Wednesday, March 16, 2011

We are one body in Christ......Really?

1st Corinthians 12:12:

"The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body--whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free--" Catholic or Protestant?

My search for truth has placed me involuntarily between two worlds--Catholicism and Protestantism. I say involuntarily because I am told that I must be one or the other. They are my personal rock and hard place. For reasons unknown to me, God has not led me to embrace one over the other. So here I am, a mongrel, watching my brothers and sisters bicker and fight.

I have come to believe that The Church is the body of Christ. As Paul tells the Corinthians, this body is made up of many parts. It is my belief that some of these many parts include, Baptists, Lutherans, Catholics, Evangelicals and yes, even some who don't attend church at all. We become part of this body when we are baptized by one spirit...the Holy Spirit. We are connected by our belief in the One True God and His only son Jesus who died and rose again that we all might be saved from sin. This faith is what connects us as brothers and sisters, so why do we deny our own family? Why do we feel pity, anger and yes, even hatred for one another?

I have seen:
  • Protestant parents of children in a Christian school want to "dismiss" a teacher because she was Catholic.

  • A Catholic parent worried that her son might be making protestant friends.

  • Protestants, who do not understand Catholic symbols and rituals, equate them with idolatry and "salvation through works".

  • Catholics, who do not understand their own symbols and rituals, label Protestants as "unfaithful" and "deserters of The Church".

  • Protestants roll their eyes at a child's Catholic T-shirt even while their own children wear shirts with their youth group's logo on it.

  • A Catholic express pity for a young lady who died for standing up for Christ because this young lady was not Catholic and therefore would have a harder time entering heaven.

All of this I have seen and more...much more. Yet, all of the people in these examples have a sincere love for God and live their lives deeply rooted in faith.

So what happened?!

I know, I know-- the whole Martin Luther thing and the painful separation that followed. So painful, apparently, that hundreds of years later there is still hostility--even by those who don't have a clue what the whole reformation was even about.

However, this identity crisis of who we are as "Church" did not begin with Martin Luther. It has been around from the very beginning. Paul addresses the issue in his first letter to the church in Corinth.

"For since their is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting as mere men? For when one says, 'I follow Paul,' and another, 'I follow Apollos,' are you not mere men? What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe." (1 Corinthians 3:3-5)

Yes, even in the early church there was jealousy and quarreling. Bickering between the followers of Peter, Apollos and even the followers of Paul.

Also, there were many disagreements between the Jewish Christians and the Gentile Christians. So strong were these disagreements and so permeated throughout The Church that Paul had a confrontation with Peter over the issue. Paul rebuked Peter (can you imagine?!) for catering to the Jewish Christians at the expense of the Gentile Christians (Galatians 2:11-13). Yet at the same time unity was stressed when Peter acknowledged that;

"God, who knows the heart, showed that He accepted them (gentiles)by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as He did to us (Jews). He made not distinctions between us and them, for He purified their hearts by faith." (Acts 15:8,9)

So why is it so difficult? Even Peter struggled with it. Why do we feel the need to judge the heart of another when we hear, "I am Lutheran", "I am Catholic", I am Evangelical"? Why do we automatically criticize based on denomination instead of rejoice that we have just met another brother or sister in Christ? What are we so afraid of that we put defensive walls up instead of just appreciating each other?

Every one of us has traveled a unique path that led us to our Saviour and salvation. Wouldn't it be more interesting to hear how God has led someone on their journey instead of assuming that God was not a part of it simply because their walk did not mirror our own? Are we really that egotistical?

When Paul was dealing with the quarreling between his followers and those of Apollos and Peter, he clarified that all three of them--Paul, Peter and Apollos were merely men, workers for God. He said in 1Corinthians 3;

"The Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted a seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow."

The glory goes to God alone, the loyalties should lie with God alone.

In truth, God is the God of Catholics as well as Protestants. Jesus did not spill more blood for one over the other.

"But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. (!) If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it." --1 Corinthians 12:24-26

Can we go beyond religion and embrace all our brothers and sisters?

Can we trade blind ignorance for the desire to understand?

Can we open our hearts to each other's journeys?

Can we praise God, each in our own unique voice, together?

Saturday, January 1, 2011


I grew up reading about places where Bibles were not allowed. Men, women and even children would risk their lives to bring Bibles into those places. Pages would be torn out of available Bibles so that God's Word could be secretly passed from one group to another. I guess because of those stories I have always thought of a Bible as a treasure even before I discovered the riches that it held.
Ownership of a Bible has always been a thing of pride for me. I have very fond memories of nearly every Bible that belongs to me.

My first one was purchased at a Bible bookstore that no longer exists. I must have been four. I wandered in there while my mom was in a neighboring store. I noticed a small, soft,
leather-like book.
I couldn't read but I knew what it was. The pages were thin and some of the words were written in red.
I immediately loved it. It fit perfectly in my small hands. I took it to the counter and laid down the two dollars that I had. The elderly man behind the counter (elderly according to my four year old eyes...) told me the price of this perfect little Bible. All I remember was that it was more than two dollars. I must have looked at him like a deer in headlights because he smiled at me and said, "That's o.k., it will be enough".
I was so relieved, I grabbed the tiny book and quickly left the store, I am sure, without so much as a "Thank-you".
I still have that Bible. The words are too small to read easily but it will always be a reminder of the kindness of a stranger

When I was in grade school I noticed that in the spring all the 5th graders in my church received their very own Bibles. The Boys received a black one and the girls received a white one.
Oh, how beautiful I thought those white ones were! I couldn't wait until I was a 5th grader!
Finally, that day arrived.
To my dismay every 5th grader that year received a red Bible.

My senior year in High School I was asked what I wanted for graduation. I knew right away. A leather-bound Bible with my name on it.
I picked out a blue one because the bookstore would have to order a white one and I was too impatient.
Today that Bible is stuffed with bulletins from weddings and funerals, pictures of my kids, a "God Rules" bumper-sticker from the '80's, and 1 Samuel 14 is wrinkled and stained with Dr. Pepper.
It has become what I hoped it would... a faithful companion always there to guide me through this life.

But we live in a disposable world and Bibles seem to be another thing we have an overabundance of.
Is that possible?! Is it possible to have an overabundance of God's Word?
I suppose it could be if Bibles become more "books" than scripture.

I did a search for "Bibles" on I scrolled down 15 pages listing a vast variety of Bibles. As I scrolled it became a little comical:

NIV Woman's Devotional Bible - the original collection of daily devotion from godly women.
NIV Woman's Devotional Bible 2 - a new collection of daily devotions from godly women.
God's Words of life from the NIV Woman's Devotional Bible -
(not a Bible but....)

Also there were:

The One Year Bible
The Chronological Study Bible
The One Year Chronological Study Bible

There were Bibles that I found myself immediately attracted to:

The Archaeological Bible - an illustrated walk through Biblical history and culture.
The Apologetics Bible - understand why you believe.

Can I get those without the Bible part? I already have a Bible or two..... or twenty.

The list went on:

The American Patriots Bible - The Word of God and the shaping of America.
In His Image Bible - Be more like God as you discover His attributes and character.
Quest Study Bible - the question and answer Bible, over 300 articles answering the most asked questions.
The Message Remix New Testament: 2010 Student Planner Edition

It strikes me a little strange that it took generations to settle on what is deemed fit to be an accepted part of "The Bible" (understanding, of course, that even to this day it is not all agreed upon) yet we are okay with adding to it devotions, apologetics, politics, student planners....

Theology books, devotions and other study guides can help us better understand the Word of God but shouldn't they remain separated so that it remains clear that these extras are just that....extras? Ideas we may or may not agree with? By placing these guides within the same pages as scripture are we risking confusing God's Words with man's words?
I ask these questions in humble sincerity as I have purchased many specialty Bibles over the years. They are fun and somehow more personalized than just a plain 'ol Bible (can I call God's Word "plain"?).

Not many days ago I held a soft green leather-bound VeggieTales Bible in my hands silently wishing my children still loved them as much as I do so I would have an excuse to buy it. It would be minutes before I sighed and reluctantly placed it back on the shelf.

But as I see such a variety of Scriptures....

The Boys Bible - finally a Bible just for boys! Discover gross and gory stuff. Find interesting and humorous facts. Apply the Bible to your life through fun doodles, sketches and quick responses.

NIV Women of Faith Bible - experience the liberating grace of God.
Young Women of Faith Bible - moms and daughters can study the Bible together with shared features from the NIV Women of Faith Study Bible
The Life Recovery Bible - the Bible for people in 8 or 12 step recovery
Amplified Bible Mass Market

NIV Backpack Bible
NIV Faithgirlz! Bible
Faithgirlz! Backpack Bible

........I have to wonder
......are we marketing the Word of God?

Sunday, December 26, 2010

T'was the Day After Christmas

Twas the day after Christmas and all through the malls
everything was half off...even the walls.
The stockings were hung in the clearance aisles
in hopes to bring the shopkeepers smiles.
The people all clamoring to get through the door
to fill up their carts like they did two days before.
Maddy in her new sweater, James in his new hat
pushed through the crowd to find that toy cat.
When over the loudspeaker, a voice from heaven
announced, "Extra ten percent off in aisle seven!"
Away to that aisle the people did fly,
most of them not even knowing why.
To the dismay of those who came along last,
aisle seven's shelves were empty except for the shadows they cast.
But wait! In the bottom corner there stood
a tiny reindeer made out of wood.
Alas, this poor reindeer had a scratch that was deep.
But hey, that's okay as long as it's cheap.
In the cart went the deer beside red and green socks
destined for greatness...a year in a box.
Now Aimee! Now Curtis! Now Patty and Kristin!
On Connor! On Heather! On Gary and Tristin!
To the next aisle, to the front of the line!
Grab two more gift bags, no five, no nine!
Tragedy in electronics, the manager yells with a frown,
"Watch out! We've got a shopper down!"
Jump over that shopper, jump over her cart
mercy is for the rich, this is not time to have a heart.
This is a one day sale, lasting only a week.
Gotta get ready for next Christmas (hope no one will peek).
A Barbie for Kailee, a dinosaur for Billy.
They won't outgrow them, that would be silly.
A wallet for father, a teapot for Sue.
If she gets one for her birthday?....Then she will have two.
The bargains are just too good to pass up.
Now, what can we find for our future new pup?
All the aisles are emptied, the rush now is slowing.
They struggle to the counter, their carts overflowing.
Visa? Master Card? American Express?
None are due today, so they could care less.
The tills are all ringing, the owners are giddy.
Maddy and James had found their toy kitty.
The cars were all packed and now driving away
and I think I heard somebody say....
"Happy 26th of December, oh - what a day.
But Christmas is only 363 shopping days away!

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Christmas Search

We spend our entire earthly lives searching for Him. Even when we find Him-- we search.
The meaning--the reason--truly, do we ever know?
Could we ever grasp Him in His entirety? Who is He?
Lord--Savior--Prince of Peace--God incarnate. The names we know but even as we utter them, do we hold there reality in our hearts? Can we fathom the unfathomable?

We must start with the manger and the innocence it held.
A baby--a child.
Approach Him. See Him look out from the simple cloths that wrap Him. See the chubby hand as it wraps around His mother's finger. Hear His sigh and smell His sweet breath as He sleeps.
Love Him simply.
Love Him as you love a baby. Unconditionally--no questions.
Then slowly, prayerfully, realize this is how He loves you.

This perfect, wondrous baby--is your KING.
Your God has come to you--Emmanuel!

Place yourself beside His manger and worship your King--your God.

Then allow your soul to celebrate this gift and your journey to understanding will truly begin.
The journey that ends only when you look into His eyes as He reaches to embrace you in your heavenly home.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


The definition of a Christian is, “a follower of Christ”. So how, then, have we fallen so far away from Him?

We are commanded to go into the world and spread the good news yet we, many times, find ourselves alienating those who are seeking God by turning our backs on them as we turn to worship Him.

Kathleen Norris wrote in her book, Amazing Grace, that she had to walk away from her Christian inheritance when she reached adulthood. The Christianity that was handed down to her in her childhood left her feeling, “Stranded with a boogyman God.” She would eventually welcome religion back into her life but she did so with caution. As Kathleen took a closer look at the faith that was given to her in her youth she describes the difficulty of welcoming some of her ancestors that had a hand in her upbringing.

“It can feel like a curse – to include in my welcome the difficult

ancestors: The insane, the suicides, the alcoholics, the religiously

self-righteous who literally scared the bejesus out of me when I was

little, or who murdered my spirit with words of condemnation.”

I find it interesting that she casually includes the insane, the suicides and alcoholics but goes on to tell us of the scars that the religiously self-righteous left on her.

Norris mentions reading a book called, Memories of God, by Roberta Bondi. She must have felt a connection with Bondi as she also was scarred by the (revival-style) theology that she grew up in. In Bondi’s words:

“Only believe that God loves you or he will send you to hell forever.”

Despite a fear-filled religious upbringing both women have found their faith. Others, however, leave and never come back. Phil Jackson, a North Dakota native whose parents were Pentecostal preachers, is one of these. He grew up with the fear factor so instilled in him that when he came home from school to find that his mother was uncharacteristically not home he was convinced that the rapture had taken place and he had been left behind. He began meditating in high school. This led him to Buddhism, which he continued to practice. (Sacred Hoops, by Phil Jackson)

Where does this fear come from? How do we get to feel so condemned? Is it God’s judgment that overshadows His love or is it our judgment?

Emily Dickinson also had painful experiences connected to religion. When she was sixteen she attended Holyoke Seminary during the great revival. The girls at this school were asked to stand and declare themselves for Jesus. Emily was the only girl who remained seated. She found herself isolated in a room full of those declaring themselves for Christ! But it is her next phrase that hit me hard.

“What strange sanctification is this – that brings Christ down,

and shows Him, and allows Him to select His friends!”

Ouch! How horrible and yet how often do we see it? How often do we do it?! How can we, who are unworthy of Christ and yet claim Him, be so good at making those who are still searching feel so unworthy that they can’t claim Him?

But we don’t stop with the unbeliever. We find ways to cut down our fellow brothers and sisters using the same judgment that creates this fear of; “I’m not good enough”, “I’m not doing it right”, “I’m still not good enough.” We condemn those whose narrow view of God is not the same as our narrow view.

There is a twelve-year old girl who attends a Catholic church as well as an Evangelical youth program. A Catholic friend tells her that Evangelicals are not Christians. Her Evangelical friends tell her that if she skips a youth night she doesn’t love God. (May God bless her with ears to hear His whispers above their shouts)

When did we stop focusing on building the Kingdom of Heaven and start focusing on how to go to hell?

Have we become the modern Pharisees? What authority do we claim to be able to condemn, lookdown at, or even have pity on other human beings when we ourselves are so pitiful?

How is it possible that we who are merely dust feel secure in telling the unbeliever anything other than of the love and grace of God that saved our sorry butts? Or with our fellow believer have anything other than a shared sense of awe and gratitude?

If we have indeed become today’s Pharisees then we should heed the words that Jesus spoke to them:

“…you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces.

You yourselves do not enter nor will you let those enter who are

trying to…. You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and

when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as

you are….. (Matt 23: 14,15 & 23)

We are Christians – we are followers of Christ.

We are human and fall easily into the snares of this world including pride. Therefore, let us allow humility back into our faith. Let us take hold of Paul’s warning not to think of ourselves more highly than we ought (Romans 12:3). Let us remember James’ words, “ Mercy triumphs over judgment!” (James 2:13).

We are Christians – Disciples of Christ.

The same Christ who said,

By this all men will know that you are my disciples,

if you love one another.”

(John 13:35)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Biblical Journey - Day One

Let There Be Light

Genesis 1:3-5; 4:14-18

On the first day,

God said, "Let there be light", and there was light. God saw that the light
was good, and He separated the light from the darkness. God called the
light 'day', and the darkness He called 'night'.

On the fourth day,

God said, "Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day
from the night"......... God made two great lights, the greater light to govern
the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. God
set them in the expanse of the sky to give light to the earth, to govern the day
and the night, and to separate the light from darkness.

It is obvious that the sun, moon and stars were all created on the fourth day. So what was the light that God created on the first day?

To begin to answer this question I took a closer look at how the light in day one was described compared to the light in day four.

I started with the easy part... day four's lights:

-- "Let there be lights..." There were more than one light.

-- These lights were set in the expanse or the sky which had been created on the second day.

--These lights were made to govern, or rule over, the day and the night which were already in

--These lights were the sun, the moon and the stars.

So what do we know about the light on the first day?

--The light was good.

--The light was separated from the darkness that was already there.

--The light was called "day" and the darkness from which it was separated was called "night".(Remembering that the sun and moon were not yet created)

--On that first day there was evening and morning.

The question remains, "What IS that light?"

Interestingly, only a few Sundays ago in church, the sermon was about the awesomeness of the universe that God created and how small we humans are compared to it's vastness and yet He chooses to be concerned with even our smallest troubles. During this sermon it was stated that when God said, "Let there be light"....POOF!...the big bang...and the universe began.

In this theory then, the light was the sudden explosion of all the matter and energy of space that had been condensed into a singular point..... or The Big Bang.

I suppose acceptance of this interpretation would depend on whether or not you are a strict creationist or if you allow for some scientific answers on how God created. As for me, this theory is a perfectly plausible one but I did not let that stop me from investigating further.

I thumbed my way through several different translations of scripture to see if any of the differing verbiage would give me a clue about this first day light. For the most part I found that there were different words for the terms expanse (firmament, dome, space) and sky (heaven) but nothing for the word light. However, while looking in a New American Bible there was a postscript that lead me from Genesis 1:3 to 2 Corinthians 4:6 which reads:

For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness", has shone in our hearts,
that we in turn might make known the glory of God shining on the face of Christ.

I also remembered that John 1:1 started with, "In the beginning" just like Genesis 1:1. In John, Jesus is described as, "The Word" who was there at the beginning with God and was God. In verse 4, John tells us that in Jesus,

was life and that life was the light of men that shines in the darkness and the
darkness has not understood it.

Here again we find a light and a darkness that have nothing to do with the sun, moon nor stars or the absence of them.

In John 9:5 Jesus says, "I am the light of the world" and similar verses are found throughout the new testament.

Is that,then, the first day light? The light that shines in the hearts of men? The light of God's glory--the same glory that shines on the face of Christ who is the light of the world?

Perhaps the very first task on the very first day was to "Let there be light"......
Let God's glory be separated from the darkness and shine.
Let that light, the glory of God, separate night from day even without a moon to rise.
Let there be morning and evening even without a sun to set.

Perhaps it was this....

Perhaps it was the Big Bang....

Perhaps it was something totally different...

but whatever it was

--it was good!

Friday, November 19, 2010


The “maps” for our journey are the resources we use in our travels. The Primary map in this journey is the Bible itself.

The Bible has many different translations. For the most part it does not matter which translation one uses. However, knowing the background of the map we use most – where it came from, who drew it, etc. - can give a little insight on how a verse or two should be read.

I have done some reading on how today’s Bible came to be and the story is a fascinating one.

I have also been made aware that there are some translations that do not stay as true to the original text as we would like. I will give you two examples.

The first is a translation that I only read about in my readings. I did not actually see it myself but apparently in this translation the word “darkness” was replaced with the word “night” because it was thought that “darkness” sounded too much like the offensive word “darkies”. This was an unfortunate decision as “night” and “darkness” have two different meanings. Let’s look at Psalm 107:14:

“He brought them out of darkness and the deepest gloom and broke away the chains.”

Now read,

“He brought them out of night and the deepest gloom and broke away the chains.”

The darkness in that verse has nothing to do with the night. It is the darkness of ones soul or situation. The meaning of that verse is changed when the word is changed.

The second example is when a translation is “tweaked” to fit the purposes of a particular group. The New World Translation used by the Jehovah Witnesses, who do not believe in the Trinity, has added one little word to John 1:1. See if you can spot it.

NIV translation – “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

New World translation – “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god.”

Small word – big difference!

I have also heard of translations out there that do their best to be politically correct. Bible’s that say He/She when referring to God or man in general.
Again, never actually saw one personally but under those requirements I suppose Romans 11:32 might look like: “For God has bound all men and women over to disobedience so that he/she may have mercy on them all.

The primary “map” that I use is the New International Version (NIV) Student Bible. I have used this particular Bible for over 20 years. I am endeared to it because of the many side notes it contains giving me a glimpse into the context of the verses I am reading. Knowing the context of scripture; the who, what, when, where and especially the why has made a large impact on how they speak to me. Not only am I reading God’s own words but I am struggling to understand them with the likes of Moses, Joshua, Elisha, Peter and Paul. They all become more than just characters in a story. They become very much like me with fears, failures and doubts. Also, the times in which they lived were so unlike ours. The more I understand those times the easier it is to step outside of my 21st century thinking long enough to see the world as they did. When I do this, the lessons that they teach become clearer.

It is always good to have two or three different translations to read and compare during Bible study. Many times that can give us a better insight as to what is meant in the text. I plan to use a variety of translations on this journey as well as other books and resources. But my primary map will be my NIV. That is the translation I will quote unless otherwise noted.

So grab your map and let’s take our first steps….