What if the Bible Is Not Our Guide?

This Book Doesn't Have Any Answers

Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth – the B.I.B.L.E.  Have you heard the Bible explained that way?  It’s clever.  But is it accurate?  

I said in my teaching Sunday that I used to think the clever acrostic is accurate.  But not anymore.  Let’s be honest.  The Bible isn’t really a very good instruction manual or guide book.  

I know.  That rubs us the wrong way.  But, as Billy Sunday said, and I paraphrase:  “If something rubs you the wrong way, maybe you need to turn around.” 

I needed to turn around.  Maybe you do too. 

Think with me:  The Bible tells us, for example, to “Be kind to one another,” “Love one another – even our enemies,” “Give generously to the poor.”  All good. 

But next to these good things are some bad things- really bad things:  

Rape (Deuteronomy 21:10-14; Numbers 31:15-18); 

Slavery (1 Peter 2:18; Titus 2:9) 

Genocide (Deuteronomy 7:1-2; Deuteronomy 20:15-17) 

…are all commanded – by God.  At least the writers pass the buck to God for these commands.  Are those instructions ones that we should follow?  I hope you’’ll answer “No”.

One more thing. It doesn’t make much sense to claim that the Bible is an “infallible” guide in what it says if we cannot agree on what it says.  “But we agree on the essentials,” I hear someone saying.  We really don’t.  Go to amazon.com  and type in “four views” in the search bar and get ready to “turn around.”  We’re given page after page of books about various ways of interpreting key Christian doctrines:

Four Views on Hell

Four Views of Atonement

Four Views on Divine Providence

Four Views on Eternal Security

These are not peripheral issues.  These are some “big rocks” of Christianity.  In each book we find opposing views in which each proponent is absolutely certain that their particular interpretation of the Bible is the right one.  

If the Bible spoke clearly on these issues then why isn’t there a “The Only View” series.

So, if we remove the Bible as our guide, what do we put in its place?  Are we just free to do whatever we want – to do what is right in our own eyes (Judges 21:5)? 

I offered, Sunday morning, an option given to me by mother throughout my junior high and high school years.  Here is the question she told me to ask myself when considering the rightness or the wrongness of an action: “When you consider this action, ask yourself, ‘does the life of Jesus well up inside of you?’”  

That’s good.  

Denise and I went to Little Rock after Sunday’s service to see my dad.  Drinking a glass of wine and eating Girl Scout cookies, (what are the rules for pairing wine with Girl Scout Cookies) with dad, my sister and Denise, around dad’s kitchen table, I asked dad about mom’s counsel to me.  He told me mom read that in a book by Watchman Nee, an author that greatly influenced my parents.   

For 52 years I’ve been under the impression that mom came up with that on her own!

So, this morning, I did a quick Google search trying to find the exact quote.  I didn’t find mom’s version of it but I did find the following statements by Watchman Nee.   

Read them with an open mind.  Contemplatively. And get ready  to “turn around.”  

“Brothers and sisters, as we live before God, our actions must not be determined by good and evil, but by the life within.”

Hmm. “Actions determined…by the life within.”  Let’s go on…

“When we have the life within and feel life rising up, we are doing the proper thing.” That sounds a bit like Mom’s version. 

Then there’s this from Nee: “Many problems arise because we only have a standard of right and wrong.  Many mistakes are made because we do not have the standard of life.”

Then Nee, a mystical Christian,  offers this prayer,

“Grace me so that I live by the tree of life, not by the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  I want to constantly pay attention to life…”

Mom was telling me, and I’m just now really hearing it: “Don’t live by an external rule book (the Bible), instead, live by an internal life – the life that is “graced” by  the Spirit of Christ.  

Have you been indoctrinated into seeing the Bible as your guide?  

Yes.  We need a guide.  No doubt about that! 

But have we settled for an external law when we have within us an internal life?  

“So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives and you will not obey your selfish desires (Paul to the Galatians, found in 5:16).

“And when that one comes, the Spirit will guide you into all truth” (Jesus, to his disciples, recorded by John, in 16:13).  

“Pay attention to life” the Christ-shaped life within (Watchman Nee to Mom; then Mom to me).  

I will live in the awareness of the presence of life in me and I will pay attention to it.

That will be my guide.

The Teeter-Totter Connection

Teeter Totter

Have you seen or read about the “Teeter-Totter Wall.”  You had to look fast because it was only up for 30 minutes.  

 

In contrast to the tensions that we feel surrounding what’s happening at the wall, seeing a teeter-totter through the wall with kids of all ages cooperating and connecting, made me smile.  And that can’t be a bad thing.  

 

The teeter-totter was designed 10 years ago – yes, you read that right – 2009 – by Ronald Rael, an architecture professor at the University of California at Berkeley, and Virginia San  Fratello, an associate professor of design at San Jose State University. It was installed July 29, 2019.

 

Not everyone liked the teeter-totters.  Brandon Judd, the president of the National Border Patrol Council and a border control agent gave this commentary: “Stunts like this do nothing but try to paint a narrative that frankly is false and try to get the public sentiment on their side.  They don’t work in the real world and don’t know how the real world goes – frankly, they shoudn’t be doing this.”  

 

I get what he’s thinking and saying.  But his statement makes me consider the question, “What is really real and what is false?”

 

Maybe he’s wrong and Carole King was right when she sang “Only Love is Real”.  “Everything else illusion,” she wrote.  Maybe all this hate, violence, racism, fear, economic deprivation, is not who we are.  Maybe they are imposters who have stolen our true identity.  

 

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), was a Doctor of the Church – not the M.D. kind, more like the PhD kind.  The Catholic Church gave the title of “Doctor” to those who made a “significant contribution to theology or doctrine though their research, study, or writing.”

 

Check out this “contribution” from Doctor Thomas: 

 

“All things love God.  All things are united according 

to friendship to each other and to God.”  

 

“Come on Dr. Aquinas.  Get real. Don’t be so naive.  That’s not how the real world is or how the real world works,” some may think.    Well, maybe the premodern saint and sage is on to something. Maybe the mystic recognized what science tells us today:  “There is an interconnection of all things.”  And, if all things are interconnected, isn’t there wisdom in seeing all things as friends?  We have science and spirituality teaching us, drawing us to look beyond the surface to the core.  At that core we find connection.  

 

Sesame Street gave us “The Rainbow Connection.”  

Why not a Teeter-Totter connection?  

 

Look again at the above picture and let it remind us that we are all connected.

 

Jesus and Yoga

yoga 2

“To yoga or not to yoga,” that is the question. 

It’s at least a question that I’ve been asked a half-dozen times over the last few days.  The questioners had been told that yoga was demonic – and that yogis would be opening themselves to demonic power. 

(Just for clarification, a “yogi” is a person who practices yoga.   It is not referring to Yogi Bear, Yogi Berra, or Yogi Tea).

I’ll start with a quick answer to the question:  “I’m not good at yoga, but I am definitely good with yoga.”

Now, let’s upack why I’m good with it.  

1.  I have grown weary of Christians being known more for what we’re against than what we’re for.  Let’s see, just in my lifetime, there has been rock music, movies, cards, wine, dancing, long hair, tattoos, swimming with the opposite sex, kissing someone before you are engaged, reading “Harry Potter” or “DaVinci Code.”

Have I missed one?  Probably.  You can add your own.  Well, Yoga, for some people, is on the list.  

Each of these activities, we were told, can lead to your spiritual downfall. Wouldn’t it be nice to be known what we’re for – love, kindness, goodness.

2.  Because yoga has Hindu roots, a lot of Christians condemn it.  Two things here -First,  “All truth is God’s truth.” – Thank-you, Augustine.  Just because something does not have a “Christian” label, doesn’t make it untrue or unChristlike.  The universal Christ is much bigger than our culture.  Second, will the good folks who condemn yoga based on its Hindu roots have a Christmas tree in their house in a few weeks?  According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, and other sources, that Christmas tree in our living rooms has its origin in pre-Christian worship of trees and pagan customs.  Throughout history, Christians have taken something from the culture and re-framed it, re-interpreted it, giving it new meaning as a symbol of Christianity. 

Maybe people are doing that with yoga.  Why not? Christmas trees and yoga.  I like them both.  

3. Is yoga like the meat offered to idols which Paul addresses in 1 Corinthians 8:1-8? Maybe so.  “Can I put this meat that had been used as a sacrifice to an idol on my sandwich?”  That was the question asked by Christians in Corinth.  

Here’s Paul’s answer:  “We know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is no God but one…Food will not bring us close to God.We are not worse off if we don’t eat, and we are not better if we do eat,” 

“But,” Paul adds, some people’s consciences are so weak they can’t separate the meat from the idol.”  So, to them, Paul seems to say, “Don’t eat the meat.”  To others? “Pile it on the sandwich and enjoy.”

Maybe there are some “weak consciences” when it comes to yoga. Maybe for Paul, and others, yoga is just fine.  

4.  The term “yoga” is from the Sanskrit word yuj, which has three meanings:

  1. To “unite” or “yoke” as in uniting/yoking together our mind and body and spirit. 
  2. To be aware.  Nothing exists except awareness.  
  3. To have control or focus.  

Those things don’t seem too scary, do they? In fact, they sound kind of spiritual – not too different from the spiritual disciplines many of us have been taught.

See how these expressions of yoga fit with our connection to Christ:

a.  It is God’s purpose to “bring everything together in Christ, both things in heaven and things on earth in him” (Ephesians 1:10). Yoga recognizes and releases the interconnectedness between our mind, body, and spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:23). 

b.  Awareness. Oh my goodness, I need this.  How many distractions there are in life! The notifications buzzing, ringing, vibrating on my phone.  Non-stop news.  Incessant talking. 

I need something that helps me tune out everything except my awareness of the present – of my breathing – of the peace that comes from being still. 

“Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).

Yoga helps make that real. 

c.  To have control or focus.  Wow. I need that, too.   I need to control my thoughts, my desires, myself!  Isn’t that kind of a part of the whole Christianity thing?  

“I discipline my body and keep it under control so I won’t be disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:27 – Paul was a sports fan).

“For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7).  

Yoga can help us move toward a sense of union with God…

…union with ourselves.

…union with all of God’s creation.  

Yoga can create an environment in which I intensify my awareness of:

….wow, I’m tight!

…my breathing.

…God’s presence in me and love for me.  

You know that “the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak” thing (Matthew 26:41)? Yoga helps make both strong.  It combines both to make both strong.  

I’m good with that.  

 

Trying to Live in the Now

Garth Live in the Now

 

“If we don’t call you in a week, that means the biopsies came back clear.  We now only call if the biopsies come back as melanoma.”

So I’m waiting.  It will be a week tomorrow.

This is nothing  new to me.   Every 3-6 months for the last five years, I’ve waited for a call.

Five years ago I had a melanoma removed from my arm.  Four months ago I had a melanoma removed from my face.  “Scarface” is my new nickname.  The doctor says that eventually the scar won’t even be noticeable.  He’s good at what he does so he’s probably right.  Although, honestly, I wouldn’t mind having a bit of a scar.  It adds some character. Makes me feel tough.

They used to call whether the news was good or bad.  Now they only call if it’s bad.  I get that.  Calling takes a lot of time because there are a lot of patients.

It used to be that when I saw their number pop up I wondered, “What will it be?” Now, if it pops up, I’ll know without even talking to them.”

So I’m waiting.

I’m watching the phone.

I’m wondering.

And yes, I’m worrying.

I know I shouldn’t worry.  So I’m also worrying about worrying!

I’m remembering Garth’s advice.  I’m reading The Power of the Now by Eckart Tolle.  Tolle nails it, “This kind of psychological fear is always of something that might happen, not of something that is happening now.  You are in the here and now, while your mind is in the future. This creates an anxiety gap.”   You think?

“You can always cope with the present moment,  but you cannot cope with something that is only a mind projection – you cannot cope with the future.”  

“Now” is the key to the dimension of peace.

Then there are the sayings in the Bible.  I’ve preached them more times than I can count! But I haven’t learned to practice them.  I haven’t moved into that dimension of transformation.  I want to.

“Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow.  God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes (Matthew 6:34 The Message).  

“And now I have a word for you who brashly announce, ‘Today – at the latest, tomorrow – we’re off to such and such a city for the year.  We’re going to start a business and make a lot of money’  You don’t know the first thing about tomorrow.  You’re nothing but a wisp of fog, catching a brief bit of sun before disappearing.  Instead, make it a habit to say, ‘If the Master wills it and we’re still alive, we’ll do this or that.’  As it is,  you are full of your grandiose selves.  All such vaunting self-importance is evil.  In fact, if you know the right thing to do and don’t do it, that, for  you, is evil” (James 4:13-17 The Message).  

Did you catch the drift?

“Give your attention to what God is doing Right Now…”

“You don’t know the first thing about tomorrow…do the right thing now. If I don’t do now what I know is right, that is sin (Yes, I paraphrased it).

What is happening now?  What is God saying and doing now?  What is the right thing to do now?  I don’t know tomorrow.  I don’t know the next minute.  So I will live now.  I will love now.  I will do right and do good now.  At least I want to.

Oh, that phone call?  Believe it or not, I forgot about it while I was writing.  That’s good.  Maybe I’m making progress.

 

 

 

Live Now

image1

 

I asked a friend for the title of a book that has meant a lot to her. I respect her and wanted to read something that means something to her. Her pick: Way of the Peaceful Warrior, by Dan Millman.

I finished it yesterday.

Great pick.

My thought this week is from this book. A character in the story, nicknamed Socrates, tells his apprentice, “There is a saying: ‘When you sit, sit; when you stand, stand; whatever you do, don’t wobble.’ Once you make your choice, do it with all your spirit.” Socrates then gives a metaphor that hits home with me: “Don’t be like the preacher who thought about praying while making love to his wife, and thought about making love to his wife while praying.”

That made me chuckle. Denise too.

The take-away? Live in the now. Live in the present.

Sunday is Father’s Day. The take-away fits. With your family, with your kids, live in the now.
I didn’t live that way with my boys.
We did a lot of things together, but I wasn’t totally there for those things.
For them.
I was there in body, but parts of my mind, my emotions, my attention were with the church – deacons or elders, staff, sermon preparation, a family in crisis. There was always something else.

I regret that.

What did I miss by not being “in the moment”?

So, today, I am intentionally living now. In the moment. Every moment. Not the next moment. Not the last moment. The present moment.

The days are long gone when our boys were living with Denise and me. But, I’m not living in regret of those missed yesterday moments. I will, though, do better in the present moments.

Happy Father’s Day!