The Word… And Some Words After That!


My friend Aaron recently posted an entry titled The Word… and I responded with a comment which I must admit became a little longer then I had anticipated. Anyways I thought I would share it here too.

This is a very pertinent question for today Aaron. What makes God’s Word relevant to today? Perhaps even more telling, what makes God’s Word relevant to me?

I think you are right in identifying that many people end up memorizing a few specifically selected texts which they deem as the essential plot and in the process end up applying them as the foci of THEIR gospel. Unfortunately I think that is a crippling affect to the reality of God’s and Jesus’ true gospel.

For God’s Word to be relevant we must recognize it and relate to it not as a “text” but rather as a relational identity (John 1:1-18). The moment we approach scripture as a doctrine, dogma, or creedal practice is the moment we let our own biases and prejudices misalign who Jesus really is and how we truly relate to him as our Lord and God!

It is funny to think then how the Israelites of the OT and the first century church might have approached the stories of the NT. Neither had a “Bible” to read from. They were stories which they told their children; personal and ancestral accounts which the adults and communities would sit around the fire sharing while laughing and interjecting with commentary over the evening meal. When they spoke of the time when Jesus healed the blind man or when he baffled the Pharisee’s they reveled in his life. They dreamed of the moment, yearned for more encounters with THAT Jesus and the parables which he shared! In any sense they wondered… “Where am I in this story?”

I can’t help but think of a quote by George Adams, “There is no such thing as a ‘self-made’ man. We are made up of thousands of others. Everyone who has ever done a kind deed for us, or spoken one word of encouragement to us, has entered into the make-up of our character and of our thoughts, as well as our success.” How much greater can we be as followers of Christ then to truly acknowledge that HIS story is a part of our lives, a part of who we are!

I don’t think we should approach the Bible any different today. It is not something which we can theologize, executively comprehend, or apply as the step by step “guidelines to the path of life.” They are the stories and memories of those who walked beside Jesus as he came in the first century. I can only wonder about what they might have experienced, revel in the fascination of their lives, acknowledge the perplexities of its pathologies, and grapple with the question, “Where do I find myself in the midst of this today?” “What is different and what is the same in the here and now?” “What part of my life are you speaking to now God?” “What are you saying to me?”

Don’t just answer with unintentional remarks! Wait, imagine, and for God’s sake… be creative!

Tonight Bonnie and I are getting ready for our Expressions Movie Night. We are watching ‘The Second Chance’ which is about a pastor who really begins to ask the questions of what does it mean to follow Jesus and just what is the church? We hope that afterwards the movie might generate an enriching conversation around the theme of Redemption and perhaps… inspire what we might want to have a second chance at. Some how I know and always have faith that Jesus is going to show up!

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8 thoughts on “The Word… And Some Words After That!

  1. I like the concept of putting yourself there. Imagine walking with Jesus as he taught the disciples to pray. I do believe if we, as Chsistians, did this more then the Bible would take on a much larger role in actually shaping our lives. In the O/T times, the Israelites had the Torah (a written copy of the scriptures). This writing was considered to be the actual word of God and was to be followed as such. The Apostles in the 1st century would many times quote from this very writing as they made their case for Christ.
    Making all of this into s simple set of dogmas or guidelines just waters down what is really there. Although I don’t always like what I see in the Bible, it doesn’t change what it is, God’s word to us. As mere mortal men it is impossible to ever completely comprehend who and what God is. Thankfully He gave us this masterpiece to live by.
    God Bless, Glenn Smith Jr- author of The Key of Forgiveness

  2. “The moment we approach scripture as a doctrine, dogma, or creedal practice is the moment we let our own biases and prejudices misalign who Jesus really is and how we truly relate to him as our Lord and God!”

    Yes, and the moment we start worshiping the Bible rather than the One who spoke it into being. However, we are told that faith comes from hearing the Word of God, so we do need to study and personalize the Word into our hearts.

    I watched The Second Chance a while ago. It’s not bad, but with a weird ending. Hope it goes well tonight!

  3. KKB… Thank you for your response and I definitely agree with you that by placing ourselves in the stories of scripture we can most definitely find it having a greater impact in who we are as followers of Jesus.

    I must admit though to questioning the ways in which the people of the OT might have encountered the scriptures as they were found in the Torah. It is true that it was written in sacred scrolls but I believe they were often kept under the keeping and tutelage of Temple and synagogue officials. The only ways in which the average person could encounter its reading and story was by attending these structures during worship festivals. Outside of that it was the verbal recital of friends and neighbors memories as they shared stories which had been passed on through faith and commitment. – Admittedly I can’t help but identify with the paraplegic in Luke 5, being as I am in a wheelchair myself, and how he would not have heard the stories of the Torah nor of Jesus aside from the faith of his friends as he would not be allowed into the Temple or synagogue due to his “affliction”!

    Philippa… I totally agree! We need to be entranced and engrained into the reading and wonder of scripture and perhaps even more so into the storylines of the Gospels themselves. But, we must also hold strongly to the recognition of context and the role in which it has in communicating the truth which God is speaking to us. The Bible is indeed God’s inspired Word but we cannot forget that it was not written nor spoken in English!

    On a side thought I wonder about the ways and sources in which “we are told that faith comes from hearing the Word of God”. I agree with the statement with my whole heart but also ask myself, “In what ways does humanity listen?” “How do I HEAR the Word of God?” “Might hearing be more then just the attendance to spoken word?” (Check out my thoughts here: http://iamjustwondering.net/welcome/)

    As a narrative I remember watching the movie ‘White Men Can’t Jump’ with Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrelson as a kid. There was a scene where they were driving in a convertible car down the sunny beach side road with Jimmy Hendrix playing on the radio and Harrelson turns the radio up saying he “loves this guy!” Snipes quickly turns the radio off and says “You’re not going to hear this.” Harrelson gets upset and snaps the radio back on saying, “I was listening to that.” and Snipes snaps back, “You can listen to Jimmy all you want but you can’t hear him!”

    We can listen to the Word of God all we want but if we are not willing to hear him… then his Words simply falls on deaf ears.

    Steve… I must admit to being a tad puzzled by your question? It seems perhaps influenced by an understanding of “the very words of God” which you may already have. In any case let me attempt to answer.

    Yes I would say that the Bible is indeed the inspired Word of God. But, does this mean that it is the dictated, word for word, directly spoken to the 21st century believer? I suppose not.

    The Truth of God’s Word is not something which is encapsulated and possessed by the ink and paper of what we find between the covers of “The Holy Bible” (keeping in mind my earlier thoughts of translation as well). If it is to be encapsulated into any one thing then I would say it is in the life, teachings, actions, and practices of Jesus himself (John 14:6). Something or should I say someone who I can then be in relationship with under the support of scripture, prayer, missional engagements, community, and undoubtedly in faith of the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

    I hope this helps in alleviating or at least answering the question which you may have had.

  4. I would like to pose a thought here, one that I am working to better understand myself. During the time of Moses, God gave the children of Isreal the opportunity to approach and worship him in a direct fashion. They rejected that offer telling Moses to talk to God himself and then tell them what He wanted so that they could follow. This separation became a corporate achillies heel to them as they simply were able to “do what each thought was right in his own heart”. Today we, as Christians, are given that same offer, to boldy approach God and worship him at His foot stool. I am troubled by what I percieve in many Christians today as the same response the Israel gave in the wilderness; you preachers talk to God and let us know what he said, otherwise tell him to leave us alone. Jesus came to bring us back to the presence of the Father. We need to heed that call. I have spent most of the last 25 years in the worship ministry and I have seen that disconnect every sunday morning. I only ask of people that they develope a personal relationship with God through Jesus. If we were all to focus on that , we would soon see how (fun as they may be) trivial our simple arguments can seem. Normally I don’t plug my book(The Key of forgiveness available on Amazon.com) in the blogs, but I would invite anyone to read it as it is on the greatest gift of all- forgiveness.
    To you “Just Wondering”, I hope you find peace in your life through Christ. As sad as it is to hear of one’s affliction, I am a firm believer that through God all things are possible, for you and I.
    God Bless you all , Glenn Smith Jr

  5. Thanks Glenn and I would like to assure you that I found peace a long time ago with what I see more as a gift. Paul’s “thorn in the side” can be a powerful tool for God to shape who we are and the way in which redemption takes shape in our lives!

    I’d like to second your call for the move away from the “Professional Clergy” mentality which can create great rifts between people and God. It is so true that we are ALL called to a relationship with Jesus and not to just give over that calling to the select few.

    With Best Regards and God’s Blessings, Erik.

  6. Tim

    Heya Erik,

    I’m intrigued by the following comments: It (the bible) is not something which we can theologize, executively comprehend, or apply as the step by step “guidelines to the path of life.”

    Although I agree it isn’t something we can entirely comprehend, I’m curios what you mean when you say God’s word is not something we can theologize. I’ve always understood theology to be (in laymen’s terms) “what does the bible say about…” so for example, if someone wanted to understand a theology of the church, they’d essentially be answering the question what does the bible say about the church? So is that what you’re talking about when you say theologies the bible?

    Also (maybe this is where you and I differ) I think you can say the bible is a guideline to the path of life. When people find out I’m a bible college student, one of the first questions I get asked is my opinion of the bible and I usually tell them it’s God laying out His expectations of a relationship with us humans. God essentially tells us he wants to start a relationship with us and in my book (the bible) you find out what a relationship with the almighty looks like. With that said… I’m curious what you think about my 2 minute “readers digest version” of the bible.

  7. Tim, I have been contemplating this response which you gave and it has most definitely given me something to think about.

    My comments to scripture being something we can’t theologize really stems from the thought pattern that we can’t allow theology and more specifically dogmatic doctrine dictate the ways in which we encounter and find truth in God’s Word. In the traditional approaches scripture seems to have been approached with the mentality that Ecclesiology leads to Theology which then leads to Missiology. In a more round about way of saying it – “By starting with the “right” denominational, dogmatic, and systematic approach and commentary to reading my Bible I can then understand what God is saying to me and act accordingly.”

    Recently I just finished Hirsch’s and Frost’s book ‘ReJesus’ in which they suggest that perhaps a better way of approaching truth in scripture is by allowing Christology lead to Missiology which then gives Ecclesiology. Essentially… by following Jesus in discipleship as he exemplifies in the Gospels we might encounter right actions which then leads us to understanding truth in God’s Word and HIS Church.

    It might also help if we explore the understanding of the word theology. You commented that it is in laymen’s terms “what does the bible say about…”. In actuality the word theology comes from two Greek words; “Theo” which means God and “logia” which means understanding or “coming to know” something or someone. With this in mind we might say that the word theology means, “Coming to know or understand God!” Is that not awesome or what!? As you and I are theologians in heart as much as anyone is; we are coming to know and be in relationship with God through the graces and discipleship of Jesus Christ!

    In regards to your comment about the Bible being a guideline to the path of life. This is a most excellent testimony Tim and I don’t disagree with you at all. The Bible most certainly is “God laying out His expectations of a relationship with us humans.” I suppose even more so that it is a record of how he IS in relationship with us. That said though, we cannot approach the Bible as an equation laid out in order to be solved as a rational scientific pattern of practice. In some ways it is as Hirsch and Frost put it, the difference between a Hellenistic approach and a Hebraic approach (you should really read ‘ReJesus’).

    Currently, I am in the middle of reading Hugh Halter’s ‘The Tangible Kingdom’. In it he kind of talks about the dangers of approaching scripture with a rational scientific approach as I mentioned earlier. He articulates it by telling the story of the Sons of Sceva found in Acts 19. The Sons of Sceva thought that by commending evil spirits in the exact same method, manner, and way which the Apostle Paul did then they would be as successful as he was. Sadly it ended in humiliation and disaster for them. Why? Because our relationship with God, Jesus, and his Word’s (the Bible) cannot be acted out through a scientific method, system, or pathology. If it were then it would loose all sense of meaning to being personal and intimate in nature.

    Just some thoughts anyway…

    Hey, when are we going to meet up for coffee again?

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