I Wasn’t Born Into Your Family


GodReflection: My Bible Doesn’t Read Like Yours

garyguarujaI just returned from a long-awaited cousins reunion.

What a wonderful gathering of diverse people. Nine cousins with their families, an aunt and an uncle brought joy and warmth to the room. And to think, everyone is a member of my extended family.

In the presence of four generations we shared the stories and auctioned family heirlooms Family1to each other for a family memorial gift to present to a children’s home in the name of our recently deceased cousin Derrell.

We retold stories of Grandpa. We played dominoes and cards together, ate together, sang together, and worshipped together.

We lived family history.

Often, I’ve claimed to have been reared on a church pew. It never occurred to me to ask my parents, but having known them for almost six decades I suspect I went from the hospital to church on the first Sunday of my life.

family3I was born in the Chihuahuan Desert.

Yes, it was in the USA in an actual hospital at the middle of our little town. The state of New Mexico still carried the scent of its new frontier roots.

Its native-born residents and those who came from other states were more of the—can I say make it work—fresh from farm life folks trying to figure out how to create a livelihood without crops, cultivation and harvest. We weren’t exactly on the radar screen of big city people.

family4As with frontier generations my family was from a love by show rather than tell background. Therefore, I don’t recall hearing the word love vocalized much among kinfolks but its expression into my life from family and church was never in doubt.

I knew we were family.

family11I was raised with very clear do’s and don’ts while given a huge amount of freedom

From family, I learned both the concept of sin against God and allegiance to Jesus prior to my own personal encounter with Scripture.

Raised in a time of racial segregation we were far enough off of the radar screen that segregated schools, restaurants, bathrooms and water fountains were never an issue.

Shamefully however, churches and neighborhood were divided along racial lines. At school, many of my best friends were from families of Mexican and African origin. None of those friends were in my church.

family14The family value of education flowed from grandparents, parents, aunts and uncle’s rural school influence of the previous generation. Everyone learned to read.

As we learned to read the skill was aligned with each unique personality to be used throughout life in diverse ways and different degrees.

The reading family value significantly added richness and understanding to my own faith walk. 

It is beyond my comprehension why my birth came within a specific heritage, racial, socio-economic family. I am sure that in ways that I don’t recognize the family lens influences the way I read my Bible.

Because I wasn’t born into your family my Bible doesn’t read like yours.

family6Since you weren’t born into my family and since you walked a different path your own unique familial eyeglasses are made from a completely different set of lenses. It is through those glasses that you read God’s Holy Bible.

God’s Word gets screened through a value system influenced from our family backgrounds.

It is one of many diverse strands that Scripture flows through as God’s inspired message speaks to my soul.

However, as we explore the reality that each person reads her or his Bible from their own unique point of view how can we be assured we hear God’s call? How can I know family12that I am reading what God wants me to hear?

I want to explore the obvious question in the next post. Since we all read the Bible differently, can we all share the heart of Scripture that is the core message of our Bibles?

Stay tuned.

Dr. Gary J. Sorrells

A GodReflection: I Wasn’t Born Into Your Family

Gary@Godreflection.orghttp://www.GodReflection.org. http://www.MakeYourVissionGoViral.com

My Worldview is Unique to Me


GodReflection: My Bible Doesn’t Read Like Yours

garyguarujaIt’s not uncommon to hear someone express, “I have my own standards”.

It seems common place for us human types to judge each other by our own individual standards.

It is from my “standards” created by my own experiences that I interpret the world. The accumulated mass that feeds into my brain makes up my worldview.

From my worldview, I interpret everything that crosses the path of my earth walk.

It is through this worldview lens that I read my Bible.

worldview2

worldview13The way I am wired colors my worldview. My particular personality follows me to the text.

Since I have a creative gene my tendency isn’t to read my Bible through the precise lens of a banker, a scientist or an accountant.

I have little interest in the periods, comas, sums and formulas each uncovers with abundant joy.

worldview14I read more as a builder, an architect or a city planner. I am a “big picture” type of guy. It is through the “what is and what can be” creative lens that I tend to see the world.

I can only read Scripture from the vantage point of who I am. I cannot read my Bible like you do because I am not you.

My own view of God influences my worldview. It colors the way I see myself and those I encounter. Thus, this God view aspect influences my open Bible. What has been my experience with God? Has He answered my prayers?

worldview20Do I look at Him as a Holy Santa Claus or as an ever-present Guide who sometime sends me down rocky trails?

Is He a clock winder God who wound up the universe like a time piece or an action toy then backed off to let it run down or is He active in my present?

My worldview is form by what I read and hear from others. To a certain extent the things I read and hear—that make sense—become a part of the way I see the world. It is with those same preconceptions—some right and some wrong—that I approach God’s Holy Bible.

Unfortunately, my prejudices—known or unknown to me—sway my worldview. I think of an extreme but real example of slavery. Sadly, slavery is more prominent across worldview23the face of the world today than it has been at any time in human history.

Not all that long ago in my own nation the way people viewed a different race made it possible to read their Bible and from it justify slavery.

The way I view others shapes my worldview. Do I see my co-travelers as inferior, equal or superior to myself?  Here I am in the twenty first century living in one of the neighborhoods of the world that are in a major shift.

Up and down my street I have neighbors from Africa, Brazil, France, Mexico, Porto Rico and even a few from Texas. The way I see those of my own race and the way I look at those of other nationalities impact my worldview.

worldview11My view of self plays a role in the way I see my world. Am I self- centered living with the expectation that everything should come my way?

Do I have a view of my role on the planet? Do I see myself as an instrument of God? Do I feel capable? Or, do I view myself as inferior to others?

All of the above—and much more—compose my worldview one that is unique to me alone.

It is from my one-of-a-kind view of the world that I come to Scripture.

So here is the big question.

If each reader of the Bible brings her or his exclusive worldview to the way they read the text, shouldn’t I offer a little slack and breathing room to others who don’t see everything in Scripture the way I see it? Shouldn’t this fact alone make me less judgmental?

Stay tuned.

Dr. Gary J. Sorrells

A GodReflection: My Worldview is Unique to Me

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

 

Are Diverse Interpretations Legal?


GodReflection: My Bible Doesn’t Read Like Yours


garyguarujadiverse9All it takes to discover how differently two people interpret the same Bible is a conversation over a cup of coffee. Honest disciples of Jesus actually hold different opinions when it comes to an encounter with Holy Scripture.

The Bible is inspired by God. It is interpreted by flawed humans.

I would think it to be apparent that when it comes to the Bible—one  size doesn’t all.

Scripture1Some believe silence within the Bible equates to license while fellow disciples are sure silence prohibits anything not specifically addressed in the sixty-six Biblical books and letters. Both groups draw their conclusions from their Bibles.

I find in my Bible support of the death penalty while others read Scripture as teaching the exact opposite.

One is a committed pacifist yet another believes in justifiable war. Both views are drawn from Scripture.

diverse1Recently, while doing some spring cleaning I came across a ten-year old aerial photo of a small section of Sao Paulo the thirty-plus million populated city of Brazil. The picture was captured at such an elevated altitude that the thousands of skyscrapers appear as no more than little stacks of legos.

From this lofty point of view the essence of the city is missed. The texture of buildings, streets, parks, people and culture is not apparent. What is core to the city is absent.

The richness of the city that comes in its diversity is missing from the picture. The aerial snapshot completely failed to share the down-on-the-street view.

diverse8Like an “on-the-street” view of the city I see my Bible as rich in texture.

Texture is purposefully reflective of a God who majors in layer upon layer of richness and variety. Both gush from His creative nature.

I cannot read my Bible without the backdrop of inventive diversity that flows from Creator God.

The God of creation ties Himself tightly together with variety as the common thread to make Holy art from the diverse.

diverse4Each created one is unique and different from all others. Of the seven billion residents on planet earth no two people are alike. Yet God links us diverse ones together with Him—and each other—by His Spirit.

To speak to a diverse people God left a diverse Bible.

The text is so rich I can never claim to have mined it to its deepest depth.

Due to the one of a kind design of each person created by God the richness and the texture of the Bible ministers to every individual at just the right point of need.

In a time of trial, I may see for the first time an interpretation of a certain verse or a particular section from my Bible that specifically fills my soul. In turn, another person may read the same verses hundreds of time over a lifetime and never encounter the exact same fit that so ably fit me.

diverse7Any person whose face is turned toward God, Son and Spirit finds relevance within Scripture that is perfectly aligned to fit a unique situation.

The result provides growth and care at a time of need.

It seems to me the God who created diversity designed a rich Biblical text that not only allows but demands diverse interpretations to meet His ultimate objective—to form His creatures into His image.  

I would say, diverse interpretations of the Bible are not only legal but a fact of reality. What do you think? What would you add to this reflection?

Stay tuned.

Dr. Gary J. Sorrells

A GodReflection: Are Diverse Interpretations of the Bible Legal?

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

 

 

 

You and I Read Our Bible Differently


GodReflection: My Bible Doesn’t Read Like Yours

garyguaruja“I didn’t fall off a turnip truck yesterday,” was the way an old elder friend often led into words of wisdom he was about to express.

Since I’ve never seen a turnip truck—much less fallen from one—I’m not sure I completely understand the origin and the complete meaning of his expression. I think that was his way to state what seemed obvious to him.

different4As I begin this series of blog posts I feel as if this is a treatment of the obvious. My Bible doesn’t read like yours. You and I read our Bible differently.

It doesn’t take an overabundance of brain cells to observe the fact that the body of Christ is split into thousands upon thousands of tribal churches. And, within each church exist countless divisions.

I hear all sorts of what seems to me to be unreal explanations. Like one I’ve heard most of my life expressed in one form or another: “If only a reader was honest, she or he could correctly read their Bible the way I read mine.”

Although, I’ve observed—to my mind—some rather screwy interpretations of Scripture, I have to believe a lack of basic honesty is not the problem across the body of Christ.

different8In this set of posts, I want to explore the effect that worldview, background,  church traditions, Bible exposure, feelings, religion, tribal warfare and expectations have upon how each of us encounter Holy Scripture.

Is it possible that the way God divinely and uniquely wired every one of us, when mixed with our imperfections as descendants of the Eden fall, make it impossible to see everything alike—even our Bibles?

Since I’m not wired like you why should I spend time and word count on the obvious?

It is because the heart of Jesus expressed time and again His desire that WE ALL love God and each other. Being the human that I am, I find it is far too easy to withhold love from someone who disagrees with me or does not see Scripture the exact same way I do.

different11If we can’t seem to see things alike then what do I hope to accomplish by highlighting our differences?

It is my hope that a look at the differences we bring to our Bibles will help us grow in unity with the Savior and with each other.

If I can better understand why God’s children read Holy Scripture differently I might just see that a sibling in the Lord is not wrong in their interpretation of the Bible; but their different6unique perspective comes through the use of a valid lens that helps them gain greater eyesight to walk with the risen Christ.

I believe the Bible to be true and the inspired word of God. Yet, I know the infallible Bible is always read by fallible men and women.

Isn’t it more important to follow Jesus—The Truth—in faith and trust then it is to demand from each other a unified interpretation of all sixty-six of the books and letters that make up the thirty-one thousand one hundred three verses of our Bibles?

different9There is an attitude I want to cultivate throughout this series of posts in hopes that it will spill over into my life. It comes from a contrast greater than I can possibly imagine.

It is my affirmation that I am a flawed, limited human being with only a speck of a brain when compared to perfect and unlimited God.

In light of my own humanness, shouldn’t I be willing to give a fellow Christ follower a break when our Bibles don’t seem to read the same?

Stay tuned.

Dr. Gary J. Sorrells

A GodReflection: You and I Read our Bibles Differently

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

http://www.MakeYourVisionGoViral.com

I’ve Learned a Different Way to Read My Bible


GodReflection: It’s Jesus Friday

garyguarujaI’ve spent a lifetime in and around Scripture. There were far too many times of thoughtless perusal. I used it at times as mere preparation to put together an assignment for the classroom or the pulpit.

As I reflect backwards over the years, although sincere in my presentation, there were more outings than I would like to admit when I taught from past conclusions rather than from deep mining.

From childhood through the sunset years of my present life the truth and inspiration of Holy Scripture only grows stronger. I believe the Bible to be true and Inspired by Creator God.

bible2My Bible It is not only inspired—it is God-breathed. It pulsates with God’s Spirit. There are times I read Scripture and find myself limited too little more than following the story.

On other occasions, I feel its breath.

The exact help I need jumps off the page. It’s as if God knows what’s going on in my life and sets holy insights exactly where I need to find divine assistance.

I like the idea of a breathing pulsating Bible.

Like Paul’s young protégé Timothy, the Holy Scriptures has paralleled my life since infancy.

The Holy Scriptures are able to make you (me) wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

Because:

bible1All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

It is from this foundation that I will attempt to place in words my partial understanding of how Scripture functions as it declare; it’s Jesus.

The entirety of the Biblical message relates to the core purpose of declaring Jesus the Savior of the world.

What does that mean for how I read my Bible?

I read my Bible cover to cover to see the scope of God’s complete story. I find that everything from Genesis up to the Gospel of Matthew points to Jesus as the main focal point of the Scriptures.

The Bible is about Jesus.

The Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) tell the story of Jesus life on earth.  They declare Jesus as Truth. The Gospels teach me if I can see Jesus, I will see God.

bible9From Jesus I learn the nature of God’s heart and the depth of His love for His creation.

I identify God’s value system when I watch and listen to Jesus. I see God’s attributes through Jesus.

In Jesus is the very heart of all that God is up to in this world and the next. Through Jesus, I learn that following God is an issue of the heart rather than creating laws to keep.

From the Acts of the Apostle through Jesus’ Revelation to the Apostle John I see infant members of the body of Christ attempting to live out their trust in Jesus and their commitment to him as their Savior.

One quick observation:

Most of my life I’ve read the Bible in segments without the realization it is one story that moves toward Jesus.

bible16Too often, I read the story backwards.

Through my church tribe, I’ve camped within the Act of the Apostles and the Letters as I attempted to make church visible on earth.

bible17Out of habit, I strained Jesus and His church through the New Testament Letters. Instead, it seems I should strain the New Testament Letters and the New Testament church through Jesus of the Gospels.

Working from the Letters backward to Jesus it is far too easy to build do’s and don’ts from fragments of Scripture and draw speculative conclusions that don’t live up to the heart of Jesus as presented in the Gospels.

I will do a better job at reflecting Jesus in my world when I make the effort to filter life, worship, traditions, and service through Jesus example and teachings. It’s Jesus.

Stay tuned.

Dr. Gary J. Sorrells – A GodReflection on Jesus the Heart of Scripture.

Gary@Godreflection.org     www.MakeYourVisionGoViral.com

 

 

 

 

I’ve Changed My Canon


GodReflection: Power Words

garyguarujaI grew up with the wrong Bible.

For the past several years, I’ve hovered over and circled around the way I view Scripture. Let me take another shot at it.

Previously, I sought out truth rather than purpose.

I believe the Bible to be true and inspired by God in both design and content.  However, today I realize not all of Scripture is equal in importance. It’s all true and it’s important—it’s just not equal in value. A battle recorded in the Old Testament isn’t equal in importance with the fact of Jesus’ resurrection.

There is an overarching purpose to Scripture. It is not to mine every truth. It is to understand the act and enormity of God’s grace.

Lately, I became aware of the phrase: “a canon within the canon.”

The Bible, as we know it with its 66 books became what we refer to as Scripture through a process of canonization that climaxed about 300 years after the death of Jesus.

canon10Canon at its most elementary level is nothing more than a list or a catalog.

Compilers within the church traced the chain backwards through written and oral history to conclude that the 39 books of our Old Testament and the 27 books and letter of the New Testament met the criteria as the inspired Word of God.

Indeed the Bible continues to stand the test of time and critics. The evidence stands strong to conclude the 66 books of the canon are God’s Word of truth in both design and content.

canon1The phrase, “a canon within the canon,” refers to those of us who have settled in on certain books or specific sections of Scripture and in practice created our own canon—our own Bible. It is our personal canons that run the risk of ownership of a Bible divorced from God’s design for the message of Scripture.

The Acts of the Apostles and the Letters of the New Testament served the greater portion of my life as my Bible.

It seemed as each fall in Sunday school, The Acts of the Apostles greeted the class as our “new and exciting” curriculum. Although we were a long way from the designation of “conquerors of content,” we felt there must surely be more to Scripture.

Certainly, I honor The Acts of the Apostles and the Letters as God-inspired writings.

As I move toward my 68th birthday, I find I struggle for the vocabulary to express my understanding of Holy Scripture.

canon2The power of the Bible comes when I accept the Apostle Paul’s challenge to handle correctly the word of truth.

What we call Old Testament Scripture, from Genesis its first book through Malachi its last book points to Jesus of the Gospels.

I want to know Jesus of the Gospels since he is the exact mirror reflection of God.

The Acts of the Apostles tells the story of Jesus living in his church. The Letters tell the story of the attempt by fellow human beings to live under the guidance of Jesus and his Holy Spirit.

Here is what I think.

I continue to work through the fog of my own mind in an attempt to express what seems to be true.

I cannot get the Jesus of the Gospels right and get his church wrong. If I get Jesus right I get church right.

canon8I want to be extremely caution about my creation of Biblical doctrine from an obscure passage extracted from the Letters. Whenever I find the appearance of a truth in the Letters, I want to make sure it can stand in the light that shines from Jesus of the Gospels.

I didn’t live in the first century after the resurrection of Jesus.

I don’t understand all of the cultural particulars of translating Jesus into the life of the church in my own time. How could I possibly assume to be authoritative in my understanding on the details of how the first century church operated?

We do a messy job at being church on earth.

At times, the laws we set don’t hold up to the actions and teachings of Jesus in the Gospels.

God bathed me in His grace.

Surely, He wants me to extend the same spirit of grace to my fellow Christ followers. It seems to me that I can best do so my making the Gospels my new canon within the canon.

Stay tuned.

Dr. Gary J. Sorrells – A GodReflection on Canon as a Power Word.

Gary@GodReflection.org     www.MakeYourVisionGoViral.com

 

 

To Examine is to Plug into God Power


GodReflection: Power Words

Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker; – Psalms 95:6

garyguarujaI live in a digital world that creates a nanosecond attention span.

Soundbite communication is the 21st century reality. I can only skim the surface of subjects I judge of interest. Everything else passes before my eyes at the speed of a celebratory pyrotechnic display.

To examine takes time.

From pulpits and pundits preconceived opinions flow in abundance toward my ears. The flow is so rapid—and often so bias—that the words seldom make the detour through my mind.

To examine the opinion avalanche cannot be at mach speed.

examine1In my fast-paced world, there are two realms where I must slow down and examine with unhurried focus. Both are areas of eternal importance. Neither are soundbite subjects.

The truth is, I will never be able to comprehend either subject fully while I walk upon the face of earth.

However, I am beginning to understand with intense clarity my need to know God and to know my heart is my greatest aim. Both demand time for focused examination.

The Creator wants me to know Him. He wrote down His story. The more I examine His story the more I learn of His constant and consistent love for me.

He tells me the story of Jesus.  Through Jesus, I receive grace that allows God to count me as sinless. I come to know God by time spent in examination of the character and the acts of Jesus. By seeing Jesus I see God.

examine6The more I examine Scripture and the more I allow the Holy Spirit to live and work through me, the greater I understand and know the Creator.

To examine is key to the process.

Now, here comes the challenge—to know my heart.

At times God seems easier to know than my heart.

In her 1815 novel Emma, Jane Austen writes, “Seldom, very seldom, does complete truth belong to any human disclosure; seldom can it happen that something is not a little disguised or a little mistaken.”

Because of the residual of my Adamic wiring, to know my own heart is to clear away deception. That makes knowing God indispensable to heart health.

Since my heart connects to my portrayal of Jesus before others and as heart affects destiny, I want to live in examination mode.

Job places his finger on reality when he asks his accusers, Would it turn out well if He examined you? Could you deceive Him as you might deceive a mortal?”

examine9Translation: God knows my heart.

A self-inflicted heart exam in quiet and reflective stillness is always in order. Surely, that is an act of worship.

I worship because of the confidence I have in Jesus’ gracious blood to purify both recognized and unrecognized defects found in my heart.

As I went through the process of this morning’s post, I came across a plea in the Lamentations that reminds me of the power that flows from self-examination tied to action: Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord.

To bow, to kneel, and to examine, provide power for the journey and worship of my Maker.

Stay tuned.

Dr. Gary J. Sorrells – A GodReflection on Examine as a Word of Power.

Gary@GodReflection.org     www.MakeYourVisionGoViral.com