My Bible Isn’t About Religion


GodReflection: My Bible Doesn’t Read Like Yours

gary portraitReligion drains me. I am tired of religion. I wish it would go away.

We humans tend to create religion. We build systems of belief and interpretation based on our own opinions or acceptance of views from a previous generation.

Before I know what has happened I codify my beliefs and assume they are precisely what Jesus thinks.

religion8Then I begin to judge others relationship validity with the Holy based on whether or not they observe my belief system.

Religion tends to serve the movement rather than the Master. When I’m concerned with my religion I seek laws instead of Jesus’ heart. I can be committed to religion yet find myself far from the heart of Jesus. After a time, my religion can actually oppose Jesus’ values.

Pardon me for my momentary audacity, but may I say what I think Jesus would say should He address our churches?

religion15“Come on people, please wake up and stop the time and effort spent to build and protect your religion.”

I suspect the furthest thought from Jesus mind as he set out on his mission was to start a religion. He came to restore relationship between God and humanity.

As I read my Bible I see Jesus ready to challenge the builders of religion. His confrontation was always provoked by their allegiance to self-imposed rules rather than alignment with the heart of God.

Far more times than I like to admit I find myself among the crowd of the religious builders.

religion10One of the most obvious ways is when I find myself reading my Bible to find support for an idea that I have predetermined to be true or so want to be true.

Such behavior on my part lays another brick in the structure of religion.
To steer clear of participation as a religion builder I think of a few guidelines I want to follow:

1. I want to learn to read my Bible with one eye centered on religion19the page and my other eye focused on Jesus. At the heart of my Bible is the story of what Creator God has done and is doing through Jesus. Jesus is my link to the Holy. Everything in my Bible is to be interpreted through Jesus who mirrored Father God.

2. To avoid transformation into a religion builder I want to remember that my Bible is written for my own transformation and growth. Its purpose is not to support political policies or religious darts hurled at others.

3. I draw myself into the practice of religion when I start to seek Biblical support for a valued tradition or for something that I would like to see changed. The way I read my Bible can transform my traditions into my gospel, rather than the gospel of good news brought by Jesus.

religion174. I want to take care not to read my Bible to take proof texts and change them from their given context to justify my tribal practice.

5. When I read my Bible with the sole intent to make my views right and your interpretations wrong I act as a contractor of Religion.

What if I attempt to consistently read my Bible with the humility of a listener and the anticipation of a learner? Wouldn’t that act alone keep me from religious construction? Wouldn’t that act alone take the focus from me and place it on the Master Builder where it belongs?

Stay tuned.

Dr. Gary J. Sorrells

A GodReflection: My Bible Is Not About Religion

Gary@GodReflection.org      http://www.GodReflection.org     http://www.MakeYourVisionGoViral.com

My Bible and Tribal Warfare


gary portraitGodReflection: My Bible Doesn’t Read Like Yours

It is the fault of the German inventor Johannes Gutenberg.

In 1440, he invented the printing press with movable metal type. The fundamentals of his invention served until the late 20th century in making the printed page common as sand.

war14Once he finished the printing press and the movable type to go with it he immersed himself into the project that became his namesake—a printed Bible. Over the years of 1454 and 1455 Gutenberg printed 180 copies of what in now known as the Gutenberg Bible.

He could never have dreamed of the millions upon millions to be impacted—both by his invention and by his Bible.

war3Without a doubt, my favorite class in both my junior and senior years of high school was printing.

From a large type case, we learned to use movable metal type—much like Gutenberg. As the course progressed we move to the next step—the offset printing press.

Yes, this printing thing caught on.

Just three years ago Bible Societies distributed 34 million Bibles to nations of our globe. There are now more bibles than people in our 21st century world. This statement is somewhat misleading as multi-millions across the globe still lack some or all of the Bible in their own language.

Prior to Johannes Gutenberg the church determined doctrine and its priests read portions of the Bible to congregants. In a sense the priests held the Bible as private property confined within the walls of the church.

worldview9However, the printing press moved the Bible from the clergy to the people.

What was unheard of for thousands of years is today’s reality.

As a common citizen I own a complete copy of God’s Holy Word. I don’t have to depend on the clergy to tell me what their Bible says. I have my own copy.

I would argue that the new printing press sparked the growth of literacy. Add to that the internet phenomena of the 21st century and the Bible is set loose in the streets.

war17Just over sixty years after the Gutenberg Bible came off the press the young Martin Luther was teaching at the University of Wittenberg. As Luther read his Bible he identified 95 theses of misalignment between his Bible and his church.

Luther’s 95 theses nailed to the chapel doors on October 31, 1517 spread throughout Germany within two weeks and across Europe within two months.

war19The Protestant Reformation had begun.

Since Luther’s time millions of men and women have read their Bibles and drawn their own conclusions. From that reading we humans wired with conviction, pride and persuasion have created thousands upon thousands of church tribes.

Even those within the same tribe find their Bible reads differently from other adherents of the same group. Pew and pulpit fail to reach one hundred percent agreement.

war7At our worst tribes shoot at other tribes or we are at war with our own subtribes.

At our best, far too many of us practice “cold shoulder” recognition of other Christ followers who read their Bible differently and worship Father, Son and Spirit under a dissimilar church sign.

Perhaps a divided body isn’t all the fault of the German inventor Johannes Gutenberg. We fail to realize that none of us are perfect readers and under every church sign is found imperfect interpretations.

Probably, from time to time I should raise a prayer of thanksgiving to our Heavenly Father for gifting Gutenberg with an inquisitive mind and the tenacity to create an open door for me to have my own Bible that I can read anytime day or night.

And maybe—just maybe—I should be less judgmental and allow others the grace to read their Bible different from me.

war20Possibly, I should treat those who worship under other church signs (who too are disciples of Jesus) as brothers and sisters since we claim the same Lord and Father.

Is it conceivable that God was behind a plan that would involve Gutenberg the German inventor, Luther, the German disciple, and the printing industry to open doors for millions to give their hearts to Father, Son and Spirit?

Perhaps we should lay down our offensive weapons and praise God for all who discover salvation in Jesus through the diverse ways they read their Bible.

Stay tuned.

Dr. Gary J. Sorrells

A GodReflection: My Bible and Tribal Warfare

Gary@GodReflection.org   http://www.GodReflection.org   

http://www.MakeYourVisionGoViral.com

Life with The Holy Supper


GodReflection: Life in the Holy Presence

garyguarujaIt is not an easy exercise to look afresh at the Holy Supper.

Through the centuries we humans have fought each other about its content, logistics and meaning.

Should members from the first century drop in and see how the 21st century church observes the supper they would not recognize our tiny emblems or our procedures.

Perhaps that is ok.

I am a member of a church tradition that has long honored a weekly participation in the Holy Supper. I like the idea of supper observance on the first day of the week as symbolic of Jesus first day of the week resurrection.

supperaThe truth is Jesus did not give instructions as to frequency.

However, it was on the first day of the week—the day of the resurrection—when Jesus first appeared to his disciples. The eye witness John tells us:

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” (John 20:19)

Luke begins an account of Paul at a church in Troas with, On the first day of the week we came together to break bread (Acts 20:7).

I might note that the commotion and delay caused by a young man who fell asleep and from a second story window resulted in a subsequent miracle that delayed the service into the predawn hours of the next morning before the “break bread” took place.

I’ve often heard that the weekly frequency of Sunday communion is because Jesus commanded us to do so. I doubt seriously it is in line with Scripture to attribute a frequency command to Jesus.

It is worthy of mention that the purpose of the Holy Supper isn’t to verbally rehearse the horrors of crucifixion. Jesus was only one of thousands executed in that manner.

supper16So what is at the heart of the Holy Supper that makes it color my walk?

If I were to select one word to cover its significance I would choose the word sustenance. Jesus picked the two life sustaining commodities most familiar to the people—bread and wine.

He raised the bread before his disciples and declared, “Take and eat; this is my body.” As he tore shares from the loaf he wants them to know, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 

It was not a new symbol.

Previously they hear him teach, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry.” And later as the disciples recall the Master’s words they must have remembered his remarkable claim, I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”

It was common bread—not the rich food of nobility—that provided the daily sustenance of life found in their homes and their markets that Jesus raised as a symbol.

SupperbSurely, every first century disciple of Jesus had the “Jesus is living bread” thought invade their mind each time bread was placed upon their table or pulled from their sack lunch.

It must have brought a real sense of joy and hope to assemble with fellow believers as they raised and shared the bread to affirm their lives were sustain in Jesus.

Paul reminds me that I break the bread to affirm my participation in the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 10:16).

Then Jesus lifts the cup.

Like bread, Jesus tied the wine to his DNA.

supper13Earlier in their presence he taught “I am the true vine.” He made what must have seemed like an outrageous claim the first time they heard it, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

The red juice of the vine fills the cup.

“Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you.” And he explains, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.”

And so the symbolic blood of the cup seals the covenant of promises from the Holy.

Paul reminds Corinthian Christians we drink the cup as a cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ.

supper3We drink the cup and eat the bread to remember the promises.

The promises flow from what the Holy did at Jesus’ resurrection. God, Spirit, and Son gifted eternal forgiveness and eternal life. It was a covenant sealed by the Holy with the blood of Jesus and brought to remembrance by the blood of the grape. 

The promise is Jesus’ sufficiency to sustain my walk and everything I might encounter while I live on the face of planet earth. 

The promise is the next resurrection and the return of Jesus to live at my side and at the side of every disciple who has placed their trust in God and the Son. 

The promise is nothing less than eternal perfection lived with the Holy and without the pain and destruction common to my current reality.

supper18The apostle Paul says it this way: For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes (1 Corinthians 11:26).

It seems life with the Holy Supper is so much more than my feeble attempt to slow down and give it a few minutes of my attention.

I would love to hear your unique perspective as to how you experience life with the Holy Supper.

Stay tuned.

Dr. Gary J. Sorrells

A GodReflection on Life with The Holy Supper

Gary@Godreflection.org     www.GodReflection.org

www.MakeYourVisionGoViral.com

 

Life in Holy Scripture AND The Holy Truth


GodReflection: Life in the Holy Presence

garyguarujaFor those who attempt to walk in submission to Jesus we older types find after the half century mark some of God’s riches blessings.

It’s not that the first half of life failed to please the Holy. Nor is it that we failed to make progress in our walk. Rather, I suspect the second half incorporates all past growth and life experience into a greater appreciation and understanding of the richness of the God-walk.

Truth9The second semester of life comes with an abundance of Holy aha moments that previously we missed.

I think of two examples.

I own numerous copies of the Holy Scripture.

Jokingly, I was probably given a little Bible instead of a baby rattle toy in my first crib. I have accumulated multiple copies through the years of both printed and digital versions.

Truth1One is my Grandma’s Bible with a date of August 1, 1938. Another is inscribed by my parents as a gift on September 14, 1956.

In early years I acquired facts and learned to rehearse memory verses. Each week I heard the Bible preached and attend Bible classes. In college I became more serious about the opportunity to learn its content and themes.

To the best of my memory, after college I spent thirty years as a teacher, missionary, and preacher without every methodically starting in Genesis and reading through the Book of The Revelation. I read “pick and choose” to meet the assignments at hand.

At the age of fifty-three that changed.

With the onset of chronic pain probably for reasons that are not even clear to me I stated to read through Scripture each year.

As I look back I stand amazed at how many things Scripture does not address that previously I had thought of as doctrine. In addition, I’ve found a richness in Scripture and themes in the text that I had not encounter before.

Truth10One great aha moment was to find Jesus defined as truth and to find truth defined as Jesus.

From an early age mistakenly, I had understood truth to be a set of doctrines and propositions.

In the Gospel of John, I read Jesus claim: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

When I scan through my New Testament I find at least ninety times where the word Jesus could easily substitute for the word truth. Only in an additional thirteen times does the word truth seem to be limited to the use of right and wrong.

I have a difficult time finding truth used in Scripture in the way I once thought of it as a set of doctrines and propositions.

So here is where I am.

To live in Holy Scripture and to live in the Holy Truth are not the same. To live in Holy Scripture is where I learn ABOUT Holy God, Holy Jesus and Holy Spirit.

truth5To live in Holy Truth is to live in Holy Jesus. It is to allow Holy Jesus to live in me through His Holy Spirit. In Jesus I learn how I should walk Sunday through Saturday.

In that act I don’t get everything right. Nor, do I live life without mistakes. However, as I remain in Holy Scripture and remain in Holy Truth, God see me as holy.

That’s my game plan. Let’s play on the same team.

Stay tuned.

Dr. Gary J. Sorrells

A GodReflection on Life in Holy Scripture AND in Holy Truth.

Gary@Godreflection.org     www.GodReflection.org

www.MakeYourVisionGoViral.com

Seven Reasons to Rejoice: Rekindling


untitledHence I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power and love and self-control. – 2 Timothy 1:6-7

Jesus, The Name above all names, is the best reason for stroking the fires God has placed within each person to speak The Name. And the beauty of living with The Name written on our hearts is when words do not suffice the God-lover, The Name oozes from our pores and fills the room with the sweet aroma of Grace.

painting-1186744__180I have always been bent towards the arts having grown up in Brazil with all its colorful spirit, my family’s love of music and good artwork, and a deep love for The Name and its spread among all peoples.

I have no need of worship aids. I also take seriously the command to not worship any idols, whether personal ideas or visual aids. I have seen firsthand the psychological and emotional devastation of philosophical and material idol-worship; the destruction it does to the teacher and the student.

No need to panic. Even this is character trait is redeemable by approaching the throne of Grace.

painter-4165__180Yet, I don’t apologize for a healthy artistic expression of my own walk with Christ, as I know love for The Name drives one far away from idol worship…at least chances are much lower that one is caught even in “accidental” idol-worship.

In fact, Christ was the first artist/miracle-worker being a part of the formation of the very earth we walk on every day. I seek to imitate Paul as Paul imitates Christ through my artistic soul, being a quiet hand of positivity in a world bent on running away from The Name.

love-1221444__180I seek to kindly show people God’s great love and to not fear The Name, but to run to The Name, asking Him for salvation and wisdom. It is only after grasping the Creator’s deep love for each soul that a healthy fear of God can begin to be apprehended.

Therefore I don’t have to be anyone else’s Holy Spirit. He does his job very well.

lawyer-28782__180I have come to believe today that to force an unnatural fear of God onto a soul who already knows they are condemned is more akin to co-operating with The Accuser of our souls.

I don’t want any hint of this evil spirit in my own soul.

But one may ask, “What about teaching morals?” I believe today more than ever that morals are a foundation, not the ceiling in Christ’s Home. Jesus said that unless our right-ness surpasses the [morality] of the contemporary “perfect” examples of religion and life, we can have no part of His Kingdom. I believe it is important for me to get right morally every day while breathing an air of grace towards all peoples as Christ did.

CaptureIt’s a tall order, but less stressful than it sounds. Why? Because Jesus means what He says when he asks us not to worry. If anything can distract one’s mind away from the very morals one seeks to clothe oneself with, it’s worry. The Word says worrying leads to all kinds of evil and what I think about comes true in my own heart and actions.

So if I curse the outward moral-code breaker in my soul, I too am guilty of inward moral-code breaking. But if I bless, I will become a blessing to others, even on my worst days. Why? I believe it is because Jesus’ Name stands between me and Holy God, finishing what I cannot and kindly correcting me along the way. Jesus is less harsh on me that I am on myself. He is less judgmental than some of my most well-meaning siblings in Christ who have not trained their impulses in the ways of Jesus’ grace.

rick-24127__180As I seek to see things the way God does, I fall immensely short. But one thing I know, unity is crucial for The Name to continue to be spread. I wonder if having the simple, modest and humble symbol of the fish on our places of worship – regardless of architecture – might be a more God-honoring and a Gospel-spreading act than what we see today. Might it be more honoring to the The Name, particularly since there is way too much division over The Name?

jesus-1301894__180What if those who claimed to be a part of The Church learned to love more deeply everyone who claimed The Name for themselves? Isn’t this The Picture of Heaven? No more tears, no more wars and rumors of wars?

What about helping Jesus-lovers rekindle one gift of many that God gives each of His Own for the Name’s Sake?

fire-227291__180In that vein, thank you Gary for helping God rekindle a fire in me for writing. My prayer is that all glory go to Him and any reader be one step closer to salvation in The Name or more encouraged on their journey Heavenward. But I confess, I still need encouragement as I cooperate with God’s warfare in the Heavenlies by bringing more of Heaven to earth that it might swallow up any hellish corners yet to be conquered in this age.

loop-572859__180It is amazing what people of The Name can do when unifying under The Name and walking the Way of Love.

What gifts are needing rekindling among God’s own today?

Just Wondering

Seven Reasons to Rejoice: Restoration


untitledWhen you forgive someone, you slice away the wrong from the person who did it. You disengage that person from his hurtful act. You recreate him. –Lewis Smedes as quoted in Philip Yancey’s “What’s So Amazing About Grace.”1

 

Restoration without forgiveness is not restoration. It’s a great act.

Restoration without understanding God’s great personal love and grace will lose its steam.

2

 

 

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.

– Paul, an apostle of Christ

Many say the world is going down.

But I also believe it is going up…it is being renewed before our eyes, and I don’t want to miss it.

Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more

– Paul

3With every immersion into Christ, the Heavens rejoice.

Not only are humans being restored to God daily, I believe that planet earth is being restored where Kingdom subjects walk by faith. One day this earth will be gone, but as we take part in the present world’s restoration, we are living in the shadow of the New Heavens and Earth and attracting more to Christ.

Restoration not only needs its brother of forgiveness, but its sister of grace.

4

 

Restoration is measurable. It makes leaps in the lives of its recipient that otherwise would keep them bound to the curse of sin and death.

 

5

In the book “Switch On Your Brain” Carlone Leaf – a professing Christ-following scientist – concludes that her personal studies in neuroscience points to the fact that the brain was wired for love.

Current instrumentation is actually able to measure new pathways that are created in the brain when in an environment of positivity.

What is more positive than living with the knowledge and connection to Christ, Creator, Redeemer, Savior of mankind?

It not only changes one personally, it changes family trees, communities and countries.

6

7      8

While sin brings humans down, there is a stream of Grace flowing that will ultimately win.

9

 

Restoration happens when I forgive as I have been forgiven.

Restoration continues its great work as I offer grace to others that God is giving me daily.

 

But if I don’t forgive, my actual brain begins to wire bitterness back into my soul. If I refuse grace, my heart becomes hard.

I don’t want that.

Further conclusions affirm what God has taught all along; the heart is the seat of the mind and ultimately the physical brain, and not the other way around.

If I keep my heart pure, it will renew my mind and can rewire my physical brain.

10

11

I believe restoration is the reason I can encounter someone who’s suffered great trauma and who seem unaffected by it. They’ve forgiven as Christ has called and chosen to be people of Christ’s peace, offering grace in their speech and actions to those all around.

It is good to have these among us, and to imitate their positive state and faith in God.

This state allows one to go from fault-finder to faith-finder; from world’s critic to servant of others; from self-righteous to becoming the righteousness of God.

It is an eternal spring-time in the heart!

12

When I obey by faith and keep my heart pure and renew my mind according to the Lord’s direction, he rewards me not only with a pure unseen heart, but a scientifically measurable new physical brain with new circuits ready to do my new day’s work.

I want to obey Christ, to forgive and be in my ongoing state of restoration, offering forgiveness and grace to others as Christ asks me to.

Amazing!

 

Seven Reasons to Rejoice: Renewal


untitledI am reading Stormie Omartian’s book “The Power of a Praying Wife.”

As I read this book, I am making a new friend. I wish I could have a cup of coffee with Mrs. Omartian and pick her brain some more. But I cannot. Yet, I can read her thoughts and get to know her heart through her writings.

untitledShe confesses her need for Christ to help her as a wife. She is a flawed author falling on Jesus’ teachings and draws me to want to fall more on God as I learn to be the wife God created me to be.

The Bible is a book written by flawed humans as well, but with a twist. Its ultimate twist is that it is inspired by a Holy, Perfect and Terrifyingly Loving God; the Only God in existence.

God terrifies me sometimes, but His Love draws me to Him at the same time.

I can’t put His Book down.

lightning-880154__180I understand why the people of Israel wanted Moses to go up the mountain for them; meeting God in person is like taking your life in your own hands.

Let me rephrase.

Meeting God is taking your life in your own hands. It is a risk.

dawn-190055__180

But the one who approaches God, as Moses did with humility and reverence, is blessed.

As I study God’s Word, I too stand face-to-face with God in my soul. But I also stand face-to-face with Love, Wisdom and the perfect Father.

bubble-19329__180I learn more each day how to take every thought captive. Every circumstance. Every nuance of life that might threaten my soul.

At the same time I can walk with sure feet because of Jesus. In and of myself, I fail. But with Christ I can do all things that are needing to be done in my life, and sometimes more than I can ever imagine to ask.

God is amazing to give me new days, new mercies and new opportunities to reflect his glory.

training-601214__180Spiritual renewal strengthens me to not only endure, but thrive through my most trying circumstances. And in time, the circumstances change, for change and growth is the only constant in life.

The question is: Is my mind new and fresh today to receive God’s direction?

If I am, I continue walking in blessing. And even if I am not prepared, I know I am walking by grace because God knows my heart and is guiding all circumstances, especially the ones I don’t see coming.

birds-217591__180But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:31)

The same power that raised Jesus from the grave renews me every day, and helps my spirit grow stronger, run faster and soar higher, especially when it feels weak.

Amazing!