Why I Hate Religion But Love Jesus Response

This video by Jeff Bethke has caused much conversation in the online world. Watch the video. Now think.

Some of you are critical and others are supportive. To the critic, take some time really digest what this young man means by the term religion (despite technical argumentative fallacies). He’s hitting a street term, slang, common language. I see problems, but I get where he is heading.

To the supporters, there are issues with the abolish religion approach, mainly that Jesus came not to abolish the Law of our scriptures (a religious document). Jesus has comments that sound more like reform, something very familiar to our faith. So listen to Jeff’s points, but with a grain of salt.

Jeff, if you ever read this, keep up your work. Also, work with the rest of us to tune up the religion conversation. Work in community with Jesus and His followers, right?


Covenant Prayer

This reading is from Richard Foster’s Prayer. It is very hard sometimes to keep up the effort to retreat to prayer. Remember that God is drawing you and you are responding by seeking time with Him. Let Him seclude you at some point today.

“Blessed Savior, I pace back and forth at the altar of commitment. I really do want a fixed habit of Prayer…Help me to so delight in your presence that I will want to come home to you often.”

Reflections on Lent (Sunday #1)

I’ve been going through a few readings during this lent season. On top of the normal Scripture readings is Richard Foster’s Prayer, Ben Witherington’s Jesus the Seer, and Ceil and Moishe Rosen’s Christ in the Passover. I have had no great epiphanies about life, the Church, or Christ yet, but I am being reminded of different prayer types and different ways to practice them in the Christian faith.

I mentioned on Ash Wednesday the idea of turning lent inward and focusing on inward repentance instead of outward material symbols. That is what I am doing this year. I’m hoping God shows me much revelation and grace in this. Who knows, maybe I’ll understand the resurrection better. I’ll keep updating on Sunday what I have learned the previous week.

I wish you all a Lent full of reflection and revelation.

Grace and peace.

Rob Bell and Love Wins

Though I disagree on a few points with Rob Bell and am still wondering where he gets certain translations from. I highly appreciate him asking questions about heaven and hell that have seemed off limits in our culture. This video seems to support my position that Rob Bell is not actually a heretic, but a man with whom I have simple theological differences.

Ash Wednesday

Today, I ready Leviticus 6:11 as part of my devotions. Although this section is about the Israelite sacrificial system, I find it odd that we are in Ash Wednesday today and ashes are mentioned here. (please read the passage)

This day is a sacred day. Like the sacrifices of old, it is based on repentance away from sin and towards God. As you approach the finger that will apply the ashes to your forehead, remember that the finger of God is applying revelation to your heart, revelation that we are not a perfect people. We begin today the season of Lent. We begin the period of reflection, submission, and in the end celebration for what we have received.

Today, begin the Lent practice of giving up something temporarily to hear God more clearly. If you cannot find something material that stands in the way of your coming towards God, try turning it inward. Even religious people who practice all the disciplines of the Church can have something in their hearts standing in the way of connection to God.

May you see God. And may you experience Him in Lent. May you carry the ashes proudly today as you find humility. And at the end of this season, may we all come together to eat, drink and be merry, for the Lord of Lords has risen.

Formation Prayer

Hear this quote by the contemporary Christian discipline author Richard Foster.

“None of us will keep up a life of prayer unless we are prepared to change. We will either give it up or turn it into a little system that maintains the form of godliness but denies the power of it – which is the same thing as giving it up.” Prayer, pg. 57

When you pray today, ask what you are willing to change in yourself so that you can be made more like Christ.

Babel and Babble

I and most people I know speak english. It’s our first language and it suits me. I must admit, for me to learn any language, whether the biblical languages or a currently used language is difficult. I used to be one of those who thought that everyone around me in this country should speak english or get out.

I mean, come one! It’s been the natural language for a long time. Since I’m a blogger who is a Christian, I decided to explore a christian ethic on this matter.

A Tall Tower

In Genesis 11:1-9, Noah’s children decide to build a tall tower. At first we’re a little uncertain as to why the tower is being built or what a Jewish person would see as valuable in this story. Let’s look a little closer at the story

The story takes place in the plain of Shinar, which is the land between the Euphrates and the Tigris River. The city that is there is the infamous Babylonia.

Also, the tower is associated with Ziggurats of the ancient world, which were mostly used in the worship of Marduk, the great god of the Babylonians.

Also, bricks are a major component in the building of this tower. Bricks, which reminds one of Israel in slavery in Egypt.

Egypt and Babylon. Two names that any Jewish reader learns to hate from an early age.

One thing that these two nations are against is the worship of the God of Israel. The forshadowing of those two nations should show us that the Ziggurat is in out right defiance of God. Even later, in the Midrash, the Rabbis wrote that this tower had a statue of a man holding a sword to symbolize war against God.

And let’s not forget they speak the same language. They war against God and are united. God decides to confuse them. He does not tolerate the race of man’s rebellion in this way.

So God breaks up the pride in this people’s hearts. God is not worried what language they speak, he just wants them to trust Him. There is a different story in the New Testament.

A Loud Noise

Acts 2 is a story of people being brought from the sad fearful state of losing a friend and leader. Christ has died, risen, and then left. He hasn’t left a very clear message of what to do. The believers meet in a room and when they least expect it

High Winds,

Loud Thunder,

and tongues of fire.

And a Spirit that fills these men and women with the ability to share the good news to others…in a language that is not their own. That is a different reaction from God to the Babel episode. These people have come to love Jesus and His Father. And God unites them through language. God does not shy away from accomodation through language. It actually ends up being His plan of reaching people in a place where there seems to be language difference for the time being.

People for God are united in language (despite differences in langauges).

People against God are divided in language.

New Plans

Which brings me to another part of this passage in Acts, rebellion. Peter delivers a message that does not shy away from fact that his people have reacted against their God. And their history of exile as punishment is still fresh in the ethnic memory. But Peter quotes the passage from Joel 2:28-32. The context of this small passage is that God is bringing them out of punishment in the previous verses. Punishment is something that is part of the Tower of Babel experience. He then goes on to say here that there is something very great and important that is happening. It will affect the hearts of men, women, and children alike, whether of high or low status. And in the event, God removes that shame of exile. The shame of knowing you’ve violated the agreement with a powerful friend. God’s bring His people back and saying, “I’m not angry anymore. I’m giving you hope and power.

The Big Question

So God’s salvation and action does not find its power in a single language. Many people of different origins have been saved and used by God. The people of Babel spoke one language and were proud of their achievements and their power, which is not unlike the country I live in today. My challenge to Christians is that they should rethink their investment into a singular language. It is not the language of God. It is not the language of salvation. It is not the original language of the Bible. (It’s not even the original language of the Native Americans who were here probably thousands of years before the Europeans came).

And language changes. We do not speak the same english that George Washington and James Madison spoke.

And when you get right down to it. We are not truly citizens of this country. We do not get sent out as Americans. We are Christians, the Church, and we are of and from heaven. We march with the orders from God above to advance, not with a sword or the violent ways of our own will, but with loving kindness.

So before you start claiming that non-English speakers are not welcome in your presence.. Think about how the Gospel is to all people, not just English speakers.

The Nation of God and the Kingdom of God

The previous decade was one of hurt, revenge, and war. My generation will always carry the term 9-11 as words of tragedy. Where were you? What did you feel? I felt shock, anger, and sadness. Most people felt that way.

Very soon after, we went to war. I’ll confess that I did the flag thing like everyone else did and almost bought a yellow ribbon magnet for the car.

It was a very fast move to get back at the evildoers.

More recently, I began to wonder if we really had time as Christians to step back and think about this.

(This not a post for pacifism, even though I am a pacifist.)

Maybe we have approached this all wrong. Much of the language supporting this war has been religious and moral in nature, hence the words evildoers and terrorist.

But what do the Scriptures say? Let’s look in the Bible and explore common passages, some used frequently and some that are not in this situation.

Romans 13:1-7 is commonly used to show that Christians are subject to government. I do not disagree. Our relationship with government serves as a witness to our citizenship to the Kingdom of heaven. However, Paul does not encourage us to be blind and not ask what is right in the eyes of God. If you jump to the previous chapter, Paul states that we are not give in to the world’s patterns, but that we are to live out our transformation. This means that our priority is the Kingdom or God. We are His ambassadors and must ask questions that lead us closer to His will.

Another passage used is Matthew 22:17-22. This passage at surface reading seems to bolster the view that government deserves our full support. But look a little closer. The object in question are the coins which have a picture of Caesar for taxes. So Jesus does encourage the payment of taxes. But He follows the statement by saying that we should give to God what is God’s. What belongs to God? If you are up to date on your Old Testament reading, you should immediately know that God owns everything, even the coins for the taxes. Jesus is not saying government deserve blind loyalty. He is actually saying that that is something which belongs to God alone.

To further the case for the Matthew passage as well as coming to a Christian understanding of 9-11, one needs to remember that in Matthew 6:7-15, Jesus says that we must forgive those who trespass against us, meaning someone who does something that invades our space and messes with what they should not be messing with. In verse 15, it seems like those who want to be part of God’s kingdom must forgive or God will not forgive, regardless of baptism, verbal confession of Christ as savior, right belief, or good works. This is very challenging for any one claiming Christianity as their faith.

So I ask you, which one will you be most loyal to, the nation or the Kingdom. Will give your allegiance to the Emperor, President, King, or Judge. Or will you give your allegiance to the Lamb of God who has already conquered.

Grace and Peace.