I know what Jesus Meant! So just follow me!

 I'M RIGHT

As I write this, yesterday was the anniversary of the start of the Council of Ephesus in 431 CE. The council was there to discuss whether Mary the mother of Jesus was the Christ bearer or the God bearer. At the end of the council the decision was in favor of the “God bearer” and those siding with the “Christ bearer” were kicked out of the church or left on their own. Those who left continued to worship Christ and God in their own way, establishing their own brand of Christianity.

I grew up part of the Wesleyan church. It was named after John and Charles Wesley who were kicked out of the Anglican Church which had left the Catholic Church. The Wesley’s then started the Methodist church. The Wesleyan church split from the Methodist church over how they chose their pastors and the slavery issue. For a while it was called the Wesleyan Methodist church but then merged with the Pilgrim Holiness church and formed the Wesleyan church. You will find some Wesleyan Methodist churches still around, because they left when the merger took place.

According to Wikipedia there are over 41,000 different denominations in the world. Did you get that? I thought we were supposed to be one. Anyway, this kind of got me thinking. How many times has the church had a schism and kicked someone out only for them to start a new brand of Christianity? Or how many times did a group leave because they didn’t see Christianity in the same way that they others did? And who really has the truth? How do we know that our brand of Christianity is the truth? It is only our brand because it was Spirit of God choosing it to be the victor. At least that’s what we are told. However most of these were simply church votes.

I’ve been to many church and denominational meetings about many different things and there is no real looking to the spirit to answer the questions before us. We vote for what we want and decide that is what God wants. How do we know that these councils were any different?

Then there is the Bible. How many of you actually know that there are several different books in other denominations around the world? The protestant bible in America has 66 books, the catholic bible has 73, the Greek orthodox has 76 etc… So who has the correct bible? All of us started as one and yet we can’t even agree on our text. What if there should be more books? What about fewer books? When the bible was first put together it wasn’t some divine intervention, it was several church councils.

So how can anyone say they really have the truth? We really only have what has been passed down to us by those in charge. It was that kind of person that Jesus yelled at repeatedly for abuse. How many times over the last 2000 years has our theology changed? A council in the early 300’s (Council of Nicaea) decided Jesus was indeed God; everyone else is free to leave. Another council 100 years later decided that the Spirit was also God. Several councils took this under consideration before it became orthodox. So it took the church 300 years to settle on that Jesus was actually God and another 100 years to create the Trinity. Those things that we hold so dearly today and without believing in them many would say that you could not be a Christian. What about those people in the first few centuries when that belief was not orthodox?

Anyway, for those that think they have it all together in their theology, maybe you really don’t. Maybe you shouldn’t be so quick to say “the Bible tells me so” or “the bible says it and that settles it”, because if anything the Bible hasn’t settled anything. In fact those who think they know the Bible seem to split the church apart. So being right in doctrine does not seem to work for the church. Maybe we should try to be right with each other instead. Jesus did say “love your neighbor” but I don’t remember him ever saying get your doctrine right.

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Council_of_Ephesus

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_the_Catholic_Church

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Christian_denominations

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A Religious State: What I fear

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May 20, 325 – 1st Christian ecumenical council opens at Nicaea, Asia Minor. This was the first major marriage of Christianity and state. The Emperor Constantine the (not so) Great called the church together to figure out what they believed. All those who disagreed with the Nicene Creed were kicked out of the church. Within 60 years (380 Edict of Thessalonica) all other Christian beliefs and ideas were deemed heretical and the “church” proceeded to eradicate them. This kind of thing is why we have separation of church and state. So we can have freedom of religion.

The same kind of thing had been happening in England for quite some time. When the Church of England broke from Catholicism in the 1500’s the King (or queen) became the head of the church. Whatever the king or queen was (protestant or Catholic) the other was persecuted. There was a revolution in which Oliver Cromwell and the far right Protestants took over and then were over thrown. For six years (1653-1659) the Commonwealth of England controlled the nation’s religion. People were jailed, killed or exiled for speaking their minds. Cromwell did have some people exiled instead of killing them to show his tolerance for religions. (Yeah, right, as I roll my eyes)

Many of the colonists that came to America were running from the wars and religious oppression from the government. They often settled in the Virginia area and in New England. This is where many of our founding fathers were from. Washington, Jefferson, Monroe, Madison, and Patrick Henry were born in Virginia. Hancock, Franklin, John Adams, and Samuel Adams were all born in New England. They were born into areas filled with people who did not like the government and religion being married as one. I find it interesting that the bigger leaders and the writers of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution all came from these areas, as well as our first six presidents.

The conservative Christians in America want a “Christian government” like our founding fathers but our founding fathers didn’t want religion in government. They had seen its affects on the people around them. I question how many of them were really Christians. John Adams said the Bible was full of myths. Jefferson took out all the miracles in the Bible when he printed the Jeffersonian Bible. That includes the resurrection. Washington seldom spoke about Jesus, only about the almighty God.   Franklin was a womanizer and Madison said “The establishment of the chaplainship in Congress is a palpable violation of equal rights as well as of Constitutional principles” Not exactly what you would call Christian ideas.

Madison also stated that “During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What have been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the Clergy, ignorance and servility in the laity, in, superstition, bigotry and persecution.”

The end of that is really what scares me if this country becomes a government run on religion. Our government would start persecuting based on the bigotry of whatever religion was in power. We don’t need that. We need freedom. The freedom that the founding fathers wanted us to have.  The freedom to worship without being persecuted. And when I say persecuted I mean beaten, thrown in jail and killed.  That would actually be persecution.

As John Adams once said, “Government has no right to hurt a hair on the head of an Atheist for his Opinions. Let him have a care of his Practices.” Nor should it hurt the hairs on any head of a Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Jehovah Witness, Mormon or any other religion. Let’s allow all people to worship as they like, no matter if we disagree with them.  Keep religion out of the government and we can all have true freedom.

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edict_of_Thessalonica

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Council_of_Nicaea

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Puritans_from_1649

http://www.usconstitution.net/constframedata.html

 

 

My hand at Bible Translating

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There are so many versions or translations of the Bible out there that it is often hard to really know if one is any better than the next. I once counted mine and I had around 25 different versions in my house.  Each version or translation tries to bring into modern language what the Bible writers were trying to say. So each Bible has bias, good or bad, of the person or people translating it. What they understand and believe will come across in how it is translated. I could not come up with an exact number of translations there are but several sites said there were thousands. So we have thousands of people trying to tell us what they think the Bible writers were trying to tell us when actually they weren’t talking to us at all. They were talking to someone of their day.

What we have to discover is what they said in their time and see if any of it fits into our time. Lately I have been toying with that and have tried to make a few verses more real to people. Some have liked it and some not, but here are a few of what I have tried.

So with the idea of bringing the Bible to modern language, I gave my attempt at a few of the more famous scriptures.

 

When our time began God created the Big Bang. Genesis 1:1

Love mom and dad, so that you may have a good life wherever you live. Exodus 20:12

Jesus told him, “I am the path, the realness, and the full life. No one can come to the Father except doing what I have taught you.” John 14:6

There is neither American nor Russian, neither citizen nor alien, nor is there male and female, nor is there homosexual or straight for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3;28

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength and the second is this, Love that dude that cut you off this morning, don’t complain about that bum begging for money, don’t put down that person with different political or religious views, and for Christ sake, don’t be mean on facebook!  Mark 12:30-31

Go and make followers of God, baptize them in the name of God, and teach them to love one another like I loved you and not to follow what church laws you grow up with just because that’s the way you’ve always done it. If you do this, my spirit will be with you always. Matthew 28:19 &20

 For by grace you have been saved through faith; it is the gift of God, and not by following all the rules of the church or what you think everyone ought to do, so stop telling everyone how righteous you are. Ephesians 2:8 & 9

The price of sin is a horrible and lonely life, but the gift of God is a rich spiritual life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23

For all have messed up, and remember that includes you and fallen short of what God intended. Romans 3:23

Do not give your opinion about what others are doing, and others won’t go around talking about what you are doing. Do not attack others, and you will not be attacked. Instead forgive and show mercy to those that talk about you and attack you, and you will be forgiven as well. Luke 6:37

Hey everyone, love each other, because love begins from God. Everyone who loves, understands God and truly knows God. Those that say God hates others, or is mean to another in God’s name or is unfair to others using God’s word has no clue, because if God is anything God is LOVE! 1 John 4:7-8

 

So what do you think? Did I miss the mark completely or was I close? Feel free to give it a try for yourself. After all it’s all about trying to understand the authors meaning or meanings the best we can so we can live it today.

Here is a list of the translations available if you are interested. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_English_Bible_translations

Questioning our beliefs makes us grow.

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“Religious belief, like history itself, is a story that is always unfolding, always subject to inquiry and ripe for questioning. For without doubt there is no faith.”

Jon Meacham.

 

A decade or so ago, I read a book called “20 Hot Potatoes Christians are Afraid to Ask”. I was reminded of this book this past week in part because of Jars of Clay’s lead singer Dan Haseltine’s question. All he asked was “Not meaning to stir things up BUT… Is there a non-speculative or non “slippery slope” reason why gays shouldn’t marry? I don’t hear one.” And then followed it with “I’m trying to make sense of the conservative argument. But it doesn’t hold up to basic scrutiny. Feels akin to women’s suffrage.”

All he did was ask a question and then was berated for okaying LBGT people, gay rights etc… Why attack someone for asking a question?

Then a day or two later a friend of mine posted a meme that asked a question of Christians. It was a conversation between an Eskimo and a Christian. Eskimo: ‘If I did not know about God and sin, would I go to hell?’ Priest: ‘No, not if you did not know.’ Eskimo: ‘Then why did you tell me?’ I found that to be a legitimate question and luckily no one jumped his case.

At my last church it was impossible to really ask questions. They were either ignored or ignored. It was either a roll of the eyes and “anyone else have anything to add?” question or you were given the “this is what the denomination’s beliefs are” speech. No answers, only frustration.

If the church does not allow questions how can it grow? Jesus was always asking questions of the religious leaders of the day. “What do you think about the Messiah? Whose son is he?” “The son of David,” they replied (Matt 22:41). The religious leaders also questioned Jesus many times. Jesus never told them to stop asking, but he hoped by hearing his answers they would learn something.

Questions are to help us think. To help us try to understand what the teacher is trying to teach. Most people aren’t trying to trick the teacher or pastor. They really want to know, to learn. However, many church leaders discourage questions. They want people to just take their word, because they are the teacher or pastor. Obviously they know what they are talking about.

I feel that if a pastor or teacher does not allow questions, they are a lecturer, not a teacher. A teacher encourages others to think for themselves, a pastor leads people to the answer but doesn’t give it to them. He allows people to find the answer for themselves. Many churches and their leaders today, find these questions dangerous. It was only dangerous because they feel their power slipping away.

As I write this it is the anniversary of the day that John Wycliffe and Jon Hus were condemned at the council of Constance. Two people who merely asked why. Why do we pay indulgences? Why can’t the people read the Bible? Does not seem like the church or its people have changed much does it?

It seems like anyone who questions the teachings of the church gets ridiculed by those who have to hold on to that belief. It often seems to be when we question our beliefs that it is an attack of Satan or “how can you question God?” types of responses. There does not seem to be a path of meaningful dialogue. It’s “Why?” and in response, “You’re going to Hell.” Not “Why?” and in response “Why do you feel that way?”

The thing is people believe that if you ask a question you are questioning God, but really it questions the human theology. Humans make mistakes, so our theology should not be set in stone and yet we hold on so tightly to our man made ways of thinking.   If your theology can never be wrong then maybe, just maybe, deep inside you are questioning it too, but are afraid to let it out. If not, then at least be open to listening instead of berating those who question something. They are thinking and learning and growing. Something we all should be doing.  Theology has changed over and over in the 1900 years of Christianity and if Christianity wants to continue it must continue to change.  But it will only change if we are allowed to ask questions.

So, I encourage you to go ahead and ask. Keep asking until you understand, even if that is 50 years from now.   “The key to wisdom is this- constant and frequent questioning, for by doubting we are led to question and by questioning we arrive at the truth.” Peter Abelard.

 

http://www.thewire.com/politics/2014/04/jars-of-clays-christian-fans-lash-out-after-the-lead-singer-tweets-for-same-sex-marriage/361256/

http://www.glaad.org/blog/jars-clay-frontman-posts-apology-stands-support-lgbt-equality

The meme http://www.whyistheresomething.com/answer/going-to-hell

Crazy Life, Crazy Love

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People say I’m crazy doing what I’m doing,
Well they give me all kinds of warnings to save me from ruin,
When I say that I’m o.k. they look at me kind of strange,
Surely you’re not happy now you no longer play the game,

John Lennon

 

Nope, I no longer play the game. I don’t want to play the game. The rules suck and I want no part of it. If I could overturn some tables I would. I’m not crazy; I’m just not going to follow traditions to make everyone happy. Just like someone I admire and most of you do to.

Mark 3:21 and 22 When his family heard what was happening, they tried to take him home with them. “He’s out of his mind,” they said. But the teachers of religious law who had arrived from Jerusalem said, “He’s possessed by Satan, the prince of demons. That’s where he gets the power to cast out demons.”

These verses make me think about what some family and many religious people think of me. That I’m crazy or out of my mind that I have changed my beliefs from what I grew up with. According to Mark, I’m in good company. Even the family of Jesus thought that he was a lunatic and we follow what he taught 2000 years later. Now that’s crazy! Those that knew the law (their holy words) thought he was possessed and yet now the words of Jesus are the holy words. Maybe that is crazier!   Guess the religious know it alls didn’t quite know it all.

I think often it is a lot of misunderstanding. I’m misunderstood because my family lives so far away and don’t know me like they think they do. They see through a cloudy window filled with visions of what they remember me as. But that window has been fading for 20 years.

You see today, all I want is to stand up for the helpless, hurting, oppressed, feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, help the homeless, clothe the naked, help the prisoner etc.. What I got from religious people is “they are sinning”,” they want to be like that”, “they live in a scary part of town”,” and they are the wrong color”, etc.. etc… I guess my question to them would be “what is Christianity?”

Is it a set of beliefs and like thinking and looking people or is it how we treat one another? When I look at Jesus and his teachings, he doesn’t discriminate against the Samaritans. Those people who married the wrong person and worship at that other place of worship is basically how they were seen in Jesus’ day. They were hated much like an illegal alien who was homosexual would be hated by religious people today. Samaritans were not welcomed in the homeland and they loved the wrong person.

But I want to be like Jesus, so I welcome these people. I make them know that Jesus is for them and that they are loved. Is that crazy or what? I bet that is what the Samaritan woman at the well thought. Crazy that someone like him actually talks to me. That just doesn’t happen. The woman caught in adultery probably thought,” thank God, someone actually cares.”

A few verses after this Jesus asks, Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” Then he looked at those around him and said, “These are my mother and brothers. Anyone who does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.” (33-35) So get this. The real Christian family is the ones who follow God’s will of loving, self sacrifice, acceptance, kindness etc… are the real family members. They are the ones the religious leaders and those that follow the religious leaders think are crazy.

I like this quote by R.C.Sproul . He said “Was Luther crazy? Perhaps. But if he was, our prayer is that God would send to this earth an epidemic of such insanity.”  Like Jesus and like many reformers Luther had to be different (crazy) to change the world.

So let’s get crazy and make a difference. Drop traditions, drop the my way or the hellway, drop your stones and learn to accept and love people unconditionally as Jesus did. Let’s go CRAZY!

MY Reformation Begins

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Is it faith to understand nothing, and merely submit your convictions implicitly to the church?  John Calvin

 

After Jesus rode into Jerusalem as the “king of the Jews” I wonder if he ever regretted it. Did he ever think, “I don’t want to die yet?” I’m betting that was part of it as he prayed in the garden. “Not my will but yours.” What about Luther after he nailed his 95 thesis to the church bulletin board. Did he ever think “oops, what have I done?”

Each year as a minister I have to fill out an “Annual Service Report”, to let my denomination and district know that I am doing what I am supposed to be doing and that I still believe everything that they want us to teach. For most years I just check the boxes and go about doing what I believe to be right and true. This year was different. Maybe because I’m fed up with things or maybe because I feel a little freer, I decided to let them know what I felt about several things.

I let them know that the church wastes the money that is given. According to many statistics in an average church only 3-5% of all the tithes and offerings goes for outreach. If that was a charity would you give? Yet that is one of the biggest things a church should do. I think we should tell our pastors to get jobs, sell our churches and rent, but I know that won’t happen. We are stuck in the mindset of having beautiful churches and full time pastors. I know that is extreme but to change the church to where it needs to be needs to be extreme.

I also told them tithing was not important. It was a rule with many others that the church has that holds people back. We make people believe that if you do this that and the other things that you’ll be OK. But that isn’t what Jesus taught. His rules were love God and love others. You give out of that love, not out of duty. If people don’t follow the rules then we make them feel guilty so that we can control them. Get them to act like the rest of us, because we don’t want anyone to shake the boat. I mean Jesus never shook the boat. Oh wait, yes he did. Every time he met a religious leader. I could go on about how we make them feel about church attendance and being”involved in the ministries”. It’s constant “if you are not doing this and that, you’re not really a Christian” attitude. Instead we should be teaching them to love God and love others. If people see true love they will get involved.

John Cleese once said, “So real religion is about reducing our egos, whereas all the churches are interested in is egotistical activities, like getting as many members and raising as much money and becoming as important and high-profile and influential as possible. All of which are egotistical attitudes.”

Most of my board meetings have been about how we can get more people here instead of how we can meet more people’s needs. Church has become more about how the church looks (we look) than about those who are in need. In one church I belonged to the only out reach that went on was from me and my wife reaching out to kids and their families. One of those kids once told me that the only people who loved the kids were my wife and I and one 80 year old woman at the church. I told the board members that and they responded “Oh they are just kids.” It broke my heart to hear both of those statements.

Then I discussed the whole human rights issues of today and how the church has treated gay people wrongly with no scriptural backing.   Once again the church is using the Bible to hate people instead of love them. The church needs to embrace and love all people, not just those that act a certain way. That is Pharisitical thinking.   (Is Pharisitical a word?)

I’m sure that will get their attention, but if not I hit on the Inerrancy of the Bible and the idea that God gave the words to the writers. There are way too many contradictions in the Bible for a God to have put it together as one book with everything agreeing. God does not forget things, but as in my Bible quiz of last week there are so many variations to the stories in the Bible that there is no way God wanted us to try to make them all fit into one story. Reading each book separately is the only way to make sense out of what each individual writer was trying to say. We have to learn who wrote it, when they wrote it, to whom they wrote and why they wrote it before we can ever try to understand what it means to us. However the church teaches just pick it up and God will tell you what you need to hear.

So here I sit, waiting for the call. Like Jesus waited to be arrested and many reformers waited to be called to Rome, I will be called to stand for what I have done and said, because it is against the ideas of the church. They will have to convict me of some heresy, and no one will stand with me. They won’t because they’d be afraid that they would be next. But maybe, just maybe I can open some hearts to what Christianity is really about.

I leave you with these words from Martin Luther. “You are not only responsible for what you say, but also for what you don’t say.”  And “Peace if possible, truth at all costs.”

So you think you know the Bible. A Last week of Jesus quiz

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Many questions will have more than one answer so be careful what you think might be right. Do you know your Bible or traditions better? Oh and yes, I threw in some funny answers to make it more enjoyable.

 

1)      What color was the robe that was put on Jesus?

  1. White
  2. Scarlet
  3. Purple
  4. Gold
  5. Rainbow

2)      On what animal did Jesus ride into Jerusalem on?

  1. Horse
  2. Donkey
  3. Colt
  4. A Harley

3)      What day was Jesus Crucified?

  1. The Sabbath
  2. The Day of Preparation
  3. Passover
  4. Fourth of July

4)      Who carried the cross for Jesus?

  1. Mel Gibson
  2. Simon of Cyrene
  3. Jesus didn’t have help
  4. Rufus

5)      How many trials did Jesus have?

  1. One
  2. Two
  3. Three
  4. 40

6)      In what language was the superscription written that was placed above Jesus?

  1. Aramaic
  2. Greek
  3. Latin
  4. English

7)      What Priest was judge at Jesus’ trial?

  1. Judas
  2. Caiaphas
  3. Aaron
  4. Annas

8)      At what hour was Jesus crucified?

  1. 1st hour
  2. 6th hour
  3. 3rd hour
  4. Depends on if it was daylight savings time or not.

9)      How many of the thieves or robbers crucified with Jesus mocked him?

  1. None
  2. One
  3. Two
  4. Three

10)   How many angels/men met the women at the tomb?

  1. One Angel
  2. Two Angels
  3. Three Angels
  4. Two Men
  5. Two Men
  6. Two Men and a Baby
  7. An angel in the Outfield

 

 

1)      Matthew 27:28 uses kokkinos: Means Scarlet, Mark 15: 17 and John 19:2 use porphura which means purple

2) Mark 11:7 and Luke 19:35 say colt, Matthew 21: 5-7 says a donkey and a colt, John 12:14 say a donkey. Some versions use ass.

3) John 19:14 Jesus was crucified on the Day of preparation, therefore no last supper in the book of John. All other Gospels Jesus is killed on Passover, but before the Sabbath.

4) John 19:16 says Jesus carried his cross “into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha: 19.18 Where they crucified him,” Matthew 27:32, Mark 15:21, and Luke 23:26 all say Simon the Cyrenian carried it for Jesus.

5) All gospels have Jesus tried before the Sanhedrin and Pilate, but only Luke adds a trial before Herod. Luke 23:7

6) Mark and Matthew did not specify, but Luke and John say Hebrew/Aramaic, Latin and Greek

7) John 18:24 Annas first and then Caiaphas Matthew 26:57-67 Only Caiphas

8) In the Gospel of Mark, it says Jesus was crucified on the “third hour” (Mark 15:25), and the Gospel of John says the crucifixion sentence was on “about the sixth hour” (John 19:14).

9) In Mark, the thieves say nothing, in Matthew both mock Jesus 27:44, in Luke one mocks Jesus and one defends him 23:32-43, in John again there is silence.

10) An angel of the Lord on the stone (Matthew 28:1-2) – “Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave. 2And behold, a severe earthquake had occurred, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it.”
A young man (Mark 16:5) – “And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting at the right, wearing a white robe; and they were amazed.”
Two men (Luke 24:4) – “And it happened that while they were perplexed about this, behold, two men suddenly stood near them in dazzling apparel.”
Two angels (John 20:1-2, 12) – “Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came early to the tomb, while it was still dark, and saw the stone already taken away from the tomb. 2And so she ran and came to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him. 12 and she beheld two angels in white sitting, one at the head, and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been lying.”

 

I do not write this quiz to mock Christianity in any way. I am a Christian, but many of us have tried to cram the 4 stories into one and with the differences that is very hard. Each author was trying to make points to their audiences and that is what we should be looking for. We have four stories written by four different people in different times to different audiences. Let’s not cram them together as one, but learn from their differences.

So next time you read a story, ask why this story is different and don’t try to make them the same story. Maybe you’ll learn something new.