The Bible is not the Bible

Before I start writing this post let me explain that this isn’t some Matrix-y there is no spoon metaphysical post. This isn’t a post that is trying to determine what is really is, it’s more about the words used to describe something, and in this case the text I am describing is the religious text primarily used by Christians. I am a follower of Christ and I read this text, I don’t have a full grasp on it, and I actually don’t think it’s possible, but here’s my thoughts on how the Bible is not the Bible.

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It strikes me that the religious text Christians use is called the Bible, and yet apart from Christianity the word Bible is used as well. A brief perusing on Amazon has found me these Bibles; Boston’s Gun Bible, Tim Gunn’s Fashion Bible, The Cook’s Bible, The Dog Bible, Mini Car Bible, and so on.

The thing is, the way Bible is used for the above books are from the perspective that what’s contained in the compendium is the be-all end-all final word on the product, whether it’s about guns or fashion, these Bibles start and finish, and if you have the Bible that’s all you need.
Yet with my faith, The Bible as my faith’s religious text is not a Bible. What’s contained in The Bible isn’t a rule book, a be-all end-all, something that someone can say out loud with audacity “The Bible says it/I believe it/That settles it.” This last statement to me perplexes and bothers me to no end, really? The Bible says it, so you believe it, and that…*gulp*…settles it? I’m not going to tackle the verses some Christians use to clobber members of the LGBT community, instead I will tackle briefly Psalms 137:9 which says

How blessed will be the one who seizes and dashes your little ones against the rock
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If the statement of The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it, in light of the psalm written by David is “that settles it” a healthy response to the text? Well considering the book of Psalms is essentially a book of poetry about God, about life, about lamenting, and celebrating. David, who certainly had a way with words both in this Psalm and others, was probably writing out his frustration in a pretty grim way, about what was going on in his life and sometimes you gotta bring out the heavy guns with your language, and I am sure that when this Psalm was written the individuals who read it at that time “golf clapped” David for his latest Psalm I am pretty sure it rocked their minds.

So when you get down to it, the Bible is the story of God and it is the story of us…but story is it’s our story, and yet our story consists in our life and every up, down, twist, and turn along the way. Then there’s the instructions in how to live that comes from God through Jesus in which we’re called to not just be hearers of the word but doers of the word, to “go and do likewise”, to love God and to love others…That is what the Bible is about, our conduct unto God and others, about making life the quality of life for ourselves and others better, to go and make disciples. It starts with God and it also ends with God, The Bible is very much a part of it but it isn’t the be-all end-all, we have our lives to lead that should mirror what I think sums up what God wants us to do as found in John 13:34-35 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

Live a life of love!

~Nathanael~

Wrestling with God, Theodicy, and Free Will

Lately I’ve been wrestling with God, Theodicy, and Free Will…but after much prayer and thought, I’ve come to a resolution that appeases me.

Theodicy is a struggle of putting two and two together; the components are if God is all loving/all knowing/all powerful, how come evil still happens in the world, would not such a God do away with such things? And if he doesn’t intercede, is he still all loving/all knowing/all powerful?
I struggled (and maybe I will struggle again) because I see pain quite often and sometimes even too much, the behavior of one human being against another or many just saddens me and drives me to lament over the atrocities that happen around this world of ours. While struggling, while doubting, while just feeling nothing…God showed up.

God didn’t break it down for me, but his presence and love that wrapped around me struck me as an “I know, I know” kind of feeling.

The thing is that I think God is all loving, all powerful, and all knowing, but the reason why he doesn’t step in when horrible things happen is because of free will. Free will gives us all sorts of freedoms, and essentially we’re able to do a lot of good…but we’re also capable of doing a lot of bad.

It is within this free will that we’re able to decide to follow God or not, whether we’re going to help others out who are in need or not, choice is ours and if we don’t make a choice in a matter that is also our choice (queue Freewill by Rush).

So instead of a intervening God (which would interfere with our freewill) God is present and with us while we go through life’s experiences, and I have faith that when we hurt and suffer he’s with us in our brokenness as well.
The thing is, we as human beings can intervene, we can make a difference in a world that is suffering, we can take care of those who are down and out, and anyone who is going through a personal hell on earth, we can and I truly believe that we must as well.

I believe in being a participant in kingdom of God work, doing what I can in the now and in the future to usher in perfect shalom. I have faith in God and what he’s doing and also the good things people are doing in his name. We are invited to be a part of the kingdom work, the making “on earth as it is in heaven” a reality, and not just a reality for a small group of individuals, but for all!

Recognizing that God will be in our midst in good times and bad times is comforting to me, it has helped me realize that God is God and shit will be shit, he’ll be in the midst of shitty times, he doesn’t go wandering off leaving us to pick up all the broken pieces but it is up to us to pick up all the pieces and give it to him, entrusting him with whatever the outcome may be.

~Nathanael~

Freedom of Religion in the United States

Editor’s note – I don’t want to get into political debates, discussions perhaps, but I’m straying away from politics because it’s my intention not to vote in the two party dictatorship that is voting in the United States of America. I will be addressing some things, but I’m not going to go deep because it is a deep deep hole and it’s a pain in the ass to climb out such a hole. Enjoy…perhaps?

It strikes me at times Christians who live in America advocate for Freedom of Religion and what it entails, but the thing is, they make it out to be a for Christians only issue…uh…what?

Muslims who live in America can’t practice their own religion?

Jews who live in America can’t practice their own religion?

Baha’i who live in America can’t practice their own religion?

Those who practice Hindu and live in America can’t practice their own religion?

It perplexes me that some Christians hold such views, because it is very limiting to state who can practice insert religion here and who cannot. Granted some of the things the original writers of The Constitution did try to limit certain liberties to themselves and other rich white people who owned slaves, which has been cleared up since then (thank goodness), but it seems like there’s a lot of self-imposing that is what it is…unconstitutional.
I’ve even heard people murmur that “Obama’s a Muslim” and to be honest, I don’t know his heart, only God does, but seriously? Are Muslims not capable of running a country?

That’s all I’ll say about these issues,
Nathanael

Following Jesus is a matter of faith

Sometimes I think Christians get hung up about Christianity and lose track as to what or more specifically the whom it is about.

Christianity isn’t what saves you,
reading the Bible doesn’t save you,
Praying on a regular basis doesn’t save you.

Only Jesus can.

It’s not a supposed to be a religion based upon orthodox (right way) or orthopraxis (right practice), but about letting go of closed fist beliefs and allowing God to work in one’s life to transforming them into open handed faith.

Recently I heard Rob Bell speaking live via video at The Viper Room in Los Angeles. It was a very good talk, and in a way it was a LAN Party for the emergent church, but one thing out of the many things he said stuck out to me “You can’t put anything in a closed fist”.
Too often I think  that’s the case, that we come before God with closed eyes and clenched fists, a posture that seems like we’re unwilling for God to enter in and to change us, a posture that is unmoving and unchanging, caught up in the dogma we’ve imposed upon ourselves and to some extent what we’ve imposed upon others.

As I examine my life and what I have faith in, it is far less and more freeing than when I was operating out of a system of closed fist beliefs. Instead of making this post one of a “what I don’t believe” nature, I rather say that I have faith in what God is doing, the good others are doing in his name, and that somehow someway this is ushering in the kingdom of God the “on earth as it is in heaven” part of the Lord’s Prayer.
There is a freeing nature to faith, it’s not lackadaisical or laze-fare, it’s holding onto something I can grasp, it’s looking with eyes on the kingdom of God and looking at humanity, all of humanity with eyes of love – God’s love. I am a part of the kingdom work that ushers in perfect shalom and as long as I have breath in my lungs I hope to continue on with the various tasks set before me starting with what’s in front of me in the now.

It can be difficult to make the jump from belief to faith, but it is by all means necessary, to lay one’s life prostrate before God in surrender of what we make of him and simply let God be God. I’m not out of the woodwork yet, I still have self-imposed ideas of who I think God is and who God isn’t, but he’s working on my heart, he’s working on my beliefs and is extending his hand saying “follow me”.

“Follow me” is a lifelong challenge, because it doesn’t always come with a map, there sometimes is no itinerary, it’s all a matter of…you guessed it…faith. Sometimes I feel like God is absent or even not there, it’s something I’ve been wrestling with, but I realize that in faith sometimes it’s a matter of keep on walking despite the foggy and murky path that’s in front of me, sometimes I don’t see the light, but I keep going because he helps me to keep going.

Take God by faith, keep walking even if you don’t see, keep walking by faith and not by sight.

Learn to open your hands in faith, unclench your beliefs and allow God to come in and transform your life by faith with open hands.

~Nathanael~

Love transcends Religion; A Muslim wedding

Tomorrow night at about this time, my friend of 8 years is getting married. 🙂 It’s the first time I will be attending a Pakistani wedding as well as a traditional Muslim wedding, and it all started with a friendship based around defining stereotypes…

In my early college days long gone by I was active; active with the school’s newspaper, cross-country team, Christian Fellowship and a grassroots Diversity group. To which in that diversity group I met the girl who’s getting married tomorrow…

One topic that was raised by the facilitators, who were ready to shut it down if worse came to worse was the nature of stereotypes pertaining to religion. I don’t recall if she started the conversation or I did, but for the most part she addressed how people in a post 9/11 world has treated her badly, calling her names and expecting her to be wearing an explosive vest ready to blow herself and other people up.

I addressed how some people think Christians are homophobic, bigoted, narrow-minded Bible bashing individuals, and how I’m perceived that I have an air about me that proclaims I’m “holier-than-thou”.

When we flushed out the stereotypes, our friendship started to bloom. In the hallways we’d pass each other and she’d threaten to blow me up with her explosive vest and I threatened to Bible bash her to death…to the outsider it seemed malicious and absolutely wrong, but it our humorous greeting to one another.
That was the start of our friendship and it has been going well despite different belief systems and being really busy, but I thank God for every moment I have to hang out with her and just catch up and BE.

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About a month ago I met her fiance, we had brunch and it was great to catch up with her and to finally meet her guy. 🙂 I dig him, he’s a well thought out and compassionate guy, plus his rendition of how-we-met was great, as well as my friend’s commentary in-between, they certainly sound like a married couple already! 😉

It will be a fun wedding, I can only attend for 1 day but I have been invited to all 3! Camera-in-hand I will be taking behind the scenes photos for both of them, I’m told it will be a good time and plenty of dancing, I’m a little timid about the latter but not too timid.

My friend and I have many differences apart from our belief systems, but I am glad they do not divide us, but our similarities and our friend love unites us, I can’t wait to celebrate her day (and I’m sure she’d say the same).

Good times and God times await me as well as my Muslim friends who are getting married! Yay! 😀

~Nathanael~