should christians be angry at a defaced bible?

Category : bible, choice, different

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It seems to be that every week an “angry Christian” story hits the news.  This week it’s focused on a church in England.  This particular church decided to have people write in a Bible.  Not just people from the church, but anyone who wanted to do it.  The idea was part art and part an attempt to draw people into looking at the Bible in a new way.  It was hoped that personalizing the Bible would make it more real for people.  However what happened is that many people wrote “controversial” statements.  This, according to the story, upset a lot of Christians.

Some of the comments were:

  • “This is all sexist pish, so disregard it all.”
  • “The biggest lie in human history.”
  • “Mick Jagger and David Bowie belong in here.”
  • “I am Bi, Female and Proud. I want no god who is disappointed in this.”

Okay, so I have no idea what the Mick Jagger / David Bowie comment means.  Maybe it’s a British thing?  But beside that, when I read those comments I don’t feel anger, I feel sadness.  I don’t see a defaced Bible, I see breaking hearts.  There is such bitterness and pain in those sentences that it betrays the authors.

I can’t imagine my life without God.  I can’t imagine the loneliness, the hostility, the emptiness I would feel without that relationship.  I understand saying that may seem “insensitive” or “ridiculous.”  And a few years ago I would have agreed.  But after having been on this revolutionary journey with God I have a new perspective.  A perspective I couldn’t have grasped before I met God.

It’s that perspective that makes me see the pain in those sentences.

And it’s that same pain I wish Christians would pay attention to.  Instead of reacting in anger about a “defaced” Bible, Christians should reach out in love.  Yet so often we as Christ followers get wrapped up in our own views that we forget where we once were.  That we once shared (and some still do) the pain and pride of the commentators.

It’s no wonder the world views us as so unChristian.

Believe it or not, humans don’t always want to deal with reality.  Especially if reality conflicts with our lifestyle.  Even when we know something is harmful to us (smoking) we still do it.  Psychologists refer to the uncomfortable feelings two conflicting ideas create as as cognitive dissonance.  One way we deal with this cognitive dissonance is by lashing out.  We know, at some deep level, that the life we’re living isn’t how we were designed to live.  But making a change seems overwhelming, too scary, or too hard.  So we attack the message.

The Christian response should be one of love and compassion.  Our truth should be matched by our grace.  I say we should let more people “deface” the Bible like this.  Their words can’t diminish the truth that’s contained in it’s pages.  And it represents an opportunity to show them God’s grace.  To me that sounds like a win-win situation.  Not a time to get angry and defensive.

reader comment: will the evildoers never learn

Category : Jesus, faith, living a life of faith, reader comments, sin

Chris, over at Got-Fruit.net, had a good addition to Friday’s post “will the evildoers never learn:”

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1st John 1:9)

Perhaps this is a case of semantics, but I would say that it’s not that we’re captives of sin but rather that as you later say in your post; “it still lingers” ie;  we still struggle with sin even though we’ve been sanctified and justified by the blood of Christ.  In my own experiences as a Christian I can recall being so occupied with being good; not sinning, that I missed the point of Christianity, that Christ has already done all of the work, therefore there’s nothing that I can do to add to it. (Ephesians 2:8-9).

When you enter into a relationship with God, you are most certainly set free from the final bondage of sin (something I should have made more clear in that post).  Yet it seems that on some level we are willing to pick that bondage back up.  We seem to want to be put back into slavery. And the truth is, we do this willingly.

So while we are fully sanctified and justified by the blood of Christ (something I agree with, and believe the Bible teaches, and am grateful to Chris for pointing out) I think we are at least perceptually controlled by sin, if not in actual reality.  And as most psychologists would tell you, perception is reality. We live by how we see the world.

I don’t know where I fall on this fine line of semantics.  Maybe this is just a word game, or maybe it’s meaningful theology.  But what I do know is sin destroys people’s lives.  And if we’re not careful, even though Jesus’ death atones for our sins, we end up living out a life as if it didn’t.

living out a life of faith

Category : bible, different, faith, living a life of faith

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Living out a life of faith is hard work.  There are many times that you need to sacrifice, take a stand, and move before anyone else does.  That’s part of what being a follower of Jesus is about: a living demonstration to the world what God’s transforming love can accomplish.

This is why I’m finding myself increasingly annoyed by “displays” of faith that have no depth.  I’ve talked at length about Christian bumper stickers, but it applies to jewelry, lawn ornaments, etc…

I have absolutely no problem if you’re displaying any of those things because you live out your faith.  I have a huge problem if you are displaying those things and still stuck in the world’s ways.  Every time you cut someone off in traffic you reinforce the unChristian stereotype.  Every time you wear a cross around your neck and then gossip at the office you tell the world that we don’t practice what we preach.  That we are unChristian.

It makes reaching people that much harder.  But it’s worse than that.  The truth is, you aren’t helping yourselves – in fact all that imagery may be hiding just how shallow of a relationship you have with God.  You may be drifting away from God.  Growing increasingly distant from the living God, in favor of a small, cheap, knock-off.

I urge everyone – put down the cheesy Christian nick nacks and pick up the bold and dangerous gospel.

the pope, nazis, and Israel

Category : Jesus, barbarian, bible, different, living a life of faith, sin

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This week the Pope is in Israel.  Surrounded by history, tension, politics and controversy.  But no lions and tigers and bears.

I rarely talk about current events for one reason – when you live a life of faith current events don’t matter.  This isn’t because current events aren’t important.  They are.  Or that current events can’t affect you.  They can.  It’s because living a life of faith is about following principles not trends.  If you stay true to what the Bible teaches you will be able to live a life of faith in any time, in any situation, under any circumstances.  The more you leave that path, the harder it becomes.  The more you will fall.

So while current events may be important, they aren’t always relevant to living out a life of faith.  But sometimes current events help to highlight themes.  They can show just how challenging Jesus’ teachings are because we have invested emotion in current events.  These topics become “very real” to us.

I think the Pope’s visit to Israel is one of those situations.  The primary controversy surrounding the Pope is the fact that he may (or may not have been) part of the Hitler Youth.  Because of this, some people are questioning his speech to the Jews in Israel.  And his support of a Palestinian state.

I have no idea if the current Pope was a member of the Hitler Youth.  I have no idea if he believed in the Nazi teachings when he was a kid or if he was forced into service.  In a dictatorship you hardly get to say “no”.  And before anyone starts saying, “he should have said ‘no’ anyway” think about your own life.  Do you have the courage to face the consequences like that?  Most of us, myself included, probably lack the courage.

God redeems each of us, no matter what horrible things we've done in the past.

But this isn’t the 1940’s.  It’s an entirely new situation, with presumably an entirely new person.  When you enter into a relationship with God, he transforms who you were into something new.  Even if that starting point was from the Hitler Youth.  That’s the whole point of baptisms and being “born again”.  This is why Paul said, there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.  God redeems each of us, no matter what horrible things we’ve done in the past.

I believe the Pope should own up to his involvement (or non involvement) in the Hitler Youth.  Doing so wouldn’t weaken his position – it would make it stronger.  It would show how a powerful God takes someone from the hate of Nazism to the love of Christ.  It would put him in the company of David (murderer and adulterer) and Paul (chief of all sinners).  Plus, as I mentioned, there is this whole “no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus” thing.

Of course this isn’t the approach the Pope’s handlers are taking.

The Vatican has said he “had ‘never, never, never’ been in the Hitler Youth.”  Of course that “never, never, never” statement didn’t last long.  Because in a day of internet it’s easy to find out that the Pope had written about his time in the Hitler Youth.

Oops.

Now as I said, it’s entirely possible that the Pope was forced into the Hitler Youth.  Hitler wasn’t exactly a nice guy.  But every time the Vatican spokesman has to back off a quote it reeks of political maneuvering.  It makes it feel like the church is playing politics.  Something that should never happen.

I say, so what if the pope was associated with the Hitler Youth.  I say if the Pope has repented, then it doesn’t matter.  There is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.  We all have dark sins.  We all have hatred toward someone.  If we didn’t we wouldn’t need Jesus.  But we are all fallen.  It’s time to forgive our enemies and move on.  Harder to do than say, I know.  But that’s the model Jesus left us, and the model we need to live out.

The world is looking to destroy the church.  It desperately wants to live in a secularized society, devoid of consequences and responsibility.  The world wants to push people of faith out of the way.  Why must we be so unChristian and give them easy opportunities to ignore our message of grace, love, and hope?  Why must we look more like politicians than Jesus?  Why can’t we just say we’re horribly fallen people in need of a merciful God?  Why can’t we say, “yes I was forced to be a Nazi, and I’m sorry.  Let me support you now.”?  Why can’t we let the fact there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus be enough?

Repentance frees us from the guilt of sin in God’s eyes.  Maybe it should free us from the guilt in man’s eyes too.

did Jesus come to create a religion?

1

Category : Exodus, Jesus, barbarian, bible, different, love

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God spent a lot of time explaining every detail he wanted in his home with the Israelites.  He didn’t leave much to the imagination or ask us to do “whatever works.”  God had a very specific plan in mind for his home, and the people who would be directly interacting with it.

Interestingly Jesus didn’t do this.  Jesus was messy.

There wasn’t a lot of formality around how to approach him.  There wasn’t a lot of people wearing only certain types of clothing.  Or saying certain types of things.  In fact, Jesus constantly had people touching him who were “ceremonially unclean,” meaning people who couldn’t enter God’s presence.  And yet he didn’t do anything but love them.

Sometimes you hear people say that Jesus meant to create a religion.  But I don’t buy that.  I think Jesus came to establish a relationship with us.  This is why he always loved the people who needed it, and why the New Testament isn’t filled with rules on how to establish a physical church.  Jesus went out of his way to break social conventions in order to build relationships.

Relationships are messy.  Religion is organized.  Relationships have sacrifice, love, compassion.  Religions have rules, structure, bureaucracies.

What would Christianity look like if we were more interested in showing that same love, and less interested in showing religious protocol?  How would your life be different if local churches worked to create a relationship with God and not to create a religion?

a world of lies

1

Category : God, John, faith

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I’m a news junkie.  Actually that’s not totally true.  I’m an information junkie.  I love to learn stuff, whether it’s about sports, science, history, or current events.  But there is a danger in all of this – some of what you learn is simply not true.

We live in a world of lies.

Now I’m not talking about some secret plan to control you through mass marketing or a political conspiracy.  Or even alien invasions (which, of course, is entirely true).  What I’m talking about is more fundamental.  More basic.

Right now the big news item is the Pig Flu or the H1N1 Virus as it’s more technically known.  Politicians are closing borders, stadiums are being shut down, people are heading to hospitals to see if they have the Swine Flu.  I have no idea if this is the next great pandemic or the next Y2K.

What I do know is that a lot of people are panicking.  And that panic is spread by the lies of this world.

There is money to be made in panic and fear (you hear the cliche’s about how “if it bleeds it leads”).  But I don’t think this is the root cause of why we are so afraid.  I think the reason we are so afraid, so willing to panic, is that we’ve bought into a lot of lies.  As I said earlier, these aren’t lies told to us in a well thought out master plan (there is no dark emperor sitting behind the throne).  These lies are the ones the world gives us.  The lies that tell us we aren’t good enough.  That we don’t have any worth.  That sex and drugs are the only ways to freedom.

Isn’t that why we are panicked by the collapse of the economy?  Because we believe that more stuff = happiness.  That a bigger wallet = success.  That my self-worth is defined by what I own.

These lies don’t lead to freedom – they lead to subjugation and surrender.

Jesus presented a radically different view of the world.  He exposed the lies.  And there are people who don’t like that.  Some of those people are even Christians.  Let me say that again.  Some of the people who are most responsible for the world’s lies are Christians.

God only loves you if you’re good.

You have to be perfect before God will talk to you.

The King James Version is the only true version of the Bible.

Jesus spoke of a thief who “comes only to steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10).  It’s this thief that is stealing your freedom and planting lies in your life.  Not God.

Over the next week write down every time you hear a lie.  Don’t simply accept it – challenge it.  Ask God to show you the truth, and before long, you’ll start seeing all the ways the world lies to you.  Then ask yourself, who should I believe?  God?  Or the world?

Jesus died for freedom, not religion

Category : Galatians, God, Jesus, faith, hope, revolutionary, sin

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It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1)

Jesus died to bring us freedom.  Not death.  Not rules.  Not religious checklists.  Not mind-your-p’s-and-q’s religion.  Freedom.

This is what I wish someone would have explained to me when I was a kid.  Sadly I didn’t hear this message until I left the church, abandoned God, and became an atheist / agnostic.  I had to suffer a great deal in order to learn the truth.

Which is why I find it so heart breaking to hear someone ask why God is punishing them.   It’s one thing to carry the burden of guilt if you’ve been sinning.  It’s wrong, but I understand.  It’s completely wrong to be sick and told that the reason you are sick is divine punishment.

I wish I could say that it’s because people are using “god language” as a way to control and manipulate people.  That it’s some nefarious plan.  And I suppose in some cases it is.  But I think there is something worse going on – I think a lot of well-meaning Christians say and believe these things.  They want to help, but they honestly believe God is the type who is waiting around to smack us with plagues and disaster if we don’t sit still in church.

And the result is a lot of pain and suffering.

My biggest wish, I think more than any other, is to find a way to let people know that you don’t need to be perfect to talk to God.  He’s not the Giant Rule Counter in the Sky.  He’s not the angry father who hates us.  He’s a loving God, who cares so much that he gave his one and only son.  That if everyone else was perfect but you, God would still send his son to die for you.  That’s who God is.  That’s the God who radically changed my life, and can revolutionize yours.

It breaks my heart to know that so many people who believe in Jesus, believe he punishes us to make us behave.  It is no wonder so much of religion is seen as unChristian.  It’s no wonder people work so hard to stay away from him.

Faith & Doubt – core beliefs

Category : Jesus, R3, faith, living a life of faith, taking action

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For many people Easter represents the one or two times we attend church in a year.  It’s where some people approach church tentatively, not sure what they think, but seeking God.  Others go because of a formality, usually a family obligation.  (Don’t worry.  I attended many church functions out of obligation before I became a Christian. )

Churches spend a lot of time and energy trying to figure out how to connect with these Christmas and Easter visitors.  They try to understand why they don’t attend.  Or how we, as the church, could reach out to them.

Those are all well and good questions.  But that’s not what I’m interested in today.  What I want to focus on is how we, as the church, behave.  How do our actions, our lives, play out to these Easter attenders?  Can they tell we live out lives of faith?  Or are we viewed as what’s been called the “unChristian“?

In the book Faith & Doubt, John Ortberg identifies three levels of belief – Public, Private, Core.  Depending on the topic, your views may fall into any of these three categories.  It’s the difference in categories that determine your actions.

1. Public – These are beliefs that you want people to think you hold, even when you don’t.  “Oh sure I loved your ‘macaroni surprise’” is an example of a public belief.

2.  Private - Beliefs that you think are sincere, but turn out not to be.  Peter was convinced he would follow Jesus to death.  But when it came down to it, he denied even knowing Jesus.

3.  Core - These are beliefs that are shown through our daily actions.  When we say we care about the homeless, that’s all well and good.  People with core beliefs do something about it.

Think about any belief you have.

They fall into one of these categories.  We tell our kids “that was a wonderful recital”, but we know it wasn’t (public belief).  We say it because the truth isn’t the loving action, building into them is.  Public beliefs can be good.  They help us maintain relationships when the brutal, cold, “truth” couldn’t.  Yet we can get caught in a dangerous trap of always wanting to fit in.  We can get caught in the world of  “making other people happy.”  (How many of us have complained that politicians don’t follow through with their promises?   Those politicians often get caught in the public belief)

When I look at Christianity in the general, anecdotal sense, I fear that too many people only hold Christianity as a public belief.  It is only something to do for a few hours on Sunday.  It isn’t life changing.  It isn’t radical, it isn’t revolutionary, and it certainly isn’t different.

When we take that flat, boring, public belief and interact with non-believers, how should we expect them to respond?

Easter is about God stepping into history and taking a hit that you and I deserve.  Jesus was characterized by living in the core beliefs he espoused.  When Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” he wasn’t just giving a talking point.  He was telling the disciples what God was about.  Who God was at his core.

I want to move my beliefs from the public to the core.  I don’t want my life filled with things I say I believe, when I really don’t.  I started out this post saying that I used to go to church out of obligation.  But you know what?  There are times I still go to church out of obligation.  Simply because it’s Saturday.  That’s okay sometimes.  It’s okay to want to be watching football some days.  But pretending you want to be at church when you don’t – that leads you down the road of hypocrisy.

I want people to look at me and see no difference between how I live my life, and what I write on R3.  I want people to see me living out a life of faith.  How about you?  What do you want?

passion of the Christ – facebook style

Category : faith, humor, living a life of faith, taking action

  

Sometimes it feels like people who believe in God are out of touch with the rest of the world.  You hear this from both inside and outside of the church.  Philip Yancey in What’s so Amazing about Grace wondered if we focus so much on legalism that we’ve missed out on the call of grace.  Gabe Lyons and George Barna used the book unChristian to show just how far we’ve come from the Biblical concepts of love and forgiveness.  And they are Christ-followers!  Even the secular media is in on the act.  Newsweek just this week ran a cover story about “The end of a Christian America” (cue melodramatic music).

But they all have a point.  It’s hard to look at some (not all) churches and certain (again, not everyone) Christians  and see anything fresh and vibrant.  What we are handed is old traditions that very few people can explain them.  Let alone why we still do them.  It seems that the only reason we cling to some traditions is because that’s what we have always done.  Is it any wonder that so many people find it hard to imagine God is alive, let alone good.

In many ways the church simply feels out of touch with society.

Then along comes some creative people and they produce something like this: passion of the Christ – facebook style. The imagination of this just astounds me.  Not only is it good theology, but it’s hilarious, and touching.   Plus Jesus is riding a dinosaur.  Which, I believe, is entirely, historically, accurate.

facebook-jesus

This is what church should be. Vibrant.  Engaging.  Truthful.  And yes, entertaining.

Nowhere does it say in the Bible that the church can’t be relevant.  That Christians can’t take the culture around them and use it to talk about Jesus.  That somehow we must stick with 1500’s English.

Living out a life of faith is more than clinging to traditions.  It’s about going where ever you need to because God has sent you there.  It’s about trusting in God, not in “what we’ve done for the last 30 years.”  This isn’t to say tradition is a bad thing in and of itself.  If your mission is to keep the same services you have been for 30 years, and it’s working, and honoring God, and people are growing…great.  Keep at it.

But for a lot of people that doesn’t work.  For a lot of people they don’t connect with traditions, because those traditions aren’t relevant to them.  Jesus spoke to people in ways that they understood.  Maybe that means we should too.  So I encourage you to take this link and send it to your friends.  E-mail this page to people who don’t know Jesus.  Let them see Jesus in a new way – a facebook way!

(ht: Noel Heikkinen)

living out a life of faith – example #73

Category : different, taking action, worship

  

“If you have people like that representing your church out in public, you’ve got a problem.” – Anonymous Upset Man

I’m feeling pretty miserable today.  I can’t seem to shake these colds I keep getting.  So this post is going to be short and sweet.  Although it’s a perfect illustration of what we talk about on R3: living out a life of faith, or as I sometimes like to say, “how to not act like an idiot.” 

A voice mail was left for LifeChurch.TV from a man who was angry at one of their members.  Not because this member had stolen from him, lied to him, or harmed him.  But because they were taking their time at a gas pump.  Apparently the woman in the car simply sat at the pump, oblivious to the man behind her waiting to use it.

Here’s the catch: if you consider yourself a Christian, you need to realize that you are always being judged.  Someone is always looking at you to see if you live the way you talk.  For some it’s because they want to know if our claims about God are true.  But others are simply looking for a reason not to believe.  Everything we do as Christians reflects back on God. 

Who’s knows if this guy had a point or not.  But what we do know is he blamed a church for this woman’s actions.

As we seek to live out a life of faith, don’t put makeup on at a gas pump, don’t drive like a lunatic if you have a Christian bumper sticker, and don’t stiff the waitress at breakfast before church!  Don’t be unChristian.  Just be aware of the people around you.

Sometimes evangelism is nothing more than being considerate towards others.  That’s not so hard, is it?