Archives For Things Spiritual

The Nature of God

RJ:

I am bringing over a series of posts for my Sunday entries from my now inactive blog over at RedLetterLiving. This is the second of a six-part series from a year ago about the importance of the Bible in my spiritual life. After a ten-year study I finally understand what millions of other have discovered before me…. It’s all about Jesus, not the Bible…

Originally posted on :

FuzzyWhat About The Bible… ? (Chapter 2)

I know that from all the rhetoric about this topic you are expecting the next word in the title to be “Clear” but actually for me it is “Fuzzy”. I don’t know how many times in my life I have heard the phrase “just study the bible for the answer to your problems. When a child dies from a fall in the bathtub the Christian answer to our total devastation is to “read the Bible”. It is as if we can just randomly open a page and then the tragedy in our life becomes clear.

Lets face it the Bible is simply not the homogeneous document that many want you to believe. When we realize that it is a collection of documents by for the most part unknown authors, who were recording events as they saw them or a story told to them…

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The Thing Is…..

March 15, 2015 — Leave a comment

RJ:

I am bringing over a series of posts for my Sunday entries from my now inactive blog over at RedLetterLiving. This six-part series from about a year ago was what I discovered about the Bible after ten strenuous years of study. I want to say up front so there is no misunderstanding that no, I did not get any personal revelations from God on this topic other than his possible guidance through my study. After ten years I finally understand what millions of other have realized before me…. It’s about Jesus, not the Bible…

Originally posted on :

CB064037What About The Bible… ? (Chapter 1)

I have been spending quite a bit of time lately thinking about the Bible and my experiences with it over the last decade or so. Around 2003 I decided to take up a serious study of theology and in particularly those around the words of Jesus. I naively thought I could get some clear directions for my spiritual life if I just understood why the Bible seems to mean so many different things to so many people. What I have discovered over this period of time awakened me. I did not get the concrete answers I was looking for but I did glean some surprising discoveries.

So, for the next several  weeks I will be spending Mondays on posts about that journey into the Bible. I have always been a little hesitant to voice my discoveries because if they surprised me they might…

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damaged goodsIn some way or another we are all damaged goods. Yes, we have been enhanced by some life experiences but we are also tainted by others. Whether we will personally admit it or not we all have dark sides. We all have things in our past that we would do differently if we had the chance. In other words we have all had experiences that affected how we look at life.

Too many of my Christian brothers use this fact as a reason to do nothing. The clergy in their pulpits constantly remind them that they are nothing but miserable sinners and God expects nothing from them in their totally rancid condition. They take those words to believe that if they are damaged then all their actions are also damaged. They take the words of the Apostle Paul in a different direction than he, and especially Jesus intended. They use this logic as an excuse for doing nothing to promote God’s love in this world. They throw up their hands and say they can’t do anything to please God so why even try. In fact they believe it really doesn’t matter as he has already reserved a place for them in heaven.

Instead of taking the words of Paul as an excuse to do nothing I cling to the words of Jesus’ brother James when he told us that faith without works is a dead and therefore a worthless faith.  There are just too many that make Christianity a “do nothing” religion. They think if they say the right words they can then sit back and do nothing. They cling to a faith that is very shallow.  They need to come to understand that faith is to be lived everyday of our lives. It is not to be put on a mantle somewhere just to be dusted off and casually view at on an occasional Sunday morning.

The reason Christ wants us to see ourselves as damaged goods is so that we will have compassion on absolutely everyone who we come into contact with. He wants us to love each other unconditionally as he loves us.  He wants us to disregard the smell of that homeless person and treat him with compassion.  He is just damaged in ways other than we are. He wants us to forgive that person who has done us wrong, perhaps even grievous wrong. He wants us to get it out of our mind that we need to kill those who we see as more  damaged than we are.

Being damaged goods is not an excuse to do nothing, instead it is a reason to try to do better and better each day. To become more Christ-like. That is what is expected of us who call ourselves Christians.

I am pulling up another past post form Red Letter Living that I wrote almost three years ago. At that time in my spiritual journey I was trying to decide where church doctrine and its creeds belonged in my faith. Needless to say this book by Harvey Cox did a lot to show me a different path on this topic and many others. When I came to realize just how much man had a hand in formalizing current Christian doctrine it convinced me that Christianity is an ever evolving process and is not to be paralyzed by some of the now outdated fourth and fifth century man-made worldviews.

I am going to start this post with an alarming story of Constantine’s involvement in the Council of Nicaea. It is from a book by Harvey Cox entitle The Future of Faith.   If this doesn’t cast out any doubt of man’s involvement in the change from faith to rigid belief nothing will:

2015-02-22_10-55-08Constantine, not Jesus, was the dominant figure at Nicaea, and it is hardly surprising that almost all the bishops, to the emperor’s satisfaction, arrived at a nearly unanimous decision in his favor. Only Arius himself and three other stubbornly independent bishops withheld their approval. Constantine promptly exiled Arius to the remote province of Illyricum. Then, in a statement that suggests he had forgotten his previous view both that this was all a matter of small significance and that all the parties should show forbearance to one another, he decreed: If any treatise composed by Arius be discovered, let it be consigned to the flames…and if anyone shall be caught concealing a book by Arius, and does not instantly bring it out and burn it, the penalty shall be death; the criminal shall suffer punishment immediately after conviction.

But the emperor’s draconian measures did not succeed. The historic Council of Nicaea, as an effort to unify the church and the empire by imposing a creed, proved a dismal failure. Within months arguments flared up again. One of the bishops who had attended the Nicaea council and had not supported the final decision, Hilary of Poitiers (d. ca. 367), found himself banished to Asia. No doubt his experience tinctured his opinion of councils and creeds, but a letter he wrote from his place of exile at the time pinpoints how little the Council of Nicaea had accomplished and what a debacle it had been. Hilary says: It is a thing equally deplorable and dangerous that there are as many creeds as opinions among men, as many doctrines because we make creeds arbitrarily and explain their inclinations…arbitrarily…every year, nay every moon we make a new creed and describe invisible mysteries. We repent what we have done. We defend those who repent. We anathematize those whom we defended. We condemn either the doctrine of others in ourselves, or our own in that of others; and reciprocally tearing one another to pieces, we have been the cause of each other’s ruin.

Arius definitely caught the ire of Constantine and his brutality. Not only did he banish this noble bishop who dared to disagree with him on church matters he made even having anything written by Arius a penalty of death!! Sadly these types of stories are somewhat frequent in the years following Constantine’s mandating Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire.

We will be studying some more about this period in future posts but for now it is important that you realize that Christianity’s history is messy indeed. I am not saying that there are no good parts to what became the Church of Jesus Christ but only that we must be aware that much of the simple teachings of Jesus were later polluted by men seeking to consolidate personal power in earthly focused empires. Power corrupts, even inside the Christian church!

Too Much Bad Evangelism…

February 22, 2015

I find myself yet again using words from Stehpen Mattson over at Red Letter Christians as a source for one of my Sunday posts.  He just seems to say what needs to be said.  This time it is about how we Christians are becoming so tainted by bad evangelism. We let the crazies among us control the chicken house so to speak.

Crazed LunaticThe problem with many modern Christians is that we’ve seen and experienced too much bad evangelism: the crazy street preachers shouting at strangers, the late-night televangelists peddling for money, The Westboro Baptists picketing funerals, the corrupt pastors who eventually make the news for all the wrong reasons.

Christians are so tired of the harassment, manipulation, hidden agendas, lies, abuse, hate, bigotry, and downright sin that’s been associated with “spreading the gospel of Christ” that they’ve simply abandoned talking about Jesus altogether….

Telling anyone about Christ, the Bible, or even carefully inviting someone to church is a social faux pas. It’s becoming less culturally acceptable to evangelize. It’s understandable why many believers don’t want to. You don’t want to be seen as that person: The crazed lunatic who believes in a supernatural deity, the anti-science, anti-environment, homophobic, religious fundamentalist who believes in the existence of an afterlife.

SOURCE:  Christianity Is More Than Just Being A Good Person | Stephen Mattson.

Lets face it modern-day Christianity is too often seen by most outside the faith as being associated with hate, bigotry, and hidden political agendas instead of love, forgiveness, and mercy as our founder tried to teach us. Christians are seen as being anti-science and extremists in the political realm.  A big part of the problem is because most of the leaders of today’s churches are not courageous enough to distance themselves from this relatively recent toxic view.  They let others define how the world perceives what Christianity is. I might say one glaring exception to this seems to be the Catholic church and their latest pope. He gives me reason to be optimistic about the future of Christianity.

The little startup church that I joined more than a dozen years ago, and was asked to leave because of “doctrinal issues” more than four years ago, continues to struggle to increase its membership above a critical mass. They just can’t seem to get people in any numbers to even consider membership there.  A big part of that is probably that they are one of those who reject so much of what most of the world takes for granted in favor of a narrow biblical view.  They just can’t seem to see that the bible, which they even fail to accept was put together under a Roman king trying to shore up his failing kingdom, was not the last words God gave us or even all the words he gave us then. God continues to give us the knowledge to more fully love each other as each day passes. He did not leave us to stagnate with a fourth century mentality of the world. They just don’t seem to fathom that concept.

I am hopeful that the post-evangelical Christianity or whatever you want to call it which will surely follow these times will return to the basic teachings of Jesus Christ.  I am hopeful that someday being a Christian will not automatically label me as a radical-right, non-caring, crazed lunatic but instead as a person who lives out Christ’s command to love him and to love each other.

I Celebrate Post-Evanglism…

February 15, 2015

But by the time I was in grade school, my parents [who were both pastors] were becoming increasingly convinced that Sunday-morning Evangelicalism just wasn’t enough. No matter how nice the community was, they yearned to be part of a radical fellowship of Christ-followers, learning how to be disciples in their everyday lives. They wanted to live in solidarity with those who are most marginalized in our society. With increasing urgency, they felt that God was calling them to be in relationship with those whom the mainstream culture had taught them to fear….

We’re in the midst of a tidal wave of change that is fundamentally re-shaping the character of the North American church. Millions of us are discovering the ideas of the radical discipleship movement, and a surprising number are embracing the call to abandon all – our comfort, our wealth, and even the Evangelical subculture – in order to follow Jesus.

I share my story in part because I want you to know that there is light at the end of the tunnel. There is a coherent life, community, and shared theology that is available when we come through the ferment of the great Evangelical break-up. The post-Evangelical experience isn’t simply about rejecting the unhealthy aspects of the Evangelical church; it can be a gateway into a much deeper engagement with the profoundly counter-cultural way of Jesus. 

SOURCE:  Dear Post-Evangelicals | Micah Bales | Red Letter Christians.

Micah Bales is one of my favorite bloggers over at Red Letter Christians and now that I know his life story he moved up yet another notch. As the middle bolded quote says I too celebrate the Post-Evangelical movement that is re-shaping the North American church. Being an impatient person I wish the tidal wave would happen even faster. We need to get Jesus’ church back to doing what he intended it to be.

The source article is a fairly long one but worth a read if you are interested in this topic and I can’t see that anyone who calls themselves a Christian should not be interested in this topic. I hope all those like me who have grown away from traditional evangelical congregation sees that there is light at the end of the tunnel for followers of Jesus. Some of this trend is actually happening  within traditional evangelical circles. There are those brave clergy who are covertly leading their flock back to the messages of Jesus.  Some of these brave souls are being discovered and deemed heretics and thrown out but there are some who are simply under the radar or maybe being ignored by the denominational leadership in hopes that they will soon see the light come back to their narrow vision of faith.

For many simply hunkering down in a pew on Sunday lamenting evil in the world and being told they can do nothing about it is not enough.  They know in their hearts there is another path for their faith journey. I celebrate the Post-Evangelical age and pray that more of my previous friends in evangelical circles will eventually come to celebrate it too.