Before discussing the main point of this article, let me be clear up front:
There are no other writings that have had greater impact on my life than the collection of writings we commonly refer to as “the Bible.” *
Though I’m as human as everyone else and often get too busy, too tired, etc. I try to make it a discipline to read portions of the Bible – whether it be a chapter, a paragraph, or sometimes even a single word or sentence if I get hung up on it – every single day. No other work have I read as many multiple times.
Single readings have literally altered my life. A single verse forever changed my career direction, certain verses have gotten me through some of the most desperate, hopeless-seeming situations, and a single sentence once literally caused me to quit my job, uproot my family (back when we had two small children) and move to another state without a new job or specific place to live.
I do not regret any of those decisions or moments because to this day I have no doubt that God was behind them and specifically led me to those verses.
And though I think there is much carelessness and confusion when we use words such as “inerrant,” “infallible” and “authoritative” in relation to the Bible, and though frequently passages have been interpreted outside of culture, context, and literary form – often abusively – I do believe there is something miraculous about how the writings have been preserved for us through all these years to be able to read today.
I do believe there is power behind the words.
And I do not take lightly the fact that there are people out there in parts of the world who would give anything just to have a copy and that many have died just for possessing it or for trying to get copies to people who don’t.
With that made clear up front then let me say it…
I do not believe that something is true because the Bible says. Continue reading
It was the most demeaning of tasks, performed by only the lowliest of servants – often slaves in the households of the rich.
The roads were dirty and dusty and likely covered with animal dung.
Thus, with nothing but sandals to wear, one’s feet were often coated in filth.
The hosts would, consequently, provide a bowl of water for cleansing – particularly before a meal in which the guests would lean back on the floor and prominently display their feet.
In ordinary households, guests would wash their own feet; but in wealthier households the lowly servants and slaves would crouch before the honored guests and wipe the grime off for them.
Thus an extraordinary thing happened this particular day when the I Am –
…the very law that had the power to form an entire universe with numerous galaxies billions of light years apart
…the law that had existed since before the beginning of time and would be there to the very end
…the law that was responsible for light and energy and atoms and the creation of life itself
…the most authoritative law there ever was
– rose, removed its garments, wrapped a towel around its waist, bowed down before each of its disciples and proceeded to wash their feet. Continue reading
Everyone has one of those stories: the kind of strange, true-life events you tell at a party that people find hard to believe. This is mine.
Though I confess some of the specific details over the years have escaped me, I assure you the story itself is real.
Back in the 90’s I worked as a freelance cameraman for a company that videotaped weddings. One weekend my fellow freelancer David and I set out for what we thought would be a typical day of: capture the bride and groom individually getting ready, front and back camera setup for the ceremony, tape the photography session without getting in the still photographers’ way (or on their nerves because you’re taking away from their business), capture the bride and groom entering the reception, first dance, cutting the cake, interviews with sometimes obnoxiously drunk people congratulating the bride and groom, and get the final moments of people pelting them with rice or bird seed and watching them drive off.
In and out…boom…we’re done. I hate to admit it, but what was often a very special day for some was pretty formulaic for us.
But this day was different. Continue reading
“Separation of church and state.” Few phrases have caused such division and controversy. From the famous Scopes Monkey Trial to battles over the Ten Commandments on public display to stories of high school coaches praying with their teams, there is no shortage of opinions.
Recently, the phrase has even become part of the dialogue in Republican presidential primaries. After, I questioned the faith claims and behaviors of one of the leading candidates, several objectors decried, “What about separation of church and state?”
Surprisingly, evangelical Christian supporters of the candidate – ones who in the past have traditionally defended this is a “Christian nation” – have begun using a slight variation on the phrase when they proclaim that we are electing “a commander-in-chief, not a pastor-in-chief.”
But all of this is symptomatic that even evangelicals have become victims of a great misunderstanding about God. Continue reading
I hate to break it to you but it’s true. Though, thou may protest much, and though the idea of it may defy every notion of freedom you believe in, there is, in fact, a supreme dictator and that dictator has complete control of your life.
What’s more is that even though we dislike the idea of our individual freedoms being taken, we protest very little of the actual rules that this dictator imposes on us and, in truth, often welcome them.
And I’ll prove it. Continue reading
There’s a classic theorem out there that compares the creation of the universe to putting typewriters in a room full of monkeys.
On one end of the spectrum are those that contend that given enough time, say billions or even an infinite number of years, the monkeys randomly pecking away at the keys will eventually type out the complete works of Shakespeare.
On the other end of the spectrum are those that argue that after even billions (or even infinite) tries of hitting on the typewriter, the monkeys might be able to accidentally type up some words, or maybe even a complete sentence, but the chances of typing up even one actual Shakespearean play are insurmountable Continue reading
One of my more memorable experiences with the “supernatural” or the “miraculous” occurred early in my Christian walk. I was struggling with some overwhelming issues late one night when I heard God tell me to “go out to the church and pray.”
This was not just any church; it was a beautiful church that sat up on a hill overlooking Lake Travis in Austin. Ironically, I had never actually attended this church, but had several times gone out there to pray, sitting in my car in the parking lot. It was also the very parking lot (as shared in 2 of my previous posts: “Why I Was Kicked Out of Vacation Bible School” and “Losing My Religion”) where for the first time I heard the “voice” of God.
Now God was calling me back to that same place, presumably to hear his voice again. Continue reading
So here’s the truth: the god that I have believed in for much of my life does not exist. Yes, it’s true. And there’s a good chance that the god you have believed in does not exist either.
But let me explain a little bit about this god I have believed in:
First, this god that I have believed in does not allow suffering…well, maybe he does for others, especially bad people and those who live in other parts of the world, but certainly not for me. But this god obviously does not exist because I have definitely experienced my share of suffering – maybe not nearly as bad as others, but enough to occasionally make my life miserable and difficult at times…and much of it since I became a believer. And anything less than the most comfortable existence for me is certainly too much; so my god of “no suffering” does not exist. Continue reading
Photo by Melissa Baldwin
“♫ Amazing grace how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me ♪” We sing about it all the time. “♪ Grace, grace, God’s grace. Grace that is greater than all my sin ♫” We talk about it. “By grace alone you have been saved.” And we offer it to each other. “Grace to you.” It is one of the most prominent messages in the church. But do we really know what it means?
The Greek word for grace, χάρις (charis), is most often defined as “favor” and sometimes as “kindness.” It has the implication of favor that is freely extended – and thus often defined as “unmerited favor.”
So if God really favors you a lot that should make us really feel good right? But do we?
Last week, blogger and former evangelical Christian turned atheist, Neil Carter, tweeted:
The Helix Nebula in infrared *
Imagine with me for a moment that the Universe called out to you. Would you follow it? And what I mean by the Universe is all that is out there: the billions of stars, the planets, the super novas, the galaxies, everything that is within them and all that you could possibly imagine, as far as the almost infinite, expanding Universe can go. And further yet, the laws that are behind all that exists in the Universe. What if it called out to you in one big unifying voice? Would you tune your ears to listen to it? Continue reading