Sunday, February 12, 2017

Misconceptions about the Bible

I wrote this on Quora in response to the question "What are some of the misconceptions about the Bible". I found that in identifying the misconceptions I was also identifying how I view the Bible. 
So, here are the top ten misconceptions I see that people have about the Bible:
It is a rule book: This is simply not so. Yes, there are some rules. Someone counted them once and came up with a little over 600 of them. Others even prioritized them. This was the context of the question asked of Jesus “Which commandment is the greatest?” 
I printed them all off one time just to get a visual. They fit on 4 pages of paper. Single sided. I laid them next to the Bible and asked: Is the Bible a rule oriented book? I had to say no.
The Bible has an answer for everything in life: Again, no. It is not going to tell you which job to take, how to invest your money or why bad things are happening to you. It simply does not do that. That is not its purpose. It is to expose the nature and personality of God. It may be that as you get to know God better and get to know Him at a personal level, you start to make better choices but straight up answers are often not there.
The Bible is full of hidden meanings: There is no hidden sub-story. The numbers are numbers. Revelation is a type of literature that was common at the time of its writing but uncommon today but is still just literature. You just have to be a 1st century Jew to really get it. When you read the Bible, read it for what it says, not what you think it might be saying.
The Bible is explicit in how we should worship: Nope. Oh, there are a lot of examples of worship in the Bible but it is almost completely silent when it comes to the actual mechanics of how we “do church”. Singing and preaching and prayer and reading the scripture, they all show up in some of the examples of worship we see in the Bible but there is never a complete worship service described in the Bible. Yet this is the point where many Christians spend an inordinate amount of time bickering.
The Bible is written by God: Now this one needs some clarification. Being “inspired but God” and “written by God” are two different things. The Bible was written by ordinary people. They had the skill to either write or dictate to a scribe. Not all were literate. Their individual personalities can be seen in their writings. So much so that some book’s authors are identified by style and vocabulary. That said, God did play a hand in ensuring that what He wanted captured in writing was fundamentally accurate and complete. This applies to what books are in the Bible as much as what is written in the books. This is fact if you are a believer and not even a question worthy of discussion if you are not.
The Bible can be understood 1 verse at a time: Devastatingly false. Through the years the Bible has been used a tool to coerce behaviors by clipping verses and stringing them together to say whatever we want. This is a practice that has been the foundation of almost all splits, fights, even wars that were initiated by this misconception. The Bible is literature. It is to be read with both textual context and historical context. Before you say “The Bible Says…” Read the entirety of the context around the verse and see if what you are about to say is in line with the point of the author and if the historical context of what is being said is relevant.
To be a Christian all you need is the New Testament: You simply cannot understand the New Testament without the light of the Old testament giving it clarity. Jesus was a Jew. All He knew was the Old Testament. All He taught was the Old Testament. He did not bring anything new. He brought clarity to the old. Jesus exemplified personality, character, and attitudes of God. The God you can know by reading the Old testament. Jesus brought the Old testament to life, literally.
Only the King James Version is the “Real” Bible: How arrogantly English centered this thought is. Does this mean that the Spanish speaking people need to learn English? The same for all other languages? Or, the modern English speaking person learn an archaic dead version of English? There are so many reasons why this is wrong that we could spend all day here. Choose a translation that you can read. There are many good ones. Jesus Himself read from a translation of His Bible, the Hebrew scriptures, at the time. He read the Greek translation. It is not the words themselves that are scripture it is the teachings and stories behind the words.
The Bible is misogynistic: This may seem to be accurate but as I said above one must read the Bible within the context of its historical setting. The Bible actually goes counter-cultural to the times in which it was written. Many of the “rules” that the Bible contains are there to protect women from the man-centered society. The Gospels are filled with the activities and honor given to women that other literature of the day would ignore. The role of women in the Bible is often downplayed by our own misogynistic society.
Everybody should believe the Bible: I just wish it were true. However, God gave us all free will and offered us the opportunity to know Him through His word or reject Him. The Bible is just a book, a long and difficult book, a tedious boring history of a people long dead, a source for conflicting agendas and a hindrance to those that do not believe. Faith is an active factor in the value of the Bible. Without faith, it is just a book. With faith, it is the heart and soul of God.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Rules for arguing

Pondering... are there "rules of engagement" for arguing. Arguing is something I see as a failure to communicate coming to a head... How does one make arguing a positive venture, were communication actually happens instead of it becoming a contest on who can yell the loudest or get in the most hurtful jibes.

So, as I ponder, I must have some context. Politicians argue and get paid for it. Philosophers argue because that is the joy that binds them. I am glad I am not a philosopher! Scientists argue to seek truth and knowledge. I guess for this brief excursus I will focus on the type of arguments that have the potential to break hearts, homes and relationships... the most deadly of arguments...

If there are no such rules for such arguments then here are mine. If there are, then I like mine better! (I may need to ponder arrogance at some point but not today <insert favorite smiley icon here>)

Since "rules" (and I hate rules) are generally bulleted here is my list of "rules" in no particular order.

  1. First and foremost if you are going to argue, do so with a purpose. What should that purpose be? It is not to win. Really? Yes, really. Then why am I arguing? Good question. Winning an argument means that there is a loser.  I submit that the purpose of an argument is to communicate. I would also submit that that communications is a two way street that involves listening as much, if not more than, expressing your own thoughts.
  2. Respect the person you are arguing with. This can be hard when you are angry. Still if you want to actually be heard you must be willing to listen. In the context of this list you are arguing with someone you love. That person has a mind of their own. They are not mental clones of yourself. Them being themselves is why you fell in love with them in the first place. Show respect as you disagree with each other. Recognize that that they feel the way they do because of who they are and that you love them. Never disrespect them as a person and never disrespect their feelings.
  3. No sharp objects. If you have been together any significant amount of time you know precisely how to cut the heart out of the other person and leave them emotionally gasping. If you ever use that scalpel in an argument you will lose the trust that they have for you. They will close themselves off from you to protect themselves. You may successfully end an argument with this but you will have done so at a cost you may not be happy to pay.
  4. Never with an audience. Disagreement is natural but bystanders can only see the fight. If kids are around they simply do not understand and adults fighting frighten them, giving them a feeling of insecurity. If you grew up in a house full of fighting you know what I mean. By publicly arguing you draw nothing but contempt from adults. You emotionally scar children and that is a sin of the utmost degree.
  5. If you are married, you most likely promised to honor each other. If you are not married then honor is an unspoken expectation. What is honor? We know how it applies to Klingons, which is a personal honor. But what is it to give honor to the one we love but disagree with. I would say that it is to only show them in a positive light. Never take your argument into your community of friends with the purpose of shaming them. Never seek to establish sides. As far as the world around you knows, the person you are fighting with is perfect.
  6. Never use love as a bargaining chip. The phrase that begins with: "If you love me..." is not only unfair, it is destructive. You are basically saying that they have to choose between loving you and disagreeing with you. It is a dangerous game to place them in that position. It may work a few times but eventually they will choose their argument over their love and you will both lose.
  7. Keep the argument room temperature. The more heated an argument gets the less likely that a positive outcome will occur. The temperature of an argument is measured by how much one is forcing their feelings on the other through a play for power. At some point that heat causes an explosion that erupts in neither side winning and both sides being devastated. That is not a positive end to an argument.
  8. Do not bring up the past in an effort to justify the present. If one has made a mistake in the past, regardless of size, it is not fair game in an argument today. Keep the argument focused on the items that are relevant to the specific situation that you are arguing about.
  9. No name calling. This one ties closely with honoring. When you call the other person by some derogatory designation, you have expressed your lowest opinion of them. You have taken out the switch blade to injuriously cut at their self worth. Winning an argument is never worth cutting the legs out from under the heart the one you love. If you love them your goal is to build up, never cut down. Sticks and stone may break bones but words can devalue a person to the point of complete and utter despair.
  10. And because lists like this are always 10 in length, no more and no less (and who am I to argue?) this is the last one. Love wins the day and hurt loses it. You can weather any storm if you know that you each have each other's back and that each other's love is unconditional. You can feel safe sharing your diverse opinions knowing that in the end you will still be loved.
  11. And because I hate rules :) Number 11 is: No shields and so sabers. Absorb the hard to hear words and never use your words to cut back. Listen to understand. An argument is not a duel to the death. It is a coming together to better understand each other. So, leave your shields down and hear what is being said. For that to work, though, both sides need to commit to making it safe to leave shield down.  

There. My 10+1 rules for successful arguing! Now go forth and communicate!

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Who to Vote for in 2016

What's on my mind, FaceBook asks.... How should I vote? That is what is on my mind...
I got my mail in ballot the other day asking for my choice of person to represent my political party in the presidential race. I have yet to choose. None of them show the type of integrity I would wish to see represent me to the nations of the world. I would be politically embarrassed if any of them succeeded in gaining the position. Still the choice looms and not choosing is, to use a good old 70's term: "A cop out". Therefore I ponder...
There is a passage in Ezekiel 16:46-50 that weighs on me heavily as I consider where to place my little black dots signifying my support for the person running for the office of President of our nation.
If the words of God in the Old testament were printed in red as the words of Jesus frequently are in the New Testament, the page would positively glow with the color. God is upset with the country that He calls His. The people that He has chose to be a blessing to the world. The one He calls "beloved". His words are harsh for His people.
He says:
“Behold, everyone who quotes proverbs will quote this proverb concerning you, saying, ‘Like mother, like daughter.’ You are the daughter of your mother, who loathed her husband and children. You are also the sister of your sisters, who loathed their husbands and children. Your mother was a Hittite and your father an Amorite. Now your older sister is Samaria, who lives north of you with her daughters; and your younger sister, who lives south of you, is Sodom with her daughters. Yet you have not merely walked in their ways or done according to their abominations; but, as if that were too little, you acted more corruptly in all your conduct than they."
Paraphrased: You are as bad, no, worse than the countries that you hate hate the most. And the worst part is that all of the other countries that you think should look up to you - They are the ones mocking you, using you in cliche, saying you are no different from them.
He continues:
"As I live,” declares the Lord God, “Sodom, your sister and her daughters have not done as you and your daughters have done."
Wow! Remember Sodom? They were so evil that God destroyed, no, obliterated them. And we all know what they did wrong. Right?
"Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had arrogance, abundant food and careless ease, but she did not help the poor and needy.Thus they were haughty and committed abominations before Me."
Oh, Wait. That is not what I expected to hear. They did not take care of their poor? That is why they were wiped from the face of the planet? But... but... but... What about the way we treat our poor? Surely there was an escape clause for the lazy or the stupid or those that made poor choices. Searching.... searching.... can't find one. I think we are in trouble.
He closes with a single, very short, blunt and to the point sentence:
"Therefore I removed them when I saw it."
Friends, if that does not make you want to run and hide, you are simply not getting it. I want to run and hide. I want this election to be over. I want to stop being the laughing stock of our "sisters" and and "mothers" as the politicians profess a life they do not live and seek to gain a position of power through fear mongering, deceit and false promises.
How am I going to vote??... I don't know yet but this one thing I do know. I will side with those that would not be arrogant, not be careless at ease and who will work diligently to care for the poor and needy. If these are God's priorities, they should be the priorities of all those that would call Him Lord.
If you got all the way to the end of this post then you have more patience that I probably would have had :)smile emoticon 

God bless you and vote responsibly!

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Don't be the "they" that say...

I am listening to music on my back porch tonight. I love the evening and the pleasures of mild night and a song comes on and it touches me in a place I don't like being touched.... My conscious, my heart...

The lyrics to say:

We've all seen a man at the liquor store beggin' for your change
The hair on his face is dirty, dread-locked, and full of mange
He asks a man for what he could spare, with shame in his eyes
"Get a job you ****ing slob," is all he replies
God forbid you ever had to walk a mile in his shoes
Cause then you really might know what it's like to sing the blues

Not sure why this touched me. Maybe because I have been guilty of similar sentiments. I resolve that this is not who I am.

The song then continued and broke my heart...
Mary got pregnant from a kid named Tom that said he was in love
He said, "Don't worry about a thing, baby doll
I'm the man you've been dreaming of."
But three months later he say he won't date her or return her calls
And she swear, "G*d d***, if I find that man I'm cuttin' off his balls."
And then she heads for the clinic and
She gets some static walking through the door
They call her a killer, and they call her a sinner
And they call her a whore
God forbid you ever had to walk a mile in her shoes
Cause then you really might know what it's like to have to choose

Not the language I use but I can feel her pain her shame.

I know right from wrong. It has protected me from having to make such hard decisions. I praise God (and my mom) for that. But not all have had that blessing. Brothers and sisters allow empathy to trump judgment and recognize that the blessings you enjoy are just that: blessing, and give us no room to judge choices we were never required to make.

Brothers and sisters don't be the "they" that say...

Again, I resolve, with God's help, this is not who I am.

(song : Everlast singing "What it's like" )

Friday, July 5, 2013

Bible Study

For the first 40+ years of my life I studied for the purpose of proving that I was right. I knew what I believed and when I read my "study" was successful when it made me feel good, righteous, right.

I have since done all that I can to remove that type of study from my life and have tried to repent of that arrogance. I consider those 40 years a total waste. I knew my facts but did not know my God. And as it turns out I did not know my facts either.

It has been amazing what doors have been opened as I read with fresh eyes! God's word is much more beautiful that I had ever imagined. I was taught that there was no grace or forgiveness before Jesus. I was taught that the Old testament was replaced by the new. I was taught that the God of the Old covenant was a god of law and that He changed His attitude after Jesus was born. That God is a nit-picker and to mess up even a little was to bring down His wrath.

I have learned that all of that was so far from the truth that God would not even recognize that as His teaching. God has shown grace and forgiveness from the beginning. I have learned that you can not fully understand the New testament without knowing the old testament. There are riches there that I am still mining and becoming richer every day. I will never again carry a pocket New testament for it is not even a Readers Digest of God's Word.

Those are just a few of the things that I have learned that are new and pray that God continues to add to it.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Sodomites

Why was Sodom and Gomorrah destroyed by God? It is likely not what you think. It actually has nothing to do with what you have likely been taught all of your life.

If you are a believer you should allow the Bible to answer the question you. If you are not, you might still be interested. The answer is in Ezekiel 16:49. It says "'Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy."

Brothers and Sisters, how do we get so mis-focused? I see so much political rhetoric from people that claim Christ that dehumanizes the poor and the aliens that makes me believe we have completely missed the mark.

If we are to live the life with the focus that God wishes us to have we will care for those less fortunate. Jesus would call these people "the least of these" and add that if we do not care for them we will be unrecognisable as His followers on Judgement day and asked to depart.

We should be community focused. Our focus needs to be on helping people. Not judging them. Our focus should be on saving/helping them not labelling them (homeless, illegals, welfare recipients, etc) so that we can hate them as a group. Hate is not a Christian quality. And if you say they do not deserve our concern, consider whether you deserve the grace you have been given.

And just to set the record straight, the actual, Biblical definition of a Sodomite is one who is : "arrogant, overfed and unconcerned...[for] the poor and needy". It has absolutely nothing to do with sexual preference. I know many "straight" sodomites, do you?

Sometimes it is just too clear why those that do not believe call us hypocrites....

Monday, January 28, 2013

What is a "True Christian"

I have a Christian brother that I met on Google+ that I have really come respect. He sees Christianity through fresh eyes and asks questions that provoke me to thought. In one of his posts he posed the following question:

How do you determine if a person can be trusted as a "true Christian"?

How does your church determine who can be trusted as a member of the church and a "true Christian"?

A very important question. This question is at the heart what divides the Christian community and is the point Joel was making when he posed it.

I am not going to claim that I have a complete answer to this but I believe I am getting closer. Here is how I responded to his question:


I have been "going to church" for 56 years. I could describe a good part of that time as circling the wagons to keep differing opinions out of the camp. I was probably guilty of worshiping my beliefs more than God. Still God loved me and called my His child, even though the relationship was heavily one sided. That is the way God is.

I am now one of several leaders in a medium sized congregation in Tucson. It still has the same moniker on the building as the one that I grew up in but it is not the same closed minded community it once was. We accept diversity and have placed Christ back at the center instead of our doctrine.

As for membership, we have taken a new track that we believe is really an old track. It used to be that one must Believe (like I do), Behave (like I think you ought) and then you can Become (a member of my church). We are actively rearranging those priorities. We call it "The Three B's" and we refer to it often in our teaching and admonishing.

First you Belong. Period. It does not matter who you are, what you wear, how many tattoos you have, if you are conservative or liberal  or progressive, young or old or what you believe or even if you have faith of any kind. We are family, not institution. It is our fervent hope and prayer that if you don't believe that by belonging you will come to faith and wish to develop a relationship with Jesus. We plant the seeds by the examples of our lives and study of His Word and let God do His part to bring about Belief. The last "B" is Behave and this is expected to be a process, not an instantaneous revolution. That is what Grace is for and Grace is not something only God can grant.

Are we perfect at doing this yet? Nope. :) But we are working on it and God still loves us and calls us His children. That is the way God is.