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.

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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~

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
.

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~

God is not pissed off at you

With that being said, I think our perception of God (if it is akin to thinking he is pissed off at you) needs to change.

I am a follower of Christ of the Judeo-Christian tradition. I have faith in God and what he did by way of Jesus, and I also have faith in what he did back then and what he is doing now, I also have faith in the good things people are doing in God’s name (whether they’re aware they’re doing it or not).

I did not grow up in a family where God was presented in a “Fire and Brimstone” fashion, I didn’t see movies like Thief in the Night to scare the hell out of me and the heaven into me. But to some extent I felt like the God I was taught when I was young was an angry God, that he was out to “get” me and I should [morally] straighten up and not do certain things; watch “bad movies”, listen to “non Christian” music, etc.

Reading the Bible and praying were big components of my young spiritual journey, but I think at times I did it because of the persistent “shoulds”; I should to read the Bible, I should take time to pray…legalistic much? I think so…

I’ve come to realize that serving a god that makes you feel guilty isn’t a good god let alone one that can ever be satisfied because you’ll always be doing something to please said god; do something because you offended god, do something because even though you haven’t offended god you must have done something to be in the mess you’re in now… That is an unending process, that kind of god can’t get no satisfaction (which is why I stopped worshiping Keith and Mick).

But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve become more of a questioner than I ever have been. I have faith in who God is, but I also have doubts and I have questions. Maybe I won’t ever get all my questions answered on this side of eternity and maybe it will take sometime on the other, but to be honest I am okay with that. 🙂

One thing I enjoy reading over and over are the accounts of who is Jesus by way of the Gospels; different perspectives, including and excluding things, but ultimately Jesus’ love for humanity and be among us instead of cloistering himself away from us.

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I’m going to be reading the Bible in its entirety soon with my bro Mark, and we’re already putting some rules on our reading:
1) We’re going to read it all including the boring parts
2) We’re going to have many versions available, to peruse what other versions have to say but also to drop one version and grab another as we see fit
3) We’re going to write down our questions and in one sense truly question what we read.

I’m excited about the last part, as I am a questioner and I think God and the Bible should be questioned, after all I am not the original audience nor am I reading it in the original language, I’m more of an outsider than an insider as to what the Bible has to say. There is something to the Bible, and I think it is about story as well as God’s, it is also wrapped up in who Jesus is and what he did… But since I haven’t read it from cover to cover in a long time, I have a feeling my perception of its contents has changed from back when I believed in a God that was out to get me.

He’s not out to get me or you or the rest of humanity, he has unending love and grace for all of us.

~Nathanael~

16/31 – A book I’ve read that changed my views on something

A book I’ve read that changed my views on something

I am a follower of Christ and I think I’m going to stick with saying that the Bible has been a book that has changed my views, and not just on some things but most things!

When I was younger so much younger than today… I was home-schooled, and part of our “curriculum” was reading the Bible from cover to cover, and we took turns reading it and out loud at that! We did this 6 or so times… My reading out loud skills got better, my understanding from a conservative Evangelical perspective was shaped; I heard the Bible and I kinda took it at face value and didn’t question it…

But apart from being shaped by the Bible, I had views that I picked up that weren’t necessarily my own, “well my mom says/my pastor says” and other things people said became something I sprinkled about in my vocabulary.

But in my older years, despite the dynamic that comes from reading the Bible (My Interpretation + The Bible = My Interpretation) I reread it with Jesus as the hinge, God is love, there is more grace that comes from God than I would’ve believed in my younger years, God never retracted his “it is good” statement from the creation narrative found in Genesis.

One thing I recognize with being a follower of Christ is that the more I read into what Jesus said as well as what he did, the more I want to be like him. He stood along side the poor, the oppressed and the marginalized in his day and age and in my life I too want to stand along side those people who are made in the image of God. I recognize that it is easier for me to interact with people who are different than me than those who are similar to me…recognizing hypocrisy that mirrors my own in my current years makes seek out ways to change and make things better within my own life before I get hung up on someone else’s issues. Gandhi put it well; “be the change you want to see” and in my own life this is what I desire, to change myself because God only can change me, I can’t impose change on anyone else.

While I might not always what’s being expressed within the Bible since I am not the original audience to whom it was written, whether or not I truly believe some of it, I have faith in God to help me navigate the Bible despite all its twists and turns in this inspired book. I’ll be the first one to admit that the Bible has some downright boring sections to it, but I think God can use the boring and mundane bits for his glory.

~Nathanael~

Galatians 3:26-28 in the NVIV

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith,

for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.

There is neither Jew nor Gentile,

neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female,

There is neither Republican nor Democrat nor Green nor Independent

There is neither Straight or LGBTQ

There is neither one with a home nor one who lives on the street

There is neither rich man nor poor man

There is neither peace maker nor war monger

There is neither externally beautiful person nor internally beautiful person

There is neither person who has it together nor person who’s life is falling apart

There is neither “good” person nor “bad” person

There is neither Social Butterfly nor Wall Flower

There is neither Presbyterian nor Assemblies of God nor Nondenominational

There is neither High Church nor other church

There is neither Calvinism nor Arminianism

for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

 

~Nathanael~