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

 

 

Compassion Needs to be a Power Word


GodReflection: Power Words

garyguarujaOn Moses second trip up the mountain with a new set of stone tablets, he encounters God standing beside him in a cloud. Scriptures recites that God passed in front of Moses and proclaimed, The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet He does not leave the guilty unpunished; He punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.

God is compassionate and gracious. Consistently, God described himself as the God of compassion.

compassion4The compassion descriptor flows from God to Jesus in the Gospels.

Jesus appeared on earth to give a face to God. We are hardly into the Jesus story when we read, he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

Time after time, Jesus stopped in His tracks and demonstrated compassion as an attribute of God. This Jesus showed compassion through his death on the cross and addressed the second half of Moses’ proclamation.

By becoming his disciple, I claim the cleansing power of his blood to purify my guilt.

The writers of the New Testament Letters encouraged all believers to develop compassion so that they might mirror Jesus.  It is my role, as God’s chosen . . . holy and dearly loved, [to] clothe [myself] . . . with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.

compassion6From God to Jesus to me to others.

Compassion describes the emotion of complete identification with the needs of another.

The pull is so strong that a response is instinctive.  There is no alternative. I can do nothing but act.

God can’t help himself. His love for me is a natural reaction. It can only generate compassion to shade my walk.  Jesus can’t help himself. He always reflects the image of the Father. Like the Father, Jesus’ compassion generates love for me.

Now it’s my turn. I am to reflect Jesus. I have no choice but to feel and show compassion toward others.

Ok—what does that look like for me?

Like a balloon, my soul must inflate with compassion to function. Unlike a balloon, my soul will not burst from over inflation.

compassion1Compassion—like grace—is a gift I can give to others.

The seed of compassion God planted in my soul grows as I experience life. After the first time I smashed my thumb with a hammer, to witness a fellow thumb smasher invokes compassion.

I find compassion rolls from my life in concentric circles like those caused by a stone when thrown in a calm pond.

It is easy to be compassionate with my wife and children.

It is not difficult to extend compassion to friends.

I will express compassion to acquaintances though they are not friends within my inner circle.

A story of local or national tragedy received from a news outlet will most likely invoke a compassionate prayer.

I find compassion covers like a cloud those things I cannot change.

I think of Jesus’ early childhood, spent with Joseph and Mary as a family of illegal aliens living in Egypt. Trusting God, they were doing what they could to survive. The plight of the illegal alien in our own country invokes compassion. They too are God’s children just trying to survive.

Mass killings continue to shock me. All I can bring to the table is compassion as I ask God to comfort family and friends of victims.

Natural disasters strike with speed and power. Death and long-term recovery is all that remains. I want such tragedy to call for compassion from within my Soul.

The problem is I know my real self. I am not as compassionate as I need to be. I can only be consoled to know I am still in growth mode.

compassion7When I reflect on God, I stand awed by His compassion.

How could He love the rebellious children of Jacob? How He can have compassion on the likes of me and you with all of our inconsistencies reaches beyond my understanding.

Like you, I want compassion to be a word of power that lights my path.  Each step I take along that path will help me grow to be more like Jesus whose compassion drew deep emotion.

I would love to know what you do to enhance compassion in your life. Will you share a line or two?

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

Gary@GodReflection.org

Mystery Is Power


GodReflection: Power Words

aboutI don’t remember mystery being a word used by my childhood church. I grew up with a faith I could touch, see, and smell. In fact, until recent times, mystery didn’t rank high at all in my power word dictionary.

The teaching I received most of my life was concerned more with identifying truth rather than mystery contemplation. What I am going to say next is rather simplistic: It isn’t hard to learn the commands of God. What’s hard is to accept the mystery and live like Jesus.

mystery1Paul tells his young colleague Timothy that Jesus leaps into action through the misty light of mystery. Beyond all question, the mystery from which true godliness springs is great: He appeared in the flesh, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory.”

Once I submit to Jesus everything about life morphs into mystery. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit power my walk. How does that work?  How is it possible for human me to grow more like Holy God? How does the blood of Jesus make me sinless in God’s sight?

It’s nothing less than mystery.

Neither God nor His Holy Scripture is one-dimensional.

A part of the mystery is this: Holy Scripture is simple enough for me to meet God and to know what I must do to reach right relationship with Him. At the same time, it presents the mystery of knowing God and being His representative on earth as being so rich that I cannot fully comprehend it this side of the grave.

mystery3Like other words of power, mystery reminds me of the depth of God, the distance He moved toward me for my salvation, the strength of His love, and of how deep my gratitude should be.

This side of heaven I will always have room to grow and increase my understanding. That is living with the power of mystery.

Stay tuned.

Dr. Gary J. Sorrells – A GodReflection on the Power Word Mystery.

Gary@GodReflection.org

Powered by Assurance


GodReflection: Power Words

aboutI imagine the word assurance sounds rather blah to the person on the street. It might even invoke a negative reaction. People are constantly told to rest assured what they hear is true—only to discover deception one more time.

Assurance is a word more readily found in the dictionary than in real life. I can’t place my weight upon this word unless I believe God’s story.

I find it took longer than it should for assurance to become real to me. There are shades of confidence in the word—yet confidence has tones of self-reliance. I cannot manufacture assurance. It depends totally upon the reliability of God.

assurance1New Testament Scripture uses this power word only three times. Timothy tells me that service to Jesus raises its awareness in my life. Those who have served well gain an excellent standing and great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus.”

The author of the letter to Hebrew Christians mentions it twice. Its power comes from knowing that Jesus stands as God’s priest who presents me as sinless to Creator God.

. . . and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.

Then, the same writer ties assurance to faith. “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”

Ok, here is what I think.

assurance10I live in a time when contracts are necessary to assure honest transactions and in a time when contracts need lawyers and courts to assure their validity.

The only true assurance is God. It comes from Him—not me. I have to believe God’s story otherwise assurance is powerless.

Scripture tells me God can’t lie.

Scripture tells me God never made a promise without keeping it. Scripture tells me God is assurance3faithful. Scripture shows me case after case when God acted precisely as He predicted.

I find assurance stands as a powerful sentinel standing watch over my faith—faith days both good and bad.

assurance14I think of a time on a back packing fishing trip into the Rocky Mountains. On the top of a mountain in the company of good friends, penetrated by a cool mountain breeze, with the river below, wild flowers, trees, and a pot of camp coffee on the fire, it couldn’t be any better than this.

God responds, “Rest assured it can. My promised to you is eternal life on a new earth with a new heaven. The mountains will be more spectacular than ever, you will be surrounded by good friends you knew on earth, the rivers, the wild flowers, the trees, the fish, the coffee, will all be beyond your wildest imagination.”assurance8

The power of God’s assurance keeps my body and soul moving toward eternity under the cover of Jesus blood. I can hardly wait to reclaim both body and soul on the other side of the grave.

Assurance—now that’s a power word.

Stay tuned.

Dr. Gary J. Sorrells – Reflecting on power words.

Gary@GodReflection.org

God Enters the World as Judge


GodReflection: God Enters the World as Judge

aboutEvery dedicated Jew knew the meaning of “The Day of the Lord.”

The prophets used the phrase to warn the people of God’s judgment. New Testament writers joined the prophets in warning the people of a time when God would end the world and judge its inhabitants.

There will be a great divide between lost and found.

Those my age received a hearty diet of judgment. From church to home, we knew to face judge3judgment was rarely good. We understood exactly the meaning of “wait until daddy gets home.”

Both God and daddy were out to get me when I misbehaved.

God clarified judgment through the stable baby born to judge.

The Apostle John quotes Jesus explanation as a correct understanding of judgment. He takes the fear out of judgment for the believer.

The Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.

Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.

Very truly I tell you, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.

Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned.

The God of Judgment enters the world in a Jewish manger wrapped in cloths of grace. Those who place their trust in the holy child receive the promised of life not judgment.

Years ago a godly lady of our church gave birth to twin boys. The doctors discovered the mother had a rare heart condition that would not allow her even minimal strength to care for the twins.

Many from our church—including my wife—stepped in to fill “around the clock” time spots to aid in the twins care. The unique personality of each little one was obvious. One was quieter while his brother showed spunk from birth.

Ten years went by and their grandpa told this story:

firecracker4The family took a vacation to Alabama allowing the lads to stock up on firecrackers and cherry bombs for the upcoming July 4th.

In parallel fashion, an expensive remodeling project took place on the family master bathroom. New vanities, new sinks, new tile—you get the picture.

Spunky little twin has a brainstorm. “What would happen if a cherry bomb was placed in a toy boat floating on the full deep sea of a brand new expensive sink?”

BOOM!!!

A frighten little boy with a demolished sink and vanity, and plumbing blown to smithereens, reacts in fear and deep repentance after causing a debt far greater than his allowance. Based on his current weekly income he would need to live several hundred years to repay the destroyed bathroom.

Judgment hovered overhead.

A wise mom alerted dad to what he would find when he arrived home.

On the weekend granddad pulled aside his grandson, “What did your dad do to you?”

“My dad came home and said son let’s go for a ride. He took me and bought me an ice ice cream5cream.” He said, ‘I want you to learn about the grace of Jesus, I want you to always remember this day. This is how Jesus treats us when we sin and mess up but repent from the heart. He accepts our repentance and rewards us with his love.”‘

I’m glad his grandfather shared the story with me. It makes me look forward to pecan crunch ice cream rather than blistering condemnation when God returns to judge the world through His Son.

Stay tuned.

Dr. Gary J. Sorrells – Reflecting on God’s final Advent

Gary@GodReflection.org

God’s People Wait


GodReflection: God’s People Wait

aboutI wish it would happen today.

God will again break into history in a big way.

He promised—and God always keeps His word.

Jesus will descend from the sky to usher out all hurt and wickedness while ushering God’s children into a new earth and a new heaven.

Until then—God’s family grows and waits.

The essence of the Advent season is to anticipate the return of Jesus.jesus return2

I think about how the New Testament’s writer-physician Doctor Luke set the stage for this final chapter of Satan’s defeat:

I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen.

After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.

“It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.

 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

Jesus told his closes followers prior to his death, “I go to prepare a place for you.”

After 2000 years, God’s people wait.

His people—the church—wait in worship and witness.

God’s people are still awed at His majesty. So they worship. They worship in private and in assembly. The worship looks to the time when the wait will be over and worship can flow from perfect hearts to a perfect God.

God’s people use wait time as a time of witness. They live before their neighbors as the reflection of Jesus. The great serendipity of witness is God’s family grows as His people wait. I suspect this is at the heart of the reason for the Father’s delay. His loving nature wants a huge family around the table.

jesus return6God’s people wait in faith with trust and expectation. By faith they see evidence of the unseen. By faith they trust God will deliver. By faith the wait causes expectation and anticipation to intensify with each passing day.

I wish it would happen today. Until it does—God’s people wait.

For God’s people the final advent will more than justify the wait.

Stay tuned.

Dr. Gary J. Sorrells – Reflecting on the Advent of God.

Gary@GodReflection.org