Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Why you should not give up with the bible.

The bible has come under a lot of fire of late. It seems that since the day that it was first put together there has been no shortage of people out to discredit and destroy it. Yet the latest attack on it is unique in that it has not been instigated by those who have sought to control people through religion (think of all the copies that were burned in the middle ages because they were not in Latin) or by those who scoff at the existence of a creator. Rather; what makes the situation today unique is that it is from within the church that some people are growing disillusioned with it.

And I am not just referring to people debating whether things like the first 11 chapters of Genesis should be taken literally or not or whether we need to rethink how we approach certain portions of scripture (particularly the violent parts). What I am referring to is the idea that we no longer need it because Christ is in us or the idea that too much of the bible simply does not look like Jesus. Granted, for most of the last 2000 years the majority of the church never had their own copies of the bible in their own languages or would have possessed the ability to read it for themselves; but somehow they still managed to grow spiritually. Even today the church seems healthiest in areas like China where there is a shortage of bibles in many areas. It is clear that the only thing the Church needs to live and grow is Jesus. Yet scripture is still extremely precious.

Why are the scriptures valuable to the church? They are valuable because they point us to him, Jesus himself said they testify of him (John 5:39). From the very first to the very last verse Christ is revealed. Consider Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Didn't Jesus tell us that he was the beginning (Revelation 21:6, 22:13)? You could read Genesis 1:1 as “In Jesus, God created the heavens and the earth” and you would not be theologically wrong. John makes a similar statement at the start of his gospel.  

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.

The last verse in the bible requires no explanation.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.

Yes there are parts between Genesis 1:1 and Revelation 22:21 where Jesus and the message he shared may not be so obvious. If some parts of it do not make sense, hold on to what you know to be true about God as revealed through Jesus. Let's not throw the baby out with the bath water. We are not to deify the book as some have but if we learn to read it correctly; it is still profitable for reproof, correction and instruction in righteousness.  

Related articles

Monday, 18 August 2014

Finding Jesus in new places

A good few years ago I read a book called “Jim and Casper go to church”. Forgive me if I get any of the details wrong, it has been a while, but it is basically about a guy named Jim who pays his atheist friend to go to different churches with him and review them, sharing his experiences and revealing what he liked and didn't like about the different types of meetings people can attend. The one part of the book that stood out most for me was where Casper says that they went to a service where the assembly sang the song “Take the world but give me Jesus”. Casper found it to be quite perplexing as the church was of the larger variety in a well off neighborhood where the parking lot was mostly full of expensive SUV’s.  While the irony may have been lost on everyone apart from Casper; the truth is that pretty much the entire Western church to some degree suffers from the same problem. How did Jesus, the penniless prophet, in the 21st century become a multibillion dollar industry? Feeling down? Why not subscribe on your cell phone to an inspirational verse of the day. Feeling edgy? Put a praise and worship CD on. Feeling guilty about not evangelizing the lost? Say your bit with a new Christian T-shirt. Need victory over something in your life? There is a book at the local store which can help you. For the right price there is a quick fix for everything…

This is not meant to be a post about what I think is wrong with modern Christian culture though. Rather, it is about my personal struggles in connecting with God within this society.  Michael Gungor posted an article which has caused quite the uproar among some conservatives. Something he said in his article challenged me though. He said “There are lots of people that have all sorts of wonderful ‘beliefs’ that live really awful lives. If I’m on the side of the road bleeding, I don’t care if the priest or the Levite have beautiful ‘beliefs’ about the poor and the hurting. Give me the samaritan”.

If I am honest with you and myself; I do not feel like the Samaritan in the story most represents who I am. Recently I have been thinking about all those verses in scripture that no one seems to consider realistic.

But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind… - Luke 14:13

You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven, and come, follow me. – Mark 10:21

I need to remind myself that there is a cost to following Christ. Sometimes it involves the bigger things in life like being prepared to make decisions that may cost you friends or it could be changing your job or the town where you live. Usually though it manifests in the smaller everyday things like buying someone a pair of shoes even though your own may be full of holes. As much as we try, we cannot have the world and Jesus. There are a number of spiritual disciplines like studying scripture, prayer and fasting that are all also extremely important. Prayer, church and meditating on scripture can all help us connect with God. But I have this itchy feeling that there may be just as much to be gained in terms of connecting with Christ in the sharing of a cup of coffee with a homeless person as there is in those things that we traditionally resort too.

And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me’. – Matthew 25:40

This post is part an August synchroblog on the theme 'connection'. Be sure and check out the other contributions below:

Jerry Wirtley – Connection
Sara Quezada – Can You Really Know Someone In A Different Language?
Ford – Interindependence
Michael Donahoe – Connection
Minnow – Our Dis-Connect
Justin Steckbauer – Connection in Love, it’s what Life is all about!
Carol Kuniholm – Disengagement and Connection
Doreen A Mannion – A bunny, a fawn and some geese walk into a bar …
Leah Sophia – Touch of Life
Karen “Charity” Aldrich – Wuv True Wuv
Abbie Watters – Connection – Addicted to the Buzz
Liz Dyer – Human Connection and the Power of Empathy