Be your own God (in one easy lesson)

Or…What to do with a Bible that says hard things?

“Then the anger of the Lord was kindled against his people….” –Psalm 106:40

We hear a lot about  how “God loves the sinner, hates the sin.” Did you know that the Bible actually says (in 25 places no less) that God is angry with the people doing the sinning?[1] How many times does the Bible say, “Loves the sinner, hates the sin”? A quick search in Logos Bible software found…zero. None. Nada. Zip.

That’s right, according to the Bible, God is angry not just with “sin,” but with the people committing the sins.

So what do we do with a Bible that says hard things? Things that make us cringe when we read them. Or when someone else reads them and asks us about it.

My honest friends say, “I just ignore the stuff I don’t like.” But, unlike our teeth, ignoring Scripture does not make it go away.

We have two polarities: On one side are the uber-fundamentalists who use the Bible as a bat to bludgeon people with whom they disagree. This group tends to be fantastic at seeing past their own logs to other’s splinters. But I fear another extreme: One in which the Scriptures are dismissed outright. As a friend of mine said on facebook the other day, “When my idea of God and the Bible are in conflict, my concept of God wins…because I worship God not a book.

Huh?

i-love-me-myself-i

The last time I checked I have a finite 5”x 7” head, whereas God, by definition, is infinite intelligence.  God, dwelling outside of time and space, can only be known by those of us within time and space if he chooses to reveal himself to us. Luckily God has, through a Son, Jesus. (Heb 1) How do we know this Jesus? Well, the New Testament is not just our primary, but virtually our only source of information on Jesus, God with skin on. The eyewitnesses wrote the Scriptures to reveal that God-in-flesh to us. The Holy Spirit quickens those words in our hearts as faith. When I only believe that which makes sense to me, I am not only cutting myself off from the power of transformation present, but putting my own mind in the role of the definer of reality…i.e. I just gave myself the “god job.” That seems to me to be a place of significant terror.

Not to say that the Bible isn’t nuanced or difficult or complex. It is all of those things. I am not saying that we do not need to interpret what we read, we do. But shouldn’t our method of interpretation be more faithful and consistent than “I only believe what I like.”

Hildegard of Bingen (1098 – 1179) taught that the revelation of Jesus Christ unified and made coherent all Scripture:  “In that same vision (of Christ) I understood the writings of the prophets, the Gospels….”

God gets to determine our reality, and God is revealed in Scripture. Anything else leads to the idolatry of self.

Or, I could just decide to be my own God…to let my 5″x 7″ determine my reality…and when the Bible disagrees with what I want God to be like, I can just go with whatever it is that I like…because, hey, I worship the most holy trinity of me, myself and I.

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Youth Ministry after “Cool Church”: Sample Youth Teaching on Genesis 1 & 2

Youth leaders always want to know what theory looks like in practice. Here is an example of one component of a youth group meeting: the teaching time…

Our church plant has a small youth group (usually about 25 students) with 6 very committed young adult volunteer leaders. They recently began a semester of working through the Old Testament.

For Genesis 1 and 2, instead of a sermon or video, the group was divided into two groups by gender. In one room the boy group read Genesis 1 together several times. In the other the girls read Genesis 2. Each group took notes and discussed what the text said and emphasized for the hearers. Then they outlined the chapter. The leaders gave guidance in the form of questions to take the students back to the text when they started reading into it. On a large poster board with colorful markers, each group drew a graphical/artistic representation of their chapter. Then they came back together and the students taught their chapter to the other group from their poster. Having students teaching one another engaged students in the learning process in a way that was wonderful. By the end, each group knew the contents of both chapters.

Then one of the leaders did a wrap-up to help students get the “big picture” and think theologically about their lives – a 7 minute mini-message on “Have you noticed that the first two verses of Genesis One say exactly the same thing your biology teacher taught you?” After reading Genesis 1:1 and 1:2, the leader gave a message that went like this:

Did you notice that both Christians, who think God is the author of life and truth, and scientists, who observe life, have the same version of what happened in the very beginning of the universe? Does that surprise you? More subtle though is the enormous difference between the two narratives. Science, not as a discipline but as an “ism” (called materialism) follows a very different narrative. BTW, We are not anti-science here, but materialism is a philosophy of life that what you see explains everything that is. When you know what materialism teaches you might choose to reject it.  For the materialist, time and chance explain everything. For the Christian, the hand of a loving Creator is the ultimate explanation. For the materialist, because they believe only in time and chance, all of life is an accident. For the materialist, you might be “unique,” but you are a unique accident.

On the other hand, for the Christian, all of life is a gift. Life was made on purpose, with a high and holy purpose. So, in the Christian narrative, you matter. What you do matters. What you don’t do matters. Everyone around you matters to God too.

Think of the difference the narrative you believe about your life makes: Can you see how what you do with your life gets shaped by the narrative you believe about who you are? What choices do you make with your life when life has no purpose? (Discussion)

How does it change your choices if you are absolutely convinced that you and everyone else was created on purpose, with a purpose? (Discussion)

If the materialist story is true, nothing you do matters. You don’t matter. If the Christian story is true then everything you do either spreads our Creator’s beauty and redeeming love or shuts it down.

Which narrative do you see being played out around you? What might life look like if everyone you know, new God’s love for them in Christ? You see, both the Christian and the materialist see the same events, they just interpret them differently.

Which narrative would you rather follow with your life? Thinking about what you said in our said in our discussion, why is it important that your friends know “the hope that is within you”?

As a result of the teaching time students left with the ability to tell us what Genesis 1 & 2 actually says…and what it doesn’t say. They learned something about exegesis: letting the text, rather than other’s ideas of the text speak. And more, they left with a powerful doctrine of Creation and can tell you why that doctrine is important. They went to small groups and prayed passionately that God would help them stay clear on who they are and whose they are…and that they would have boldness to share with their friends the Good News of God’s love in Christ-because of how desperately their friends need a different narrative on which to base their life.