My Bible Is True—But JESUS IS TRUTH

GodReflection: My Bible Doesn’t Read Like Yours

gary portraitNext week I plan to bring this fourteen-post series to a close.

Thanks for reading along with me as I’ve attempted a preliminary look at factors that can cause me to see one of God’s children as an imposter; rather than as one who is in fact my holy sister or brother loved by our Father. We could just be reading our Bible from different perspectives.

When I look at my own church tribe—not to mention when I consider others that claim God as Father and Jesus as Lord—I see a wide variety of views, beliefs and definitions of doctrine.

Within my church heritage we gather to worship with different understandings of discipleship, roles of men and women in worship, heaven, hell, sacrifice and money, local church function and communion. Certainly not a complete list. How about a common view of John’s Revelation among us?

truth6If we were to place a random fifty of us in a room we could fill multiple whiteboards with lists of our own counter views drawn from our Bible. I dare say some of our differences would center on what we define as doctrine.

Yet, we hold in common the belief that our Bible is true. We believe that our Bible was designed, preserved and inspired by God.

What is it that could help us extend a greater portion of grace to each other?

I have come to believe that perhaps our search in scripture is for the wrong truth. Maybe we should first look for JESUS THE TRUTH.

truth7Is my truth search for procedure and for the purpose of building my own body of doctrine? Rather, shouldn’t I place at the forefront of my reading the one who assumed the very definition of truth?

Jesus declared—as a matter of fact—“I am the way and the Truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

The entirety of the Old Testaments moves toward the introduction of Jesus Messiah. The Gospels record his life, death and resurrection, and the remainder of the New Testament his presence as THE TRUTH empowering the church.

With Christ at center stage of Holy Scripture shouldn’t He be the Truth lens through which I read my Bible?

I can trust Jesus to be true.

Now back to our differences in viewpoint drawn from our Bible.

truth14Were we to look first at Jesus, how can we then deal with such disagreements as the roles of men and women, worship, heaven, hell, sacrifice and giving, local church function and communion?

What if I explored Jesus’ example and instruction found in the Gospels? What is Jesus intent. What happens at each encounter? Is his attempt to teach something significant beyond the literal encounter that is a mere illustration of his point?

Is his concern really how I calendar communion or is his concern that I recognize the cleansing power of his body and blood on my behalf through the symbols of bread and wine? And from that recognition, I am to observe his symbols with consistency and humility.

Is it important to Jesus that I speculate on the specifics of heaven and hell? Isn’t his concern and intent that I set my focus on him and by so doing I will live with him eternally?

Isn’t the reality of eternal separation from the Holy the real deterrent of hell rather than how I might envision its hellish features?

truth1Last evening in a re-read of the late Henri Nowen’s book, In the Name of Jesus, I came across this passage that clearly expresses the core consideration of this post:

But when we are securely rooted in personal intimacy with the source of life, it will be possible to remain flexible without being relativistic, convinced without being rigid, willing to confront without being offensive, gentle and forgiving without being soft, and true witnesses without being manipulative (page 32).

If we will only listen to Jesus speak and grow more familiar with his life, priorities and the way he treated people, don’t you think JESUS THE TRUTH will give us more common ground as we read our Bible?

And, as we make the effort to grow in love with Jesus, I suspect our Bible will sound more and more alike. What do you think? I would love to hear from you.

Stay tuned.

Dr. Gary J. Sorrells
A GodReflection: My Bible Is True—But JESUS IS TRUTH

The Great Interpreter Is God—Not Me

GodReflection: My Bible Doesn’t Read Like Yours

gary portraitI live in a big city. Hidden in the city I miss the reminder of God’s grandeur. We city dwellers may find that concrete and bricks limit our daily visuals of All Powerful Creator God.

Day and night, I am either inside a house covered by ceiling or in the streets staring at pavement in an attempt to stay out of the pathway of a gazillion cars flying above speed limits and moving in my direction.

At this point in my walk I find much of my effort is spent on my deteriorating body. almighty7From my pavement focus while driving, to my downward gaze when I walk, my actions are careful to NOT speed up my demise. I try not to skin my knees and my nose by a fall nor end my time on earth in a wrecked automobile.

Often, I find when I read my Bible I am focused on a specific thought or a limited arena of concern. Far too often I read without a consideration of big picture God.

As I hunt and peck at the keys of my keyboard I think back to earlier years. Like a Power Point presentation, I see frames of sleeping bag nights in wait of sleep as I took in the vastness of God’s grand sky. The moon shown bright and stars filled the heavens in numbers too great to be counted.

almighty19Pictures flash before my mind of past views of high mountain ice-cold lakes in the Mountain Ranges of New Mexico, the Rocky Mountains of Colorado and the Andes of Argentina.

I see beloved images of the rugged vastness of New Mexico’s Chihuahuan Desert and the beauty of the tall pines in the Sacramento Mountains.

My Power Point continues to run through moments of awe at the enormity of Brazil’s Amazon, the power of her rivers, the beauty of the Pantanal and her exquisitely sculptured beaches.

almighty12Surely, God’s magnificence needs to also penetrate my Bible reading.

Ok, what’s my point?

When I look back over my Bible reading walk, I recognize that in earlier years my reading was anemic. My focus was upon how close I followed what I had learned from others. To be fair, I probably read more with brain than heart. I was more concern with my rightness than I was with relationship to the power source.

Yes, I did need to know God’s written word. Yes, I did want to honor it. But, with my eyes lock on city concrete I failed to see the larger grandeur of Jesus the Word. Perhaps I sought truth without awareness that Truth is Jesus since Jesus is Truth.

I was saved but I still believed Pluto was a real planet.

almighty13I learned and believed over my life that Pluto was a planet. It wasn’t until eleven years ago in 2006 that I learned I had believed wrong.

All because a bigger picture came into view and scientist reclassified Pluto. Still a heavenly wonder but little Pluto was removed from the planet list.

I must always read my Bible with an attitude of humility. I will arrive at some wrong interpretations because of my humanity. I suspect that is ok with the ONE who sees across all of the light years of the universe. He knows that my brain is limited in understanding.

almighty6What applies to me applies to others. It’s ok that we don’t read our Bibles alike. The same God that interprets the universe also sees my human ceiling, pavement and sidewalks.

He knows that far too often you and I read our Bible concerned with our present circumstances forgetting to trust the one who see the entire picture and is its perfect interpreter.

If God who is the final and Great Interpreter still accepts me when my limitations that cause me to understand many aspects of my Bible different from others; shouldn’t I allow Him to grant you the same grace when your understanding is different from my own?

And, shouldn’t I too open my heart valve and let some grace flow in your direction?

After all is said and done, all knowing and all-powerful God, who was before the beginning of time, is still the Great Interpreter—not me.

Stay tuned.

Dr. Gary J. Sorrells
A GodReflection: The Great Interpreter Is God—Not Me.



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

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

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


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.

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