Thursday, October 31, 2013

Binding the Word in a Bound Book

Today's problem in the bibliocentric Americanized Christian culture may be that we have restricted and limited the Word of God to pages bound in a book we call The Bible.

Not even the Bible calls itself the Word of God! Why do we?

The Bible defines the Word in Hebrews 4:12. If words in the bound book have this effect then yes, the magic of God's Word has happened. Of course, the Word can also happen in a countless number of other ways as well.

So, like Paul writes in 2 Timothy 2:9,  don't bind the unbounded Word by binding it in a bound book!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

For the Love of God can we put the Bible where it Belongs?

Paul's writings predate our New Testament. The standard of spiritual measurement he knew then would agreeably be no different today. Right?

So how is it that the Bible has trumped, yea, usurped the position of the Spirit in the role of giving us God's perspective? The Spirit is the timeless agent of God's thoughts and activity.

The Bible, in its best and healthiest role, reveals how God's Spirit has been the agent and motivating force starting when the Spirit brooded over the chaotic earth through the initiation of the chaotic presence of Jesus on earth. The darkness of the cross and the subsequent resurrection catalytically propelled people into a new mode of earthly living driven by the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead. 

No New Testament. 

It seems we need to put the Bible in its proper place, using it to challenge us to live in our time and place under the direction of the same Spirit of God testified to by the humans who we read about in the Bible.

The Bible is not God and was not intended to be the divine "Word". 

Saturday, August 24, 2013

A Better Model Will Produce God's Desired ResultsToday's model of institutional church services falls short of producing what Paul is describing in Romans 14:17-19. Jesus' mission in proclaiming the Kingdom of God was not defined by programmed church services but by a lifestyle of goodness, peace and joy. Today, the focus of kingdom lifestyle is sorely distracted by activities, events, and memberships. The model of group singing (read: worship) followed by a musical performance and sermon with emotional altar calls prevent the focus of the kingdom lifestyle from emerging at an acceptable rate. In this passage Paul is directing gatherings to use a model that builds each other up in kingdom living. All that happens in the current model at best is the preacher may build up a congregation of listeners. Following other writings by Paul we can assume the model that may best serve this purpose is one of interaction among all present. This allows each one to contribute their "gift" for the benefit of someone else and hopefully build them up in their lifestyle. The biblical model is clearly defined in this way. It is not top down (an American model) but more lateral. Are there communities in Christendom that are willing to risk deconstructing a weak model for one that produces God's results in God's way?

Today's model of institutional church services falls short of producing what Paul is describing in Romans 14:17-19. Jesus' mission in proclaiming the Kingdom of God was not defined by programmed church services but by a lifestyle of goodness, peace and joy. Today, the focus of kingdom lifestyle is sorely distracted by activities, events, and memberships. The model of group singing (read: worship) followed by a musical performance and sermon with emotional altar calls prevent the focus of the kingdom lifestyle from emerging at an acceptable rate. In this passage Paul is directing gatherings to use a model that builds each other up in kingdom living. All that happens in the current model at best is the preacher may build up a congregation of listeners.

Following other writings by Paul we can assume the model that may best serve this purpose is one of interaction among all present. This allows each one to contribute their "gift" for the benefit of someone else and hopefully build them up in their lifestyle. The biblical model is clearly defined in this way. It is not top down (an American model) but more lateral.

Are there communities in Christendom that are willing to risk deconstructing a weak model for one that produces God's results in God's way?

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Devout yet Crooked : America looks like Acts 2:40

Peter used many words to exhort the listeners on that special religious holiday to repent (read:rethink) and save themselves from their "crooked" generation. What?! Didn't we just read that this large collection of people were devout? Weren't these highly committed people to their theology and the practice of their faith to the point that they came from near and far to show their religious albeit in Peter's words, crooked devotion? These people were not wicked, just crooked. This was the crowd that in their crookedness, crucified Jesus. They were so set in their religious understanding and practice that what once was straight had become crooked. Their devotion needed a correction.

Sound familiar? Lots of American devotees could be likewise defined as crooked- and not realizing it until it is called out. 

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Idols of Identity, Including Jesus!

What is it that I would say is my central identifying feature?

As I reflect on my life, it isn't hard to find things that if I were to be honest with myself (a new and excitingly scary exercise, I might add) I have embraced as the key part of identifying who I was at different times. And the list is a bit longer than I'm admittedly comfortable with, especially in light of both where I currently am and the feature that I'd like to most describe my identity.

Perhaps it's due to my American upbringing that I need a label or have a feature on which to hang my identity hat. There's not much I can do about that as this is the tribe in which I was raised and from which I seek salvation (read: Liberation). I also recognize that growing up "Christian"- and by that I mean the son of a Baptist minister immersed in charismatic/evangelical/republicanism- has colored much of my identification. So the following list, though varied, was never totally removed from a filter of faith that was deeply inbedded in me.

Without further ado, let me briefly offer what I have recognized as "Idols of My Identity". Let me add, that this brief list is not particularly creative nor unique. It could be, and often is, used to identify many people other than me. These are just features that have unwittingly and quite innocently been used to mark my identity. If someone were to ask me at different times in my life what identifies me, honesty would've suggested the following:
  • Golf (I wasn't great, but I did it a lot and was consummed by it- and others knew it)
  • Church: the institution (it's where I teethed as I attended it a lot as the son of a Baptist minister)
  • Sports (my brother's influence had a lot to do with this as it was, and still is his identifying feature)
  • Minister (this one makes me cringe the most in retrospect but it was that which I did for 25 years so it must be included)
Before I move on, let me offer what it appears to be to features that seem to be used by people (not necessarily me that I know of) as that with which they identify themselves.
  • Sexual orientation (gay people seem most likely to make this their outspoken feature; some heterosexuals seem pretty tight with their sexuality as their identifying quality)
  • Gender (females more than males seem to make this their thing inspite of some clear examples of machismo)
  • Politics (Right or left- it doesn't matter. And many Christians seem to let this feature color their faith rather than the other way around)
Bottom line time- for me, at least. I write this because I wonder why as a professing Christian for 47 years that I wouldn't quickly recognize that the "feature" that identifies me is the son of God, Jesus? Why would I want others to think I'm a golfer but not someone who is trying to orient his life toward the person and teachings of Jesus? Others would say they identify with MLK, why wouldn't I say the same about SOG? Was I just assuming that Jesus was the foundation that would not need to be labeled as that which identified me? (A cop out to be sure!)

At this point in my life, I'd like to think I am there- a person whose only feature with which he cares to identify himself is that of a worshipper and follower of the living Jesus.

And what makes this even more attractive, is that this identity is being conformed to Jesus and not my or anyone else's IDEAS  or "idols" of Jesus.

Friday, January 4, 2013

I have been freed of bibliolotry


I, too, have come to a fresh and quite different approach to "the Word" (sorry for both using quotations and for referring to the Bible as "the Word"!). I spent 25 years of my life as a professional minister who personally and professionally devoured the Bible. I would guess for 10 of those years I read the Psalms, Proverbsa and entire New Testament once a month and the rest of the Old Testament each year. I learned its content (obviously!) and inevitably discovered insights for use both personally and professionally. In fact, I have discovered since leaving the profession four years ago that I read the Bible more to find my next sermon topic than to encounter God.

I now approach it in small doses, too, and in a random kind of way. I was raised to not only respect the Bible but unfortunately, to also worship it as if it was itself part of the Godhead (quadrinity). I was a literalist and a responsible prof texter (if such a thing exists). Thankfully by God's grace my relationship with Scripture has eviolved (yikes! Can I say that?) to a more powerful and productive place. I read the words with a freshness that allows new encounters and cleaner insights. 

I have been freed of bibliolotry.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Matthew 19:7- how might this verse be updated for today's religious audience?

While Jesus was probably saying something in this verse about marital commitment and sexual faithfulness, is it possible he was offering a larger understanding of God's workings with humanity?

What if in today's confused religious milieu the question posed to Jesus might be along the lines of "Paul taught that believers should go to church and in Hebrews we read not to neglect meeting together. What do you say, Jesus?"

I wonder if his response would challenge a modern interpretation and a resulting mis-application of Paul's words to say in response something like, "Paul wrote this because of the hardness of the human heart and he knew that people will gravitate to organizing themselves and reducing the Church to religious institutionalism. God has permitted this but it's not his ideal. My Body is more organic and mysterious in its makeup."