The Bible Reminds Us of Our Heritage

Reading the Bible helps inform us of who we are

The Bible Reminds Us of Our HeritageI love reading the Bible. While the entire Bible is useful to teach us about God and inform our faith journey (2 Timothy 3:16), I particularly enjoy the stories about the people, our spiritual ancestors.

I like reading about Adam and Eve, Abraham and Sarah, Job, Joseph and his brothers, Moses, Joshua, those crazy judges and faithful prophets, Ruth and Boaz, David, Solomon, Hosea, Daniel, Esther, Ezra, and Nehemiah in the Old Testament. The New Testament tells about Jesus, the star of the Bible. I also like my namesake, Peter, along with Luke (especially Luke), Paul, Timothy, John, and Mary. I enjoy lessor known characters, too – those obscure people who only show up in a verse or two, like Rhoda, Lydia, John Mark, Philemon, Onesimus, Jabez, and so on. And let’s not forget about the angels. They’re in the Bible, too. All of these characters point us to Father God and reveal who he is.

Reading about these folks fills me with awe over their faith and dismay over their failures. I shake my head in bewilderment over their bone-headed mistakes and fist pump enthusiasm over their triumphs. I work to avoid their errors and strive to emulate their successes.

These people give me a spiritual heritage, my anchor. Collectively they have formed me into who I am today as a person and as a follower of Jesus. These biblical ancestors have become my ancestors, perhaps even more so than those in my biological family tree.

Spiritually they are my inheritance. I don’t have an affinity with a certain branch of Jesus’s church, connect with a denomination, or adhere to a particular theological bent. My affinity resides in these amazing, flawed folks of the Bible, their faith, and the God they worship and serve.

As such, the Bible reminds me of my heritage, of who I am.

Save

Are We Merely Human? Can We Have a Superhuman Spirituality?

Paul reprimands the church in Corinth for many things. One time he points out that they envy one another and argue a lot. There is jealousy and quarreling in their church. It happened then and it’s still happening now.

We want what others have. Although this often relates to money, possessions, or prestige, we can also envy the faith of others, their spiritual journey, and even their intimacy with God. Though it seems spiritual, it is just as wrong. Jealousy is jealousy, regardless of what we long for.

Next is their quarrels.We disagree and fight with words. It seems no church is immune to arguing, yet Paul decries this as wrong. Don’t do it.

Jealousy and quarreling are worldly traits. They are not godly, but worldly. By allowing these conditions to persist, we are mere humans.

By saying mere humans, Paul implies there is another way, a higher ground we can take. We don’t need to be merely human; we shouldn’t be merely human. Through Jesus and the power of his Holy Spirit we can rise above being mere humans; we can become more than human, superhuman, if you will: not superhuman in strength but superhuman in spirituality. As followers of Jesus, being merely human is who we were, but our future is a superhuman spirituality. Are we willing to pursue it?

[1 Corinthians 3:3]

Do You See Good or Evil?

I recently read a series of movie reviews in a conservative magazine. With three pages of critiques to consider, all but two movies earned advisory warnings. With no R-rated movies covered, several cautions were for PG and even G-rated movies. Their items of concern struck me as overly critical.

One obscure line from an animated feature earned it an advisory warning. This was a vague quip that kids would miss and require adults to make an assumption. With multiple possible inferences, only someone looking for sexual innuendo would find it. (I missed it when I saw the movie.) Are these reviewers able to spot evil most anywhere they look?

I wonder if these cautious caretakers of morality have read the Bible. What might they write in their review of it? After all, the Bible contains a myriad of problematic content: rape, murder, incest, cannibalism, violence, and sexual misconduct. Would they slap an advisory warning on the Bible?

These self-appointed guardians of goodness irritate me. Though they may have worthy motives, the result is they fixate on what is wrong, and when they find it, they highlight it to make sure everyone else is aware of it, too.

Just as there is evil in most things around us, there is also good. Do we seek the objectionable or notice the laudable? What we choose to consider reflects our focus in life and forms our perception of the world.

The Bible encourages us to think about things that are right, pure, and admirable. That is, to fill our minds with good, not evil. While this may warrant not seeing some movies, it also means to look for good in the ones we do watch.

[Philippians 4:8]

Why is Christian Community Important?

I often write about the importance of being in meaningful community with other followers of Jesus. I also lament that churches frequently fail to provide significant community. While many churches offer superficial community, few are able to provide a deep, nurturing, caring place. I long for this level of spiritual kinship – and right now I don’t have it.

However, I must remind myself that community isn’t the goal; it’s the means. While it’s comfortable to bask in the embrace of people who care for each other, groups with an inward focus don’t last. They need a greater purpose. Here are three:

  • Spiritual Growth: Our spiritual community should spur us on to a deeper understanding of God, intensifying our connection with him and our interdependence. I’m not talking about another class or more Bible study. We don’t need more knowledge; we need more experience. The result of growing spiritually is to put our faith in action, not inaction.
  • Minister to Others: Within community, we become ministers to one another. Then we move beyond our community to minister to those outside it. We teach through doing, and we model by our actions. We learn to listen to God’s Holy Spirit, doing what he says, when he says. He might not always make sense; it may be scary and will sometimes require risk. But God isn’t asking us to play it safe; he wants us to make a difference.
  • Serve Others: A third reason for community is as a platform for service. Through service, we demonstrate the love of Jesus to the world around us. When we serve without agenda or expectation, we surprise people by loving them as God loves us. Though we hope to point people to Jesus through our actions, the motivation isn’t to proselytize, it’s obedience.

But, you ask, isn’t this what the church is supposed to do?

Yes, it is, and we are the church. So let’s go do this; it starts with community.

Do You Want More From Life? Seeking a Spiritual More

Do you want more from life?

  • I’m not talking about more money, power, or prestige.
  • I’m not even talking about more love or respect.
  • I’m certainly not talking about the latest gadgets, a new car, a nicer home, tastier food, or better sex.

I’m talking about more from a spiritual standpoint. I yearn for a spiritual “more.” I suspect – deep down – you do, too. Everything else is a hollow substitute for what God has to offer, not just any god but the God revealed in the Bible: biblical God.

But we don’t often find this spiritual “more” at church – at least not how today’s society practices church. We may not even find biblical God there. Most churches fall far short of what God intends for us to experience. We’re drinking Kool-Aid, and he’s offering us wine.

Though I do go to church, I often wonder why. The purpose of church isn’t the music or the message; it’s about community. True church is connecting with God and connecting with others. It’s an intimate spiritual community with true friends who matter, mean something, and stick around. This is where we find a spiritual “more,” as part of a community of like-minded Jesus followers who diligently pursue the God revealed in the Bible. I call this biblical spirituality. This is why I write and blog.

I’m not a guru and may not even be a worthy guide; I am a fellow pilgrim. Let’s journey together as we pursue biblical God and seek to grasp this spiritual more. It starts when we follow Jesus – and if you’re not ready for that, come along anyway; it will be a great trip.

I updated the home page with this message. What do you think?

How Should We Understand Jihad?

In further contemplating last week’s post about being spiritually militant – of fighting evil in the spiritual realm – the word jihad comes to mind. Jihad, originating from Islam, has some specific meanings and one that is more general:

  • A Muslim holy war or spiritual struggle against infidels in defense of the Islamic faith.
  • In Islam, the personal struggle of the individual believer against evil and persecution.
  • In Islam, an individual’s striving for spiritual self-perfection.
  • A crusade in support of a cause; any vigorous, emotional crusade for an idea or principle.

In a literal sense, the idea of a holy war repels me. The various inquisitions and crusades, primarily during the Middle Ages, provide sufficient evidence to convince us that a physical battle to root out heresy or forcibly promote a certain religious perspective is never a good idea.

However, in a supernatural sense, a holy war should be pursued. As Paul says in the Bible, this isn’t a fight against people but “against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms,” for which we need spiritual armor. From this stems my idea of being spiritually militant. This is one way to understand and embrace jihad in a broader sense.

Also intriguing is the third definition of “striving for spiritual self-perfection,” but we must proceed carefully. Though we should desire to more fully be like Jesus, we can’t achieve this on our own; we cannot earn our right standing with God through our own efforts. Instead, we work with him, through his Holy Spirit, to move towards what he would have us to become. This is also an understanding of jihad that I can embrace.

Because of the likelihood of being misunderstood, we must be careful in using the word jihad. However, these are two ways we can embrace jihad as a follower of Jesus.

Are You Spiritually Militant?

This is my second and likely last post about music from my past. First, I blogged about “I Scream Sunday” and today my topic is Stryper’s “To Hell with the Devil.”

This heavy metal tune stirs up a passion inside of me, a desire to oppose and push back the onslaught of evil. I’m not talking about evil within this world; my focus is on evil in the spiritual realm. In short, I want to be spiritually militant.

Some people diminish or dismiss the concept of an evil spiritual force, that is, the devil, a.k.a., Satan, the enemy, the deceiver, the father of lies. In a modern world, he doesn’t make sense; after all, we can’t tangibly observe or measure him, so he must not exist; modern-thinking people laugh him off as myth. I do not.

Other people cower in fear over his power to inflict suffering. They see him as an equal and opposing force to the goodness of God. Instead of living in freedom, they shrink back in terror, worrying about what evil he might throw their way next. I do not.

Yes, our spiritual enemy is real, and he is powerful. But God is more powerful. I’m on the winning side. Through his power and by his authority, I can tell spiritual evil where to go; I can say with confidence, “To hell with the devil” – and I do, in both a figurative and literal sense.

As I read the Bible, especially the book of Acts, I get a sense that God wants spiritually militant followers. He desires we walk in his power and do battle in the spiritual realm. But too many people are content to play it safe, protected in the comfortable cocoon of complacency.

Fight Christian status quo; become spiritually militant. Check out the lyrics or listen to the song, “To Hell with the Devil”; join me in belting out the chorus.

All Things Are Spiritual

One of the disservices of the modern era was dividing life into secular and spiritual, of splitting our existence, behavior, and reality into separate realms of activity. Premodern man had no such illusions; neither did ancient man before that. To them, everything was spiritual.

If you don’t believe me, consider all the spiritual lessons and stories in the Bible. How many of them happened during a church service? Not too many. Indeed, the Bible shows God at work throughout the week, not just on the Sabbath or Sunday and not just at the tabernacle, temple, or synagogue, but anywhere, anytime.

In the Bible, God seldom waited for people to show up at the temple before speaking to them. Nor did he often require exuberant worship as a prerequisite for revealing his presence or power. Yes, those things did sometimes happen, but not usually.

When we view all of life as spiritual, the concept of secular disappears. Then we no longer need to wait for Sunday morning to encounter God; that can happen throughout the week – if we’re open to it.

On Sundays, we often arrive at church expectant of a spiritual experience: waiting for God to speak and open to experience his presence. But if all aspects of life are spiritual, as the Bible shows us, then we should be expectant of a spiritual experience at any moment. This should inform all we do, including when we drive our car, how we interact with the clerk at the store, what we watch on TV, and how we talk to our family.

Yes, all things are spiritual. It’s time we act like it.

May God speak to you and reveal his presence the next time you are in church – and even more so when you leave.

Spiritual Boldness (Visiting Church #26)

We know nothing about this minority church besides their name, location, and service time. When the service begins, words are displayed overhead while we sing along with recorded music. Many people raise their arms in praise to God. The worship occurs organically, so naturally that I don’t realize there isn’t a song leader.

As we sing, people shake tambourines with vigor, underscoring key words and phrases in the songs. This accentuates our worship. Involving the crowd transitions them from audience to participants.

We witness a baby dedication. The pastor’s prayer is passionate as he proclaims protection and favor over the child. He doesn’t say this as a request, but as a declaration. I appreciate his spiritual boldness.

Throughout the service, the minister continues to pronounce blessings. We see it next in celebrating October birthdays, with each celebrant receiving his or her own blessing. We extend our hands, nodding and voicing affirmation, as the minister places his hand on the head of each one and prays.

After the message, the service ends with another blessing, powerfully proclaimed on us and our schools, work, city, and county. As we leave, the minister thanks us for visiting, invites us back, and asks where we live. He’s dismayed to learn we live across the county line, an area his blessings didn’t cover. I assure him we’re not offended, but he takes our hands, proclaiming abundance and prosperity for where we live.

His message has given me much to think about; his bold prayers, an example to follow; and their worship of God, an inspiration.

[Read about Church #25 and Church #27, start at the beginning of our journey, or learn more about Church #26.]

Beware of Spiritual Incest

When at a business convention, I once spouted off a grand sounding idea, but it was really a bad suggestion that warranted immediate rejection. Yet I proclaimed it with passion and the air of authority (I had just finished speaking on the subject). I presented my spontaneous brainchild with logic. The person I said this to, nodded his comprehension.

However, before the convention was over, several people approached me to discuss this same thing. I doubt we all had the same notion at the same time. I’m quite sure it was my one bad idea, merely recirculated within a tight group, with no one questioning its wisdom. I later labeled this phenomenon as intellectual incest: reproducing a bad idea within a close group of likeminded thinkers, who blindly accept it as true.

The same can occur in a close group of like-minded spiritual thinkers. I’ll call this spiritual incest. I see it happen often. One person shares an insight or experience with their inner circle. Everyone accepts it as reliable, without scrutinizing its validity or testing its wisdom. When this happens, people are misled and unhealthy conclusions result.

Last Sunday I blogged about theological silos: the natural tendency of people to surround themselves with others who hold to the same spiritual perspectives. An unhealthy progression of this is spiritual incest. It’s easy to spot by listening to the words and phrases used. A localized dialect of Christianese emerges.

A bit harder to notice is when this creeps into our theology. It occurs easily enough when a respected leader makes a passionate statement, sounding wise and maybe even backed up with a sound bite from the Bible. This moves into heresy, but most don’t realize it. The close-knit faith community reproduces this one bad idea, blindly accepting it as fact, but it’s really spiritual incest.

We need to beware of spiritual incest.