Sunday, February 26, 2006

Should we follow the Bible?

"It is the Lord who can strengthen you, not the {verse} which speaks of Him so doing.  It is not enough to have the verse.  You must have the One about whom the verse speaks.  We knew the verse, "My Grace is sufficient for thee."  But the verse is not sufficient.  It is the Grace which is sufficient and not the verse." - Richard Wurmbrand

"Everything depends on whether we have remained in the sphere of words or if we are merged with the divine realities." - Richard Wurmbrand

"A friend of mine compared [the focus on the Bible, to the exclusion of Christ] to a man who might have memorized the menu of a restaurant, know who wrote it, can describe what kind of paper, style, and font was used, can dissect the language in which it was written, knows how and what to order--and yet who never takes a single bite of the actual food from the menu he knows completely. We would call such a man ridiculously foolish!  Who would want to study food rather than eating and enjoying it?" - Steve Austin

"The Scriptures must be fulfilled." - Jesus Christ

Jesus never ever said that He was here to follow Scripture. He was here to fulfill it. Maybe it's just me, but I like the idea of being a "Bible Fulfiller" a tad more than being a "Bible Follower". For me, it's a subtle, but very important difference. Listen closely...

If I approach Scripture with a mind to follow itI'll end up focusing on the Scripture's that I can extract rules from. I'd adhere to those rules externally, and if I do a good job I'll probably be considered religiousHowever, iI approach Scripture with a mind to fulfill itI'll end up focusing on the Scriptures that tell me what to become. I'd strive to conform my character and priorities to the Idea behind Scripture, and if I do a good job I'll probably be considered a good person...a Christ-like person.

Let me give you an example...Eph 5:18-20 says "Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ."

The Bible Follower in me reads these 3 verses and sees some rules I need to follow in order to please God. 1) Don't get drunk on wine, 2) don't be involved in debauchery, 3) find psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs and speak those to others, 4) and sing to God. I would see obedience in terms of doing these things externally (taking nothing away and adding nothing to them, by the way)and the Bible Follower in me would say I am pleasing God and therefore is saved.

The Bible Fulfiller in me reads this text and sees some qualities that I need to become in order to have the life God promises. I need to become 1) someone who is filled with the Spirit, 2) a part of community of friends who will speak God's truth to each other 3) a heart-felt, sincere, aware-of-God, grateful worshipper. With my agreement that I should fulfill these expressions of Godliness and Christ-likeness on earth, I would as a Bible Fulfiller say that I am pleasing God and following the Bible by becoming who the Bible says I am.

The Bible Follower is at risk of only following the rules of the Bible, but not fulfilling it and becoming like JesusThe Bible fulfiller will not only go to Christ for salvation as the Bible tells him to, but he will also end up following the Bible as God intends. 

The Bible is our most authoritative source for knowing Jesus. So we need it. But we don't need it like we need Jesus. We use it to find Jesus.

I wish it was a trivial issue. But it isn't. You see it in churches.

Jesus-centered churches don't argue and split over "Biblical Issues". Bible-centered churches do. Jesus-centered churches try to be like Jesus in all circumstances, including when people don't agree with them about the Bible. Bible-centered churches try to get all people to believe like them about the Bible. Jesus-centered churches think they are saved because of Jesus being at their center. Bible-centered churches think they are saved because they have followed the rules they've extracted from their Bibles.

But it is Christ, and Christ alone, that we need to extract from our Bibles...and when we do, we will become Bible Jesus.


Thursday, February 23, 2006

The Ladder or The Life?

"I have discovered only one aspect of myself that I could say is truly extraordinary...and that is how alike and equal I feel to every person I meet, and know that that extends to every single person on the planet." - Jim Spivey
We know how to talk a good game about loving one another, but what is all too frequently really going on in that maniacal mind of ours is the careful examination, "Where do I fit in the ranking of human beings (and specifically between me and you), and can I live with that?"." - Jim Spivey
"For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."  - Jesus Christ
My great friend and partner in crime, Kyle Wade, regularly does an exercise with students that he affectionately refers to as "the Ladder".
He takes a group of students that he is teaching, asks them to stand up, and then asks them to order themselves into a line (aka: ladder) from the least to the greatest. He does this several times giving them different criteria by which to measure themselves, each other, and the group as a whole. He might tell them to line up according to athletic ability, smarts, popularity, or looks. It is a grueling process he puts them through, and a visible display of our deeply human "maniacal mind" caring deeply about where we rank related to each other.
I just got back from a forum of my peers...ACU Lectureship. It was a very large collection of ministers like me, trying to advance the Kingdom of God in a full-time capacity like me. It is a great place to play the Ladder game in real life, using fabricated criteria with which to measure yourself and each other (church size, speaking ability, "are you lecturing while you are here?", how many/who came to your talk).
I see my 3 kids learning it too, jockeying for position on the ladder with toys, who get's to sit next to mom, who's taller, older, better.
I went to a wise, influential man's lecture named Edward Fudge...he sends out an email like this one, he mentioned to over 4,000 people. I hadn't thought about it right then, but I instantly used that to think about how many are on this list...a clear invitation to me to re-enter the Ladder thinking.
The Ladder is everywhere. And it is poison to Life.
I think in large part thanks to Jesus Christ being my cosmic mentor and teacher, and also to one of my mentors and teachers Jim Spivey who so embodies in flesh the Christ-like characteristic of humble recognition of the value of every human being in his life where I can see it with my eyes (and feel it in my bones in his presence), I spend much of my time avoiding the Ladder.
I look forward to the day when I do this naturally, for the time being I will do it intentionally. It brings me life to the full.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The Generations Respond Profoundly

Below are five responses, representing people from 5 different decades, to my email/blog-before-last on February 9th entitled "The Bible and the Word of God" about the role and authority that the Bible has in our lives (you can check it out at

"Do I see [the Bible] as a list of rules to follow or as a book of stories and letters (what it really is)? And how does that have authority over the way I live? And the answer I've come to as of now is that it points me to Jesus and his life. It is one of the ways I know Christ and experience him. It really affects the way you see the Bible and how you interpret it. I think when we begin to see the Bible as  "THE Word of God" we begin to worship it. But I follow a man, not a book. The book just points me to that man." - My friend DW, in his 20s

"I've always been terrified when questions have arisen that relate to my foundation of belief.  And the VERY few people with whom I've tried to talk about it have done the equivalent of putting their fingers in their ears and humming loudly.  They really just don't want to hear something that might make them question the same things.  And, truthfully, I don't want to cause someone to question these things.  I don't want to be held accountable for screwing anyone up." - My friend JB, in her 30s

"The challenge is to look at the text and see what we need to see.  There are rules there that must be followed.  There are examples there that must be followed.  There is Jesus there that must be followed.  The Pharisees looked at the text for the rules...they came up short.  In grade school I was shown the examples by my Bible class teachers and they were great stories...that came up short.  Now I am challenged by this kid with spikey hair and no suit to look at the same text and find Jesus.  This is a frightening, eye-opening experience.  I'm seeing a different man than I have ever seen before.  Not because He is different but because I am seeking in a different way.  The text hasn't changed, but the Book sounds different to me. It was much easier to look at the text and see the rules to check off and follow those good examples without having to be...a disciple.  It was easier to be a disciple when I thought a disciple was just a believer.  But a disciple is a person who has a burning desire and passion to be like his teacher." - My friend DP, in his 40s
"Everyone that I have been asking and interviewing about the subject has good intentions however; I am getting all types of opinions from different people. Plus every denomination seems to have their set of ideas. For some reason, I have this desire to find out more...and the truth especially." - My friend KG, in her 50s

"My honest feeling is that there are some folks that will glean from this just what they want to hear.  I am fearful that some will come to the conclusion that the scriptures aren't the true word of God." - my friend LL, in his 60s

My oldest brother, LL, here has a legitimate fear...that people will think that the Bible isn't actually from God. Those people would really miss out on incredible blessing and guidance in life if they didn't understand that God was behind it. But they would have to pretend I said that, and I sure can't control that.

My youngest brother, DW here has an equally legitimate fear...that people will worship the Book rather than (or in addition to) Christ alone. And many of us have grown up in churches that have confused us about whether there is a difference. I don't blame them for my confusion, any more than those LL are afraid will be confused by me can blame me.

My oldest sister here (no offense KG) is frustrated by a dozen different views on spiritual issues, all appearing valid to whoever holds them, and all making sense if you subscribe first to HOW THEY APPROACH Scripture. This is what I am exploring in these thoughts...what is the Scriptural way to approach Scripture? Is there a Biblical method of getting from the Bible what we are supposed to?

Notice that my youngest sister, JB, here has been taught (not overtly, I bet) to be "terrified" when questions arise about her foundational beliefs. And evidently she's "blessed" with a community of faith who feels the same way and won't engage in dialogue with her about it. Notice she is even afraid she would be accountable for "screwing up" anyone who joined her in her questions. What religious beliefs has caused this terror?

Let me bring all my friends thoughts together with mine...My brother DP, in the middle above, is humbly opening up to the idea that there is something "truer" than what he already knows. We go to the Scripture to find Jesus, and it challenges us at the foundation of our beliefs. It IS terribly risky - open and vulnerable to other's misinterpretation and judgments - but completely worth it, and even good for those who misinterpret to be "shaken up" right along with you (and don't worry, if they really can't handle it, they will do the equivalent of putting their fingers in the ears and humming). The "frightening, eye opening experience" that the pursuit of Truth brings just reminds us that we are fully alive, and must be humble as we live. And the fear of accountability that our own doubts, questions, and discoveries might "screw someone else up" is no more dangerous than the accountability for NOT doing so, since they may be in desperate need of it, confounded in total lies, but just comfortable with (and therefore confident in) it. In the end, we must have relentless faith in the idea that our Teacher Jesus told us, that "the Truth will set you free". And praise God for the "desire to find out more...[of] the truth especially". That desire is a gift of God...Him moving in us to set us free.

I rarely know where I am going when I sit down to type, and I've composed this piece over the course of many days, and I'm not sure I've wrapped a bow around it for you. But let me tell you two truths that I have discovered that have given me a taste of freedom that I hope and wish for all of my friends above, and for all of you...

1) I know that it is not in my "getting it right" that God saves me. So I can hear and consider anything from anyone, giving them full credibility as a qualified fellow human being, challenging every single one of my most dear and precious beliefs, knowing that in the chaos of confusion inside of me (and that I create in my community, no matter how they respond), He is re-creating in me what He intended in the first place. And if Jesus has set me free from our knowing the right things, then I am free indeed.

2) I believe I could not do one more thing for God ever, for the rest of my life, and He would still love me exactly the same. Because of this great love, I will do anything for Him, for the rest of my life, out of my great love for Him.

"I'm not in the Kingdom of Heaven because of what I believe or what I do, I am in the Kingdom of God because it brings God pleasure to to have me there." - Yours Truly

Friday, February 17, 2006

I have identified your problem...

“For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.” - St. Paul
It will seem like I'm leaving the theme of my last email concerning how we need to approach the Bible, but I'm not really.
It all comes back to this. Every time. Without exception. Every problem you are having, every bit of suffering you embrace, every complaint you have, every issue that you have with any other person or circumstance, it is present simply because you are looking out for your own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.
Test it. See if it is true.
When you think it is okay to attack someone in any way...see if it is true.
When you are feeling pity for yourself because of some unfair circumstance...see if it is true.
When you are feeling oppressed by your financial challenges...see if it is true.
When your marriage is rocky...see if it is true.
When your kids/parents don't satisfy you...see if it is true.
It is true. And everyone does it. Everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. This one thing is the source of any suffering you do.
When I am looking out for Jesus Christ's interests, I am glad to peacefully withhold attacking someone even when I have the "right" to.
When I am looking out for Jesus Christ's interests, I joyfully accept all "unfair" circumstances as God's way of making me more like Him.
When I am looking out for Jesus Christ's interests, I know "financial challenges" to be God's invitation to trust Him more practically, and not just theoretically.
When I am looking out for Jesus Christ's interests, I love to suffer for my spouse, and the more unfair my spouse is, the more I get to love her like Christ loved me.
When I am looking out for Jesus Christ's interests, I know that my kids and parents don't need to change one thing to be the perfect teachers that God intends them to be in the shaping of my character and priorities.
Only when I am looking out for my interests do problems arise in my life.
And only when I approach the Bible looking out for my own interests (my salvation), rather than Jesus Christ's interests (God's glory), do I make it something that it is not supposed to be. Approach the Bible in order to become a reflection of God's glory, and you will find your salvation, both of which are Jesus. Approach the Bible strictly for your own interest at being saved, and you will find a bunch of rules telling you how to be saved, and even if you follow those rules to the letter externally, you might miss Jesus.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

The Bible and the Word of God

"You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life." -- The Lord Jesus

"The fish trap exists because of the fish.  Once you've gotten the fish you can forget the trap.  The rabbit snare exists because of the rabbit. Once you've gotten the rabbit, you can forget the snare.  Words exist because they capture meaning.  Once you've got the meaning, you can forget the words.  Where can I find a man who has forgotten words so I can talk with him?" -- Chuang Tzu

It's been quite a while since I've written, so I hope you've enjoyed the break! So here's another honest expression from my (often imperfect) thinking, but beware....

For life-long, Bible-believing Christians who have already settled into the truth that they are willing to discover and don't want to figure out where they might be able to have a belief system that is a bit "truer" than what they already know, this email is rated R - Restricted. You're not even allowed to read it without me sitting there with you. This is one of those emails that if Jesus was writing, I think he would give us one of those, "He who has an ear, let him hear" things.

I have known what I am about to tell you for a long time. And I have lived by it much longer than I've been aware of it, more unintentionally by God's grace than by wisdom, smarts, and informed decision making processes.

To say it out loud, at least in the way that I'm going to say it to you in this writing, may be the most provocative way of doing so, but I want you to bear with me (because this is a deeply emotional part of my faith) and then read the explanation that follows (because, admittedly, it's not as heretical as it sounds at first). Ready? Buckled in? it comes...

The Bible is not the Word of God.

Okay, I said it out loud. I'm out there. Now let me explain.

The Greek word for "Bible" is "graphe". The Greek word for "Word" is "logos"The "graphe" is not the "logos". When you read "Word of God" in Scripture, that is the word Logos (except twice, where it is the word "rhema"). When you read the word "Scripture" in Scripture, that's the word "graphe". And graphe and logos are NOT synonyms.

The graphe is the book full of pages that you can hold in your hand and contains a collection of writings and letters that have been assembled and then called the Bible. I have read every graphe (scripture) there is in the New Testament that mentions the graphe. The graphe, according to graphe, is here to be read, to be known, and to be believed. We are to search them, fulfill them, reason out of them, and learn from them. Graphe is inspired by God, and they cannot be broken,  

As powerful as that is, the logos is more so. The Logos is what God is trying to get into your head and heart and soul and spirit in any way he can, which includes through the graphe. The Logos, according to the graphe, is what has power! The Logos (not the Bible) was with God in the beginning, the Logos was actually God! The Logos of God is what God means by the Bible, the Logos of God is what God is, the Logos of God is what He packaged in the flesh and told an angel to tell Joseph to name it Jesus. The Logos of God, the Word of God, IS GOD!!!

I don't know about you, but my mind has been programmed: When I read "Word of God," I think "Bible." As a tragic result, I started out my Christian walk relying on the Bible for things that I can only really rely on the Word of God for.

I know it seems a bit trivial, and God knows that I wish it was. But it is not...not for me, at least. When Scripture is relied on as "the Word of God" rather than as a means of pointing us to "the Word of God", we start elevating the Bible to a place that the Bible is trying to elevate Jesus to.

Don't believe me? Then go back to the top of this email and tell me why Jesus said what he said there?

The graphe, according to graphe, is the authority on (and one of many useful tools) for one ultimate thing...pointing us to the person of Jesus (the Logos) for salvation.   

So I am diligently studying Scripture right now to see what Scripture says about Scripture. And guess what? It is an invaluable, useful, potentially life-saving, life-giving agent for life transformation and eternal salvation! But only if it is used as words recorded for us from God which will point us to the true Word of God...Jesus Christ.

Here's the clarifying question...when you go before God, do you wanna go with your Bible in your hand or Jesus holding your hand? With one you can show God how you followed His rules. With the other, you can be saved.