I come to the bible with baggage

At my church we recently started a new series called “the white space” (click here for the message from last weekend) and it’s a series about exploring;

The Bible.

Who wrote it? Why do we have it? What’s the purpose of it? Is it to be taken literally or not?

How do we engage the Bible in a way that opens us to the kind of transformation and change that it’s meant to bring in our lives individually and together as a community?

I missed out hearing it last weekend, but this morning as I listened to it via the podcast I started dwelling on what the bible means to me, and it led me to realizing that I come to the bible with baggage.

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The baggage I come to the bible is threefold; it’s what I gleaned from the bible through my father’s lens, my mother’s lens, and my own lens.
Disclaimer: not all of what I’ve gleaned over the years can be summed up in “good” or “bad” terms, it’s what I learned and it shaped me and still to a certain extent it shapes me. My views of God and the bible 5 years ago doesn’t necessarily reflect where I am now and what I think, evolution in this regard should be embraced not looked at with contempt.

With that being said, what I gleaned from the bible via my father was a black and white stance, a literal take on nearly everything in the bible. I recognized his emphases were on verses concerning Paul rather than Jesus. I also got the feeling that God was out to get humanity, or at the very least a portion of humanity.
I remember when I was either 6 or 7 in our basement we had a easel with a large pad of paper on it, and on it was the Calvinist TULIP acronym on it and a cross shaped bridge between God and humanity. I learned both of their meanings from my father, but even then I wrestled with this take on God.
From my mom I learned I was not good, because “only God is good”, I was called bad but good was never affixed to me. I also learned sin, as she defined it, was whatever separated us from God (and in a way I still hold onto this view). She instilled the majority of my spiritual life between the two of them; bible studies, read-the-bible-in-a-year, “our daily bread” daily devotional, prayer time.

I don’t regret this part of my upbringing, it laid a foundation, my foundation, of who I am today. It served as building blocks and not stepping stones; that is, it built me spiritually, it wasn’t a jumping off to another item, and so on.

***

And yet, as it naturally happens, my views changed. More to the point, I changed. It was gradual, but I realize a common theme; God put people in my life who indirectly caused me to think differently, a gentle nudging of the Holy Spirit to reexamine my thoughts and ideas and views. I will say this, that whenever you encounter “the others” in your life, you might have to change what you hold dear, because people from all walks of life matter to God.
So many of my thoughts and perspectives were laid to waste, my assumptions and presumptions were dismissed, and my level of grace extended and received multiplied exponentially…Thanks be to God!

But still, I carry quite a bit baggage when it comes to the bible. If I’m honest with myself I am usually combatant when people drop a “well you know Paul said about that” in a conversation, and I’m quick to retort “yeah? Well what did Jesus say about that?” Paul has his say in quite a bit of the New Testament, and I want to delve into what he said but it’s hard for me to do sometimes.

But I want to. I want to engage in difficult texts, I want to engage with Christians who have different stories and philosophies and theologies that differ from my own, I want to and I believe I’m moving in that direction.

This past weekend this model of reading the bible was discussed:
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And it’s what I needed and also what I wanted. God and this model will help me get out of my head and into my heart, inasmuch it’s going from internal practice to external behaviors.
I come with baggage, but I’m able to discard it in a healthy manner that respects both my past and my present, and certainly as God will lead me- my future.

~Nathanael~

Morning meditation 3.30.15

Morning mediation 3.30.15

John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

We live in a world that’s beautiful, and before you try to sway me into thinking / believing otherwise, here’s my 2 litas. As we enter into Holy Week, we know where this road winds; we know the crowds who waved palm branches will be the ones clamoring to crucify Jesus.
And once we get to Golgotha, we face Jesus on the cross. We collectively put him there, and God leveled with humanity and “it is finished” was uttered and Jesus died for all of humanity, and 3 days later rose again.

It is finished, the God so many then (and even now) thought was out to get them, to destroy them, gave his only son as a gift to humanity. ALL of humanity, not a select few, not to those who followed him, not to those who sing the church songs / know the bible verses / tithe 10%… ALL. OF. HUMANITY.

We as followers of Christ should live that out, the actions of what Jesus said and did to those around us. We shouldn’t be living with our heads down, distancing ourselves, and taking on a false piety that we have the corner on God. We don’t and never will.
God reveals Godsself to all of mankind and womankind time and time again. I try to conduct my life in light of what Jesus said and did, I live in light of the resurrection.

And the world before then and now and beyond our finite mortal coils will get progressively better. It might not seem that way, but believe it or not, perfect shalom is on the horizon.
All of humanity will be reconnected and reunited with their creator, all will be set in a place of peace. This I believe with every cell in my body.
“It is finished” is also a posture of moving forward, to play an active role in this world around us. Don’t let your existence be one of coasting, we need you!

It is by playing a part we make the world a beautiful place. It is a good world, and will continue to be because “it is finished”. In Jesus’ death and resurrection, we too find ours as well, and by doing so we can live that out to everyone around us.
There will come a day where everyone will utter this universal truth, and what a glorious day that will be!

~ Nathanael~

subvert the norm; Christmas Eve edition

Christmas Eve musings

It humbles me to think how God subverted the norm through Jesus. How he sent Jesus as a baby, not a conquering warrior. His presence was made known to lowly working class shepherds, not wealthy well-to-dos. He lived a life of love and grace that was modeled upon following not believing. He pointed out the faith of those who occupied his people’s lands and marveled in it. He wrestled with doubt, atheism, and the absence of God.

He demonstrated a way of life that turned everything on its head and was killed because of it. But 3 days later he shattered the walls of death, tore down the separation between God & humanity, and the division was no more because it was indeed finished.

May we continue to subvert the norms of today in the name of God, in the name of good to all. May we love till it hurts. May we unbind the shackles of legalism and self proclaimed religiosity, and extend and receive faith and grace to all. May we see and explore this good world through a lens of color, and not one that’s black and white. May we be part of the process of tikkun olam and perfect shalom.

Be blessed and continue to bless others!

~Nathanael

Seeing with Christ’s eyes; loving my father better

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2 weekends ago at my church we discussed centering prayer, and how to practice this practice:

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In my own time I practiced this out and the word I chose was vision.

Now vision in and of itself doesn’t imply good or even bad vision, it simply means being able to see. As I meditated on this word it was pressed upon my soul that I on my own I have shitty vision when it comes to some individuals in my life, in particularly my father. You see, my father and I have a strained relationship, and some of it is differences in religiousity and some of it is wants/expectations in the other, but this is my narrative so I will stick to my side of the story as it is the only one I truly can convey…
With my own eyes I see my father with shitty vision so much of the time. I want for him to be connected with his humanity, what really makes him real, what makes him alive, and so I self-impose the kind of father I want upon my father directly but so often indirectly. Life since I moved out (and even before then) was hit and miss, and I miss connecting with him, no agenda in mind, just being and doing something with him.

So as I was praying and meditating, vision came to mind, my vision in particular. It was pressed upon my heart and mind that my vision needs to be altered, that my vision when it comes to view myself and others needs to be that of Christ’s. Jesus’ vision was 20-20, he saw people with love and he saw clearly the person before him; he reached out to others and a lot of the time he simply asked them what do you me to do? He didn’t say this with an accusatory tone, but one of love.

In a way, the cataracts of my soul have started healing as a result. So fast forward to last Saturday, my father and I hung out over lunch and a movie, and it was a lot of fun! He showed me a pen he had made for me (his hobby / passion / artist expression is wood working):
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and a few others he had recently made:
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All in all it was a good time with my father, and I attribute it to finally seeing my father through the eyes of Christ. The eyes of Christ sees my father in this way, but myself and all of humanity included! The river of grace runs wide and runs deep for all.

See with the eyes of Christ and change your world!
~Nathanael~

Jesus is the filter of the Bible for me to go and do likewise

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I grew up in a household where the Bible was read regularly and at length; my sisters, mother, and I collectively read through the Bible from Genesis through Revelation at least a half dozen times, and I know personally I read it on my own a few more times than that. Still we read it at face value, didn’t ask too many questions apart from what does it say? What does it mean? How can I apply it to my life? And certainly didn’t question the contents. But even then I wasn’t too keen on the Bible, I liked Proverbs and Biblical characters such as David, Samson, Esther, etc. but as we read it from cover-to-cover I couldn’t wait for us to start the New Testament portion and to read and learn about what Jesus said and did.

As an adult (a 30 year old adult since Saturday) I honestly don’t read the Bible as often as I used to. As I type I observe my row of books that I want to read through for understanding this summer. At one book end is my Orthodox Study Bible (and if you must know, running ultra-marathons for dummies is on the other end) and I am sort of weighed down by it. Not because it is necessarily because it is the Bible, but because I know when I pick it up I will not judge it at face value, I will write down my thoughts, I might highlight passages, but ultimately I will read the Bible and use Jesus as the filter from which I will read it.

***

I was talking to an awesome individual yesterday over coffee and I asked him his take on reading the Bible, as I disclosed to him I haven’t picked it up in a while. He had good insight and while I won’t disclose much of it here, I do realize he’s in a similar place as I when it comes to the contents of the Bible. It certainly needs to be read in context (i.e. the entiretyof the Bible) but Jesus, as Colossians states, “the visible representation of the invisible God” is the means in which we should read the Bible.
Because if I am honest with myself and the contents of the Bible, it is a messy complicated book that sometimes it doesn’t wrap up nicely nor does it truly leave me with “the warm fuzzies”. Genocide, murder, incest, war, etc. further complicates things, and sometimes the questions I read into the Bible doesn’t answer the Bible’s more troubling aspects such as Psalm 137:9 when it says “Happy is the one who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks.” I’m not about to explore the meaning let alone apply it to my life.

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So that’s why Jesus is and will be the filter in which I read the Bible. I am, and this isn’t to get a rise out of anyone, willing to scrap portions of the Bible I don’t agree with if it conflicts with what Jesus said and did. Trust me, Jesus did this as well (as pointed out by the awesome individual I invested time with); those passages that say “You have heard that it was said…but I tell you that…” points to a Jesus who knew his scriptures, but didn’t necessarily agree with sections of what he read. I am not Jesus, I only intend to glean from his existence, his life, his work, and what he said and apply that to my life so as to “go and do likewise”. So if Jesus is willing to scrap portions of the Bible, why can’t I?

So that is the journey and how I plan on going about reading the Bible this summer. It flies in the face of how I was taught to read the Bible, but I (and yes, I’d hope this is true) am evolving and becoming more of a follower of Christ in my words and actions, and so for me that is the only way I perceive reading the Bible. It won’t be easy, but I have faith God will meet me where I’m at through and through. I will ask questions, I will doubt and certainly question the validity of the Bible’s contents at times, but ultimately I take in what I read and aim to take what I use and use Jesus as the filter.

~Nathanael~