Part 5: The Bible (Christian But Not series)

Summary of my previous posts laying the foundation for this post:

Christian: a person who has anything to do with Christ

Disciple: a person who is totally committed to following Jesus and all He said

Jesus did not call us to be Christians. He called us to be disciples.

Disciples give up their own truth for Jesus’ Truth

Jesus prayed, “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” John 17:17 

I think we would all agree we would find God’s word – truth – in the Bible.

I started to write this blog as a history and explanation of the different versions of the Bible we can find everywhere.  I spent several days researching the Bible. It was a fascinating. But that’s not where I’m supposed to go with this blog. Then I tried writing about statistics of what Christians and non-Christians believed about the Bible. Again I spent a couple days researching. But that’s not where I’m supposed to go with this blog either. As much as I love learning about the Bible’s history and translations, there are many web sites of scholars who do so much better than I ever could. And as much as I am fascinated with statistics and what people believe, there are web sites that provide that information better than I can.

And then I ran into this:

Christians use the Bible. Disciples read the Bible.

And I knew where I am supposed to go.

Christians use the Bible to support and promote their views. Disciples read the Bible to form their views.

Christians use the Bible to point fingers at others. Disciples read the Bible to point their fingers at themselves.

For Christians, opinions come first, then Scripture. For disciples, Scripture comes first, then opinions.

We all know that Christians on both sides of every issue can find something in the Bible to support their views. Many times, the scripture is taken out of context, misunderstood, misinterpreted, or misused. Hopefully the Christians doing so don’t know that they’re doing so. But sadly, there are Christians who don’t care. If they can get a scripture to justify their opinions, then they feel entitled to use it to condemn others. This is not new. It’s been happening since the first Christians. Paul had to address it to the Roman Christians.

Romans 14:14-19 As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master[a] that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. 10 Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; 11 for it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess[b] to God.” 12 So then each of us will give an account of himself to God. 13 Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. 14 I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. 15 For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. 16 So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. 17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. 19 So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.

In a nutshell, Some Christians were condemning other Christians for breaking the law. They used the Old Testament and years of tradition to back them up. Other Christians were condemning those who were still living under the law instead of in the freedom Christ provided. They used Paul’s letters to other churches (they didn’t have the New Testament yet, but some of the letters Paul wrote were already circulating between groups of Christians) to back up their opinion.

Galatians 4:21:26 Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman. But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, while the son of the free woman was born through promise. Now this may be interpreted allegorically: these women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar. Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother.

Galatians 5:1  For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and so not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

Sound familiar? Christians fighting Christians, each using the Bible to condemn the other? I could think of numerous examples just by looking at doctrinal differences between denominations. But I also see it outside the lines of denomination. One huge example is how Trump followers use the Bible to condemn Biden followers, and Biden followers use it to condemn Trump followers. Or how Republicans and Democrats are using the Bible to justify their own side and condemn the other.

Both groups are using the Bible to defend their opinions, just like those Christians in Rome. And both groups are missing the bigger picture. 

God’s message has been clear since Genesis. Love Him. Love each other. Live in peace with each other.

Matthew 22:35-40  35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Isaiah 32:15-18 until the Spirit is poured upon us from on high, and the wilderness becomes a fruitful field, and the fruitful field is deemed a forest. Then justice will dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness abide in the fruitful field. And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever. My people will abide in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places.  

Matthew 5:9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

The Roman Christians showed in their fighting that they were using the Bible for their own agendas.

Paul, a disciple, showed that he had read the Bible and was responding using that lens. He knew the bigger picture. (Reread his letter to the Romans quoted above if you are guilty of reading familiar Scriptures like I do – skimming through them because I think I already know what they say.)

As disciples, we are not called to use the Bible. We are called to read it. How would our families, our work places, our stores, our roads, our leisure activities, our churches, our communities be different if we began reading the Bible instead of using it? If we lived as disciples instead of Christians?

I think it’s time to find out.

Love Signs

Love Signs

Suddenly,

When I least expect it

I see something,

A sign,

That reminds me that

I am loved

By God,

The Creator of all things.

It amazes me

that

The God of the Universe

Loves me.

And

He loves you too.

2 Cor 13:14  The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

Peek-A-Boo

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Just when you think there’s no end to the swirling dark clouds in your life,

God gives you a peek…

Past your view and into His.

For just a few moments, you can see the brightness of His glorious presence,

And know all is well.

And if you’re really observant,

You might even see His heart.

 


 

Psalm 115:3  Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.
Psalm 94:19  When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul.

 

Amusement Park: Helicopter Ride

Amusement Park: Helicopter ride

“Ready to go higher?” Jesus asked.

“Higher? If we go any higher we’re going to…” Amalia froze. He didn’t really mean that, did He? This was supposed to be a restful ride, nothing scary. She stared at Him, unable to voice her fear. 0614202137 (2)

His eyes twinkled back at her. “Yup. And you’ll love it. So do you want to go higher with Me?”

Nodding slowly, she knew she’d go anywhere Jesus wanted to take her. She wasn’t sure if He meant the same thing she feared, but just in case, she held on tighter. If this helicopter broke free and went off into space, she wanted to be ready.

The small helicopter thus far had been moving in a slow, mechanical way. Although she controlled the up and down movements, the long metal bar to which it was attached kept it from going too high or too low as it revolved around a center column. It kept her safe from dangerous extremes. Now Jesus spoke of going higher. Heart beating faster, she waited to see what He meant.

He took the controls, and they began climbing.

At first nothing seemed to change.. She looked at Jesus and waited. When was He going to do His thing? Something totally unexpected and crazy and marvelous? But they just kept rising and revolving as they had been doing since they got on this ride. Should she ask Him about it? Or should she keep quiet? Maybe He’d forget and they could just finish the ride in a safe and ordinary way.

A few minutes passed. They were still rising.

She looked at Him again. The smile on His face was bigger, brighter, and more joyous than she had ever seen. Not just His smile – his whole body seemed to be brighter, reflecting the light that streamed down on Him.

No, not just on Him, on both of them.

Wait… the light was not streaming down on Him. It was streaming out from Him. He was the source of the light, which was growing more brilliant by the minute.

She was about to say something, but he stopped her.

“Shhh. Just take it in.” He whispered.

She sat back, noting that they were still rising, and let her eyes wander as she focused on the light’s sensation. The warmth she expected. But there was something else about it, something she couldn’t quite identify. Something good. Like she was being hugged from the inside out with the longest, most passionate hug she’d ever experienced. Tears filled her eyes as she surrendered to the embrace.

Too soon, she heard Jesus whisper. “Amy, Me beloved, look down.”

She did, and gasped. The amusement park looked the size of a flea circus.

“We’re so high! How…?” She shook her head. She didn’t’ need an explanation. Jesus had done His thing.

“This is how great My love for you is. And even greater. When you go through rough times, remember what you’ve experienced today. My love will be just as great then as it is now.”

The love, still flowing through her as she stared at the tiny rides below, filled her so completely that all she could do was nod. Slowly, as they descended, the light’s brilliancy dimmed to ordinary light. Disappointed, she tried to hang on to the inner embrace, but that feeling was also slowly fading away. By the time they joined the other helicopters, still revolving around the center column, it was all but a memory. A memory she was going to hang on to as long as she could.

 


 

Has anyone else experienced the loving embrace of God? What was it like for you?

 

Scriptures:

Psalm 103:11  For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;

Psalm 46:10  “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations. I will be exalted in the earth!”

1 John 4:16  So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.

John 8:12 (I Am the Light of the World) Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

 

Amusement Park: Swinging Box

Amusement Park: Swinging Box

“How about that ride?” Jesus pointed to a box hanging by four poles from a horizontal bar.  “I love riding this one!”

Amalia agreed, and they climbed in. “This swing is supposed to be able to go all the way around, right?”

“Yes, if you keep working at it.”

“I’m ready.”

Amalia waited. But nothing happened. No motor came on to move them. The box remained stationary.

“Is this ride broken? Why isn’t it swinging?”

“It’s waiting for you.”

“For me? What do I have to do? I’m already inside, standing up, holding on to the wall handles. I’m ready. So why doesn’t someone push the button to get this ride moving?” She leaned out the window. “Hey, anybody out there?”

“Amalia, You have to get it moving.”

“How do I do that?” She studied the walls, ceiling, and floor. “There are no buttons in here either.”

“The power comes from your body. You have to move, and then the box will move.”

“Oh, okay, if I have to.” She began hopping, jumping from foot to foot. The box jiggled, 0605202043 (2)but didn’t start swinging. She jumped harder, willing the box to swing, but it only jiggled more violently. “Come on, box! Why are you just jiggling? Start swinging!”  Frustrated at the lack of desired response, she looked at Jesus. He was laughing.

 

“Why are You laughing?”

“I’m laughing at the confusion this box must have, being jumped on like that. It’s reacting exactly as it should to what you are doing.”

“What do you mean? I’m trying as hard as I can to get it to swing, but it just bounces!”

“I know. But have you noticed that when you jump up and down, the box does the same?”

“How else am I supposed to get it to move?” Amalia frowned. “Besides, I like jumping.”

“Think about how a swing works. Specific movements are required. Any other movements won’t result in the swing moving in the direction it was made to move. You know, it’s kind of like when you do acts of service for people. You have to fit your actions to what they need. If you do only what you like or want, you won’t get worthwhile results.”

“What do you mean?”

“When you help people, you want to make their lives a little better, right? You want to bring them some happiness, share some love, or meet a need they have. But what if you only did what you wanted? What if someone needed their yard mowed, but you only liked to give food. If you went to them with food, they wouldn’t be very appreciative. They might be confused, or maybe even hurt that you weren’t really thinking about them.”

“Okay, I think I get it. “ She imagined sitting on a swing, and focused on which movements the swing needed her body to make into order to move. “Oh, I have to shift my weight frontwards and backwards.”

Amalia rocked back and forth. The box began to swing slightly. “It’s working!”

“Great! Keep going!”

After a while, sweaty from the effort, Amalia stopped moving. “Jesus, this is too hard. I’ve done my best, but I can only get halfway up. Can You help me?”

“I thought you’d never ask!”

He threw His weight with hers, and the box quickly climbed higher with each swing. Soon the momentum of the box’s movements added to their effort, and Amalia found that she didn’t have to work as hard at it as she had at the beginning.

“This is fantastic!” Amalia laughed aloud.

With Jesus grinning by her side, they continued shifting their weight, and the box climbed even higher. Higher and higher and higher, until they were directly above the horizontal bar. They lingered there just a moment, before swinging back down, and up the other side until they were above the horizontal bar again.

Amalia marveled. To be suspended up in the air like that had to be one of the most fascinating experiences she’s ever had.

And then it got better. On the next swing up, instead of lingering at the top, it kept moving. It continued down the back, then up and over again, making complete circles around the horizontal bar.

Amalia couldn’t contain her enthusiasm. “More! More!”

“That’s enough for now. Your body isn’t ready to maintain this for long. You need to take time to rest.”

Disappointed as the box slowly settled to a gentle swing, and then to a stop, Amalia realized her body was indeed spent. Jesus was right. She did need a rest.

And then, she reassured herself, she would get Him to take her up on this ride again.

 

– – – – – – – – – – – – –

How do you know what people need?

All comments and suggestions are greatly appreciated!

 

Scriptures:

Philippians 2:4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Galatians 6:9-10 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.

Romans 12:10-11 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.

Mark 6:30-31a The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. And he said to them, Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest for a while.

Dear Little Seeker (from Someone Who Loves You series)

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Dear Little Seeker,

Are you looking for a message from me? This is a good place to look. And you know what? There’s an even faster place. I can send you a message right through the air! And it’s so fast you will get it as soon as I send it! Did you know that I’ve written a book with you in mind? That book has a message in it, too. I love you so much that I’m always thinking of other ways to send messages to you. And you know what would make me really happy? If you would send me a message, too!

Always,

Someone Who Loves You

 

Matthew 4:4  But he answered, “It is written, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

 

Do you hear God speaking to you in these letters? If so, it’s no coincidence.  As I write to my new granddaughter, I can hear God speaking to me. And my prayer is that you can also hear Him speaking to you for He loves us even more than I love my granddaughter.

Dear Little Generous One (From Someone Who Loves You series)

 

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Dear Little Generous One,

You make me so proud when I see you trying to share your things with others. You have such a kind heart. There will be people who will look at you with distrust. They might even reject you. But it’s not important how they react to your offer. What’s important is what I think of your offer. And I think it’s awesome! Keep on giving, my small one! You delight me each time!

Proudly,

Someone Who Loves You

 

Hebrews 13:16  Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

 

Do you hear God speaking to you in these letters? If so, it’s no coincidence.  As I write to my new granddaughter, I can hear God speaking to me. And my prayer is that you can also hear Him speaking to you for He loves us even more than I love my granddaughter.

Dear Caged One (From Someone Who Loves You Series)

 

Ever wonder why there are boundaries in your life? Are they there because someone enjoys seeing you get frustrated? Maybe someone is unhappy and wants you to be unhappy too, keeping you from all the fun things on the other side? Or maybe because they don’t want to bothered by you? Or maybe it’s an unfair challenge they want you to conquer?

Or maybe boundaries are there to keep you safe. Safe from the 15 steep steps going down to the first floor. And from the large white rambunctious dog down there that could accidentally hurt you.

Instead of looking at where you can’t go, turn around and look at where you can go. Like to the things to climb on and the big box of toys to play with and the books to look at. And the person up there with you who is always ready and eager to hold you and love you and play with you.

All you have to do is turn around.

Always,

Someone who loves you

 

 

Psalm 16:5-6 Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places., and I have a delightful inheritance.

 

Do you hear God speaking to you in these letters? If so, it’s no coincidence.  As I write to my new granddaughter, I can hear God speaking to me. And my prayer is that you can also hear Him speaking to you for He loves us even more than I love my granddaughter.

At First Glance

She was surprised to find the cracked sidewalk, cracked for 6 months now. She was used to seeing the broken and dead trees, the blue tarped houses, collapsed buildings, and piles of debris. But a cracked sidewalk? How does a hurricane crack a sidewalk like this?

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She was so perplexed by those cracks that she barely noticed the small insignificant cluster of flowers growing nearby. At first glance they appeared to be nothing special.

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But as she walked closer, the colors of the flowers became brighter, catching her eye. She stopped to really look at them, stepping even closer, and was amazed at their beauty.

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Isn’t that just like God, she thought. Even in the midst of overwhelming destruction, His grace and love – His beauty – can be found. Yet often it’s hidden in what appears to be insignificant places and easily missed by those who are too busy or too hardened to look.

“Lord,” she prayed with a smile. “Wherever you lead me, let me never become too busy or too hardened to see the grace you plant along the way.”

Bella – Epilogue 

Bella spent many days visiting the lake. No matter how often or what time she arrived, she would find God there. And no matter how many questions she asked, He always answered them patiently. Some answers were clear and easy to understand, others were a bit vaguer.

“Why did You tell me You were Pastor Toby when I first met You?”

“If I had told you I was God, what would you have done?”

She thought a moment, then laughed. “I’d have run as fast and as far as I could to get away from You.”

“That’s why. I meet people where they are. I reveal only what they are ready to hear.”

“What is this place? This church that seems bigger on the inside than it appears from the outside?”

“Kind of like spiritual life. From the outside, life with Me often seems small and contained when actually it’s very much the opposite.”

Bella nodded with understanding.

“And why does Your back yard look so different to me than it did to that lady who saw a forest?”

“Because each of you have a totally unique relationship with Me. What you see and experience is based on who you are and how I made you.”

“OK, I can get that. What I can’t understand is how this place can be two things at once. Or more likely thousands of things at once.”

“I’m not bound by your laws of physics. I’m beyond any law.”

“But… thousands??”

“I’m big,” He said with a shrug. “Thousands is nothing to Me.”

“So if You’re that big, how can You take notice of something as small as me?”

“Because of all the things I’ve created, I love you the most.”

Bella smiled. Amazing, she thought, that this God could love her this much. Little did she know how much her God really did love her. That would be revealed to her at another time, when she was ready. For now, she was content to sit His presence, soaking up His love, and learning all she could each day.

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The End

 

Bella stories:

I’m Not Hurt, Not Really Part 1 Part 2

Bella part 6   9  10  11 12  13   14  15   16

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