Tag Archives: Bible

Christianity compared to other Religions

 

 

Religion: Man pursues “god.”

Christianity: God pursues man.

 

Religion: Man tries to appease “god” by doing good.

Christianity: God sacrifices himself for man, to reconcile the relationship, because man is sinful.

 

Religion: If man works hard enough he might be able to reach salvation/nirvana.

Christianity: Man is hopelessly lost and a slave to sin. Only by God’s grace through faith can one be saved.

 

Religion: Truth is a path, lifestyle, doctrine, or teaching.

Christianity: Truth is Jesus.

 

Religion: Man, by his own will, reforms his life.

Christianity: God frees, and transforms man, empowering man with his Spirit so that man can lead a new life.

 

Religion: God is needy, wrathful, or indifferent toward creation

Christianity: God is love, because God is triune. Love only exist in community, and since God is self-existent and eternal he was love before creation, nor did he need creation to love.

 

 

Christianity can be twisted and perverted in any of these areas reducing it to just other religion that controlled by the hand of man.

 

However, when we understand and believe the *Gospel of Jesus it is the power of God to save, transform, and breathe life into our broken world.

 

*The Gospel of Jesus is the good news that says man is hopelessly lost and enslaved to the things of this world. But God in his great love pursues man, and made himself the substitute for the corruption and punishment our sin created, dying on the cross, and rising again the third day welcoming us to live under his rule as newly freed and redeemed slaves.

2 Comments

Filed under Everything

Imitation of Christ

I’ve begun to read the classic devotional Imitation of Christ by 15 century author Thomas à Kempis. This book has cut me the core with the turn of every page. It is written with short 1-2 page chapters addressing different aspects of the Christian life. I can hardly put the book down, but in this momentary pause I wanted to share some of Kempis insights that have meant the most to me.

Chapter I

“What good does it do to speak learnedly about the Trinity if, lacking humility, you displease the Trinity? Indeed it is not learning that makes a man holy and just, but rather a virtuous life makes him pleasing to God. I would rather feel contrition than know how to define it. For what would it profit us to know the whole Bible by heart and the principles of all the philosophers if we live without the grace and love of God? Vanity of vanities and all is vanity, except to love God and serve Him alone.”

Chapter III

“What good is much discussion of involved and obscure matters when our ignorance of them will not be held against us on Judgment Day?”

“If men used as much care in uprooting vices and implanting virtues as they do in discussing problems, there would not be so much evil and scandal in the world, or such laxity in religious organizations. On the Day of Judgment, surely, we shall not be asked what we have read but what we have done; not how well we have spoken but how well we have lived.”

Thomas à Kempis constant call for humility and excessive of faith and love through action has become another voice reforming what I believe it is to be and live as a Christian.

If you haven’t read this book… Read it. If you haven’t read it recently… Read it again.

This book is public domain, so for those who don’t want to purchase a copy you should be able to find a free copy online somewhere.

Leave a comment

Filed under Everything

Inspiration does not equate with originality.

There is a common misconception that the dogma of inspiration is concurrent with the notion that all of the Scriptures were unique to their time period, location, and culture. This is simply incorrect.

The Scriptures are contextual documents that at times draw from, use, quote, and respond to other contemporary documents.

The idea that the Scriptures were completely original in content, shape, language, and concept complicates and stretches the logic of the dogma of Inspiration beyond reason, and without purpose.

The Scriptures are unashamedly written by the hands of men, yet, claim to be of the inspiration of God. To understand this concept we can liken it to the incarnation, where God chose to display himself to humanity by taking on the likeness of man. Likewise Scriptural inspiration is how God chose to display himself through the language, culture, and the individual expression of frail human authors. The message was inspired but the author framed the delivery.

Understanding the important distinction between inspiration and origination is critical to making sense of textual criticism and deescalating historical similarities.

Leave a comment

Filed under Everything

The Sacraments: a means of grace?

I wanted to return to this subject and give it some more space. For many Evangelicals this topic seems as strange and as pagan as incense, candles, and Jesus still displayed on our crosses.

The question is, are the sacraments a means of grace or merely symbolic of grace already imparted directly to man.

There are two general conclusions to this answer within Christianity.

Sacramental

Represented by Anglican, Catholic, Methodist, Lutheran, and Presbyterian variations.


The sacraments are a holy sign and seal of the covenant of grace.

Sign: the sacrament represents something other than itself. It teaches about some truth symbolically.

Seal: the sacrament certifies by the authority f God that a person receiving it the quality signified. Only when rightly administered by the conditions demanded in God’s word does the sacrament truly certify and authenticate the promise or quality signified.

-Westminster Confession of Faith

John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, believed God’s divine grace was made available and effective in human lives through a variety of means or “channels.” While God is free to work in many ways, the Church has been given the privilege and responsibility of being the Body of Christ that carries forth His redeeming purpose in the world.

Sacraments are effective means of God’s presence mediated through the created world.

Wesley affirmed the Anglican teaching that, “A sacrament is an outward sign of inward grace, and means whereby we receive the same.”

The ritual action of a sacrament does not merely point to Gods presence in the world, but also participates in it and becomes a vehicle for conveying that reality.

God’s presence in the sacraments is real, but must be accepted by human faith if it is to transform human lives.

The sacraments do not convey grace magically or irrevocably, but they are powerful channels through which God has chosen to make grace available to us.

Wesley saw baptism as the initiatory sacrament by which we enter into a convent with God and admitted as members of the Church.

archives.umc.org/interior.asp?ptid=4&mid=992

wesleyumcsd.org/articles/1/pages/3/

Of the Means of Grace

(St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, N.D.)

[Adopted 1932]

21. Although God is present and operates everywhere throughout all creation and the whole earth is therefore full of the temporal bounties and blessings of God, Col. 1:17; Acts 17:28; 14:17, still we hold with Scripture that God offers and communicates to men the spiritual blessings purchased by Christ, namely, the forgiveness of sins and the treasures and gifts connected therewith, only through the external means of grace ordained by Him. These means of grace are the Word of the Gospel, in every form in which it is brought to man, and the Sacraments of Holy Baptism and of the Lord’s Supper. The Word of the gospel promises and applies the grace of God, works faith and thus regenerates man, and gives the Holy Ghost, Acts 20:24; Rom. 10:17; 1 Pet. 1:23; Gal. 3:2. Baptism, too, is applied for the remission of sins and is therefore a washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost, Acts 2:38; 22:16; Titus 3:5. Likewise the object of the Lord’s Supper, that is, of the ministration of the body and blood of Christ, is none other than the communication and sealing of the forgiveness of sins, as the words declare: “Given for you,” and: “Shed for you for the remission of sins,” Luke 22:19, 20; Matt. 26:28, and “This cup is the New Testament in My blood,” 1 Cor. 11:23; Jer. 31:31-34 (“New Covenant”).

22. Since it is only through the external means ordained by Him that God has promised to communicate the grace and salvation purchased by Christ, the Christian Church must not remain at home with the means of grace entrusted to it, but go into the whole world with the preaching of the Gospel and the administration of the Sacraments, Matt. 28:19, 20; Mark 16:15, 16. For the same reason also the churches at home should never forget that there is no other way of winning souls for the Church and keeping them with it than the faithful and diligent use of the divinely ordained means of grace. Whatever activities do not either directly apply the Word of God or subserve such application we condemn as “new methods,” unchurchly activities, which do not build, but harm the Church.

23. We reject as a dangerous error the doctrine, which disrupted the Church of the Reformation, that the grace and the Spirit of God are communicated not through the external means ordained by Him, but by an immediate operation of grace. This erroneous doctrine bases the forgiveness of sins, or justification, upon a fictitious “infused grace,” that is, upon a quality of man, and thus again establishes the work-doctrine of the papists.

Purpose of the Lord’s Supper. The Lord’s Supper is essentially an application of the Gospel, with all its spiritual blessings, in a sacred act. It offers, conveys, and seals to the communicant forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation; strengthens faith; promotes sanctification through strengthening of faith; increases love toward God and the neighbor; affords patience in tribulation; confirms hope of eternal life; and deepens union with Christ and His mystical body, the ch. (1 Co 10:17). It also serves a confessional purpose (Acts 2:42; 1 Co 10:20–21; 11:26). All these blessings are mediated through the Gospel-promise in the Sacrament (“Given and shed for you for the remission of sins”) and are apprehended by faith in the divine promise. The words “This do in remembrance of Me” do not mean merely that the communicant is to remember the absent Christ, who atoned for his sins; they invite the communicant to accept the forgiveness offered in the Sacrament (“Do this in remembrance of Me” means: remember Christ’s blessings and accept them by faith; cf. Ap XXIV 72). The Lord’s Supper differs from the preaching of the Gospel, which is addressed to all hearers, believers and unbelievers, and from Absolution,* which is individually addressed to believers, to the believers as a penitent group, in that the Sacrament offers forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation individually to each communicant under pledge of Christ’s body and blood, received with the bread and wine.

http://www.lcms.org/ca/www/cyclopedia/02/display.asp?t1=g&word=GRACE.MEANSOF

Luther contrasted prayer with the sacraments. He stated that the Word and the Sacraments is something God “does to us.” While prayer on the other hand is something the believer does toward God.

Ornamental:

Represented by Baptist, Anabaptist, and Arminians

Zwingli, regarded as the founder of this view, rejected the instruments (sacraments as a means of grace) and entirely refused to accept any other means of grace other than direct unmediated communion with God.

In fact he believed the elements of water bread and wine to be created barriers between God and man. He believed the sacraments were a confession, not a confirmation of faith. Because of his views he preferred to call them ordinances, not sacraments.

This was a radical break from the long doctrine of the church on this issue.

7. Calvinism* and the means of grace. Calvinism rejects the means of grace as unnecessary; it holds that the Holy Spirit requires no escort or vehicle by which to enter human hearts. The Ref. doctrine of predestination* excludes the idea of means which impart the Spirit and His gifts to men, the Holy Spirit working effectively only on the elect. Acc. to Ref. teaching, the office of the Word is to point out the way of life without imparting that of which it conveys the idea. Ref. theol. regards Word and Sacraments as necessary because of divine institution. They are symbols of what the Holy Spirit does within as He works immediately (i. e. without means) and irresistibly. “Enthusiast” doctrine of the Anabaptists* and of the many sects since their day regarding the “inner light,” gen. identified with the “baptism of the Holy Spirit” and the “2d conversion,” has its root in this specifically Ref. doctrine of the immediate working of the Holy Spirit. See also Enthusiasm.

http://www.lcms.org/ca/www/cyclopedia/02/display.asp?t1=g&word=GRACE.MEANSOF

9 Comments

Filed under Everything

No More Sea.

Throughout the Scriptures, both Old and New Testament, the seas and oceans represented Chaos and wickedness. These large and deep bodies of water are host to the mighty unknown, and reckless and destructive power. Even in our modern age our titian vessels and ports cannot withstand the devastating power of the seas. Only God has the power to control the mighty seas. God separated the waters of the Red Sea, and closed them on the invading army. and when Jesus calmed the storm that was about to swallow the disciples as they were on the water, this was the major turning point for them to recognize Jesus as God.

God spends 3 days ordering and separating the waters in Genesis chapter 1.

Day 1: The Earth is formless and void, and the Spirit of God was moving over the waters. Gen1:2

Day 2: God separates the water to form the sky and the seas. Gen 1:6&7

Day 3: God gathers the seas and lets dry land appear. Gen 1:9

*It is interesting to note that God is never recorded created the waters. The waters are just there, just as evil is there in the Garden of Eden to tempt mankind after creation.

The waters represent chaos. However, God does not remove the chaos, but he organizes and separates it, causing good to rise from it. Like all things evil seeks to destroy God can use to form life. Jesus claimed “I am the resurrection and the life,” a claim the God of the Old testament establishes on many occasions. God gives life to the barren womb of many, and springs of living water in the midst of the desert..

Furthermore, it seems like from the beginning God did not intend to destroy the chaos, but to order it. To me this parallels God’s allowance for man to choose evil that was provided in creation. Although evil was not God’s intention for man.

Then at the time when mankind’s choice for chaos and wickedness had almost overwhelmed his love for God, God released the waters of chaos unto the earth to cleansed it and humanity. God used the very representation of the thing man was seeking for in place of God to bring his judgment. The flood also used to foreshadow the coming judgment fallen humanity will face before the Holy God in 2 Peter.

However, when all is said and done. Once evil is finally destroyed. The waters of chaos will also be done away with.

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.”

(Revelation 21:1)

14 Comments

Filed under Everything

Things I can’t pray for…

I’ve come to a place where there are certain things I just can’t pray for. Maybe it’s just a lack of faith on my part. Or maybe it’s that I’m no longer naïve to the nature of God or His will.

I write today because there are times when I find it so difficult to pray. Sometimes I feel in my personal life and as I observe in others prayer is nothing more than some superstitious recited cantation. Far be it from me to be the judge of anyone’s heart or intentions, but by the things we pray for sometimes it’s hard not to draw conclusions.

I think my own difficultly in prayer has risen out of some very common questions.

  • “Why does God seem to answer prayers for parking spots when entire countries are destroys in earth quakes and famines?”

  • “Why is one healed and another left sick?”

  • “Why are some Christians poor and others are rich, if both work just as hard and love God just as much?”

So maybe I’m just lack faith, but there are things that I can’t pray for anymore.

I can’t pray for finical gain above what my family needs to survive. I understand living in America already places in me top percentages of the world’s rich. Instead I find myself praying for faithfulness and wisdom for the things that God has given me.

I can’t pray for parking spots when owning a car means I’m living in a reality that 90% of others in this world are not. That’s like saying God indoor-pluming is not good enough, I want my toilet to be gold plated.

3 Comments

Filed under Everything

Spiritual Milk? Do you get enough? Has it changed?

The writer of Hebrews lists several key items and labels them “Elementary Teachings.” He says of points listed that they are “spiritual milk,” and that his Christian audience should be growing up and feasting “spiritual meat.”

Here are the points of understanding that the writer labels “milk”:

  • Repentance from acts that lead to death.
  • Faith in God.
  • Instruction about baptisms.
  • The laying on of hands.
  • The resurrection of the Dead.
  • Eternal Judgment.

(Hebrews 6:1-3)

Some of the items on this list are understandable as “milk.” Repentance and faith in God are the introductory elements to the Christian life. However as one examines the other items on the list unanimous consent isn’t a given. For some these points might be areas of contention between denominational communities. For many others there might a complete and genuine ignorance as to understanding of these issues. To this ladder point I write to address.

The Christian church has failed on many levels to educate its people. At one point Christians were at the forefront of community education. Yet our ranking has dropped. Many churches are “producing” dumb Christians. I am not an advocate that every Christian needs a seminary education. However, I do believe that the community of believers need to taught more than many of them get in the Sunday morning situational/behavioral sermon. Our lives are shaped and flow out of our understanding of who God is. If our view of God is shallow than our lives are build on a shallow footing and any powerful event may have the ability to shake us from beliefs.

It also seems as though this list has shifted today from what it was. The elementary teachings of the church ages past are not consistent with the elementary teachings of the church modern. I have debated my self, wondering if this is due to contextualization or if there is a misrepresentation of what truly is an “elementary teaching.”

Two of the most common substitutions on this list are the teaching of Creation, and the Rapture. In many circles these have become the benchmark doctrines for new believers. Evolution is only equaled by some to Satanism, and the teaching of the resurrection of dead has been surpassed by the Hollywood images of floating in clouds in some mysterious Rapture.

I want to hear your opinion on the issue. Think back for me what was the most common and frequent teaching you remember or hear to this day in church?

1 Comment

Filed under Everything

Righteousness not camouflage.

Christ blood is not some divine act of camouflage so that we can continue to sin unpunished.

Christ blood does not only cover our sin, but it cleanses us. We are WASHED in the blood of our crucified lord. Our sins are not just masked with a big red ink splat. It is by his blood we are welcomed as sons and daughters of God. The Holy Spirit comes to live and reside with us, teaching us to walk with him and be like him.

We cannot continue to treat the spilt blood of Christ as if it were something that little red light flasher in the movie Men in Black that makes people forget what just happened. Christ blood does not make God forget our sins, his blood cleanses us from them, it allows us to enter a new life were we are to live righteously.

1 Comment

Filed under Everything

Wonderful cross or place of death?

We often sing of the wonderful beautiful cross. And because our mind cannot handle the intensity or cruelty of the cross we grow numb to the brutality of the cross. Yet, we have to remember the cross was torture leading to death. Jesus experienced pain at the highest levels of the human experience.

The cross was not just some uncomfortable experience, like the awkwardness of telling a stranger on the plain you’re a Christian, or the embarrassment of getting to front of the line at the grocery store with a cart full of items and realizing you forgot your wallet.

Jesus died on the cross. He bled, and breathed his last breath on the cross.

When we sing of the cross it should be in the sober reality of what happened, why it happened, who it was that died for us.

The cross is the anchor point of our faith, not some pithy poppy featurette of the Sunday lineup. Our God died at the hands of his creation; the creation he loved and formed. Our God suffered and was humiliated by the very people he gave life to.

The cross is not wonderful, it the shame of humanity, and the glory of God. The cross does not represent the best in man, but the worst. The cross is the premiere exhibit in our museum of disgrace.

I understand why people wish to forget the cross, and down play its reality. As a humanitarian why would I want to highlight the cross any more than I would want to highlight the holocaust as an act of human civility and love?

All one should do at the cross is fall down before it and cry out, “I will never deny you again. With my heart and with my actions I too crucified you, but never again. I will serve the King whom I killed. He will be my God.”

3 Comments

Filed under Everything

A new way or and old way to read the Bible…

This entire post is based off of Robert Webbers writing in Ancient-Future Worship, and all quotes are taken from that book, except where otherwise stated.

A new way to read the Scriptures… or maybe the original way…?

Robert Webber challenges his reader to read the Scriptures as he says; the way the Apostles and early church read them.

Now, if you’re like me, and you have been taught how to read your Bible in the past 50 years or more, then you have taught to read the Bible literary historical grammatical approach. This way is not opposed to what Webber says, but its focus is misplaced.

As a foundation Webber says we must read the Bible and see Jesus as the focal point. I’d think most of us would agree, but do we really do that?

It easier when one reads the NT, because the authors make Jesus the center of everything for us. But when reading the OT one must make the effort to see Jesus in all things. There is a fine line in what he is saying here between allegorical reading and reading Jesus as the focal point.

Jesus Christ is the focal point of the Scriptures.

“The apostolic way of reading and preaching the Scriptures is to see Jesus Christ as the subject of the entire Bible, the subject of all of history.”

“…beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, [Jesus] explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.”

Luke 24:27

“The narrative of the whole Scriptures is about Jesus Christ. We find him everywhere and in everything…

While the early church fathers are Christ-centered in their reading of the Scriptures, they do not neglect the Father and the Spirit. The life of the Son is in the communal life of the Father and the Spirit. The Father sends the Son to redeem, to rescue the world from the clutches of the evil one. The Spirit is the one who breathes life into the world and gives life to all the events and persons who prefigure Christ. He is present in all the events of the Old Testament, as well as the ministry and work of Jesus. He is now present in the Church and in God’s people providing us with a conscious and intentional life of Christ to all who live in his name. When we are baptized into the death and resurrection of Jesus, the Holy Spirit is the one who gives us the new life in Christ. In this way we are brought up in the life of God’s community where we fellowship in the love of the Father, Son, and Spirit.

So the fathers of the church, while Chistocentric in their reading and preaching of the Scriptures, were also Trinitarian.”


“We must read and preach the Bible as true.”

This is not to say…

“Read it as if it were true.” That would be to read it mythologicaly.

“Read it and make it true.” That would be to read it to prove it.

“Read it for truths.” That kind of reading usually looks for principles to make life more successful.

How we do read the Bible as true?

1. Read the bible with an Ancient mind-set.

“The Fathers [Church Fathers & writers of Scriptures] did not see life as split between the sacred and the secular. For them everything is sacred.”

(This is the same proposition Rob Bell makes in his Everything is Spiritual DVD teaching.)

2. Read the Bible relationally

God is described through stories of relationship; illustrations of how He relates and acts toward man, not volumes of systematic facts (like this book).

“The Hebrew mind does not describe God intellectually in the abstract as though God is an object to be studied. Instead he is always pictured as the God who enters into relationship with his creatures…The New Testament images of God and church continue with this same emphasis on relationship. The church is the ‘body of Christ,’ the ‘bride of Christ,’ the ‘community,’ the ‘household of faith,’ the fellowship in faith.’”

3. Read the Bible in context, understanding its language.

The Scriptures are composed of many different genres of literature, such as law, historical narratives, letters, worship manuals, hymns, and both prophetic and apocalyptic writings. And at least one third of the Bible could be categorized as poetry,

“The ancient language was also one of paradox… So the narrative always has both a divine side and a human side. God chooses, calls, elects. God lives among the people speaking, chastising, directing. But the people live in the presence of God, who is among them. They respond and relate to God. They sometimes ignore God or outright disobey God and chase after gods of their own making. But God is always there.

Western thought—especially Enlightenment thinking—does not like paradox. Rational language cannot see how opposites are two sides of the same reality. So some want to read the Bible from the divine side emphasizing divine predestination and divine foreknowledge, but others approach the Bible emphasizing the human side of freedom and choice. In the Hebrew mind both are real and valid.”

Robert Webber would actually label this section, “read the Bible as metaphor.” He agues we come to Scriptures with our western mind seeking everything to have a literal meaning, when the ancient language was more of one that evoked a feeling.

4. Read the Bible so it reads us and speaks to our world today.

“It has the power to read us and the world because the text discloses the waywardness of the human heart. We should not read the accounts of the Human rebellion against God as a study of ‘some other person’ or of ‘that particular culture.’ Instead those accounts, while rooted in a particular history, reach across time to say, ‘you are there; that’s a description of your life, of your sin and rebellion, of your journey away from God, of your world’s rebellion… It is an interactive story of God and humanity. It reveals truth about God, but also it reveals truths about persons, societies, cultures, and civilizations.

The Bible also reads us because Jesus, who is our Redeemer, is also the model for our true living.”

1 Comment

Filed under Everything