it has been warp and woof of our existence for centuries to place being good *prior* to doing good. We are fallen creatures, we are told. We cannot do good, it is said. Many of us have had it drilled into us that even if we try to be good, “all our righteousness are as filthy rags” in God’s sight.

Upon conversion to Christ, we are told the next step is to pursue holiness. This, we are told, is sanctification. Thousands upon thousands of books and other literature have been written on the topic; many of which attempt to assist the reader in their life long goal of becoming a good and holy person. The general gist of what sanctification is, according to the literature, is the transformation of the inner man to desire and will what God wishes for us. It is a difficult and often frustrating task, but one we cannot afford to avoid, if we are really in earnest about knowing God.

Millions of Christians have followed this path through the centuries and there is a rich spiritual tradition that has developed because of it. Various ascetic practices, some mild, some more severe, are often advocated as means to the desired end. After all, did not St Paul say we are to bring our bodies into submission? And is not the flesh the source, the effective cause for all of our sin? The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.

All of this is to say that Christians, in seeking sanctification, are an inward reaching people. Yet, how does that square with the life of Jesus, of whom it is said, he went about DOING good to other people? How can we do good if we are NOT good? Don’t we have to achieve or attain at least some measure of sanctification before we can start doing good?

Apparently not. Jesus gave no instructions for developing the inner life, but he did tell his followers to love one another. And, by his example, he did good to and for all. Jesus describes what he asks of us this way:

“My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

How does that fit with the whole message of sanctification; that it’s a long difficult road? Jesus says it’s easy to follow him.

Here are my thoughts.

I believe it is quite wrong to pursue sanctification as has been traditionally done. The whole idea that we are an inward turned people is contrary to the gospel which specifically tells us to be outward reaching people, doing good and loving one another.

Doing good is easy. It simply means loving your neighbor as yourself. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. How hard is that?

Oh, yes, we often don’t WANT to do good to our neighbor. Well, in that case we are not in earnest about following Jesus. If that’s how you choose to live, fine, but don’t call yourself a Jesus follower, please.

We need not be good people to do the right thing. After all, as Jesus tells us, there is none good but God. We can do good quite easily enough if we want. The desire to do good and BE good together, counts as if it is already so.

We must remember that sanctification is the work of the Spirit, not our own work. We do not become good by turning inward to work on our “inner man”, but we become good by looking outward, first at Jesus and second at our neighbor to attend to his needs. As we go about doing good like Jesus did, the Holy Spirit works within us to change us. As we do good we become good; slowly but gradually.

As things are now, the West is infatuated with being good. Both liberals and conservatives operate on this principle. Of course, they have different interests and agendas, but the mechanics are the same. The net result is an inability to do good, to pursue the right, to see social justice met because we are unable to turn our attention away from ourselves and see the broken world around us and which needs our attention. We strive in vain to fix ourselves when it is our neighbor who needs our help and love.

We are so caught up in do’s and don’ts, so enmeshed in feeling right, or pursuing our personal goals that we cannot see the plain and simple issues of humanity that surround us. Fixing the world is easy, getting ourselves out of ourselves is not.

So, remember, the whole Law is summed up in these two commands: Love the Lord your God and your neighbor as yourself. Everything, literally, hangs on those two commands. Reach out side of yourself, help those around you who have needs. Do a little each day and at length you will find you have begun to experience that peace which passes all understanding. You will not be worried about heaven or hell. You will not fret about your neighbor who doesn’t see eye to eye with you. Everything will begin to fall into place. Sanctification will come through the work of the Spirit as YOU set out to go about doing good as Jesus did.

Why I Pray


My biggest obstacle to staying Christian is prayer. If God is all-powerful, all-knowing and compassionate, then why does he not answer the prayers of those who pray for others?

I have a long list of people I pray for on a daily basis. I don’t pray because I “have to” but because I love to help others and (seemingly) there is no better One to ask than God to give assistance with that. I will not paint the picture more bleak than it is. Sometimes things happen that could be an answer to prayer. But how do I know it is that and not just coincidence? Other times, when needs are desperate, there is nothing. No wind, no light, no movement. Just darkness and static existence. Silence from heaven.

On the other hand, I have explored my own questions so I don’t just ask them and then abandon all hope. If there is a God and if He is GOOD, then he MUST answer prayer. He cannot ignore the pleas of one who cries out to Him for help, and remain Good.

Something I have learned (it was a VERY hard thing to learn) is that God is so much bigger than we are, so glorious, so vital, so immense, that we cannot (literally) begin to comprehend his majesty. We are but dust and He is the Lord of the Universe. I visualize an image of Betelgeuse with a comparative image of our Sun and another image of our Earth. Then I consider myself in regards to them all and I am nothing. Yet this illustration is but a grain of sand compared to God. In one sense we cannot know God. How can we? He is wholly other and is ineffable…beyond possibility of comprehension. Yet, as a Christian, I believe that he is in the smallest things too and is personally present with me and makes himself known to me. How this is so is a mystery. I have no idea.

Another thing I have learned is that prayer is not exactly what we think it is. While it can be asking God for things (indeed, to ask is the meaning of the word, pray), what it really is, is communion, fellowship, union. Though no request is too small for God if asked from a sincere heart, who do we think we are to demand that God cater to our wants and desires? God works all things together for the good of those who love him, who are the called according to his purpose. If this is true, then oftentimes the difficulty of our prayer lives reveal more about ourselves than about God. We have wants. We have desires. We have needs. But do those wants, desires, and needs correspond to what God knows is best for us? Do they correspond to what He knows will work all things together for good?

And lastly, I am persuaded that God is never absent. Never. The reason we often feel alone and abandoned by God is very simply that we fail to realize that we have *never experienced the true absence of God*. He has always been there. Those times we feel alone? They are the result of our nature and our tendency to turn from God, even when we don’t want to, or realize that we are doing so.

God is so present with us that he is the very life source of our full existence and being. Think about that. Why then are we not more aware? The answer, I think, is much simpler than we might expect…and it has nothing to do with our “sinfulness”. Rather, it is because God is the foundation of our being, that he does his work at levels of depth in our person that do not often rise to consciousness. As Christians, we have a 2000 year history of saints and preachers, apostles and others who have told us of the glories of knowing God and how he can change one’s life. We all want that. The mistake comes when we expect God’s work to be done on a conscious level. God is working to change us from the inside out. He does this in the profound depths of our being, transforming us inside first. Of course, the ultimate goal of sanctification (theosis) is the full conscious communion with God. Face to Face as it were. But that is for the future for the most part. After all, *something* must be different after the resurrection! We do NOT have it all now. There must be something to hope for in the future.

So, though I sometimes doubt, even God’s existence, I remember that I am dust and that God is in me working in ways I cannot comprehend and I am comforted. I also remember that God is working in those for whom I pray as well. I rarely pray for anyone anymore for a short time. I pray for them for years. Some of them I will pray for until I or they die. I believe God is working. I believe not one word uttered in sincere prayer ever goes awry. I may never realize or see how it is answered, but that doesn’t matter. I trust the One who always answers and is always faithful to complete the work in us that he has begun in Jesus.