Finding an Inner Peace that Can’t Be Shaken

meditate-1851165_1920Peace seems to be one of the best ideals people can think of in this world. If you Google the word peace you will get over one billion results. The top 10 results include the Wikipedia article defining peace, the website for the Peace Corps, and the website for the Nobel Peace Prize. Personal peace is so highly sought after that pharmaceutical companies have flooded the market with dozens of anti-anxiety medications like hydroxyzine, lorazepam, clonidine, clonazepam, atenolol, and diazepam.

It is conservatively estimated that some 39 million Americans suffer from some kind of anxiety disorder. But where does all this anxiety and lack of peace come from? I believe that the root cause of the lack of peace in our lives is the perceived lack of control. Please do not misunderstand – there are some legitimate needs for being on anxiety-related medications, and I thank God for health care professionals. Still, we ought to realize that much of the anxiety and stress we face is not due to genuine psychological and physiological trauma but our own feeling of being out of control.

Think about it – when are you most at peace? When you have everything under control. Anxiety hits us when we feel out of control. Everyone wants peace; peace in marriages, peace in the workplace, peace in family relationships and friendships, peace in our personal lives.

The Bible talks about peace. In the Old Testament, the word for peace is Shalom. In the New Testament, the word is eirene (where we get the name Irene). Peace as Shalom is multi-faceted, but basically comes down to relating to war, human relationships, and tranquility in the midst of hardship. And while a preacher could spend weeks preaching a series about Shalom, today we’re just focusing on tranquility in the midst of hardship and difficulty. When it comes to hardship and difficulty, there is very little that we actually can control. Things happen to us all the time, but at any moment something unforeseen can happen. If we focus on how little we actually control our lives, we can feel overwhelmed! But confidence in God’s power and ability results in an inner peace that cannot be shaken.

The Bible tells us a story about three guys named Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. They were three men who loved God. They were Jews, God’s people, who had been part of a group captured from Israel and transported to Babylon. But they were such good guys (trustworthy, dependable, etc.) that the king made them governors to manage a region in Babylon. In the meantime, the king gets this great idea that he is going to unify the kingdom and insist that everyone take a loyalty oath, a test to make sure that all of the people would recognize the king as the big dog. This was not uncommon in the ancient world. So he builds this monument 90 feet high and nine feet wide. It probably looked something like this.monument-1493054_1920

And everyone was told, “When you hear the sounds of the horns, the flutes, the bagpipes, the guitars, the drums, the tambourines, the tubas, the kazoos…(well, you get the idea) – when you hear all of these instruments playing, then take a knee and make your loyalty oath to the king and the gods he serves. So when the horns, the flute, the bagpipes, the guitar, the drums, the tambourines, the tubas, the kazoos…(again, you get the idea) sounded, everyone in the province pledged loyalty to the king and the gods he served. Everyone except for these three guys, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.

Even today we go through all sorts of loyalty tests. People and things vie for our loyalty almost daily. Will we show allegiance and loyalty to this or that? Will we show loyalty to this person or that person? But everything else and everyone else is merely temporary – the only permanent One who deserves our loyalty is God and God alone. Our loyalty is founded on what we know about God’s character and on the hope we have in Him! His character proves true time and time again. God does not fail. When He decides to do something, you can guarantee that it will happen. His timing might not fit our timing, but God does not fail – ever! People will pull at you, demanding your loyalty. Things in life will pull at you, demanding your loyalty. To whom and to what will you be loyal? Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego know that they can only be loyal to God – nothing else.

But the king, Nebuchadnezzar, is not pleased with this, so he calls in the three and says, “Fellas! What’s goin’ on?!? Didn’t you get the message about the monument and the instruments and the loyalty thing? Is it true that you won’t take a knee before the monument and publicly proclaim your loyalty to me and my gods? If you don’t do it, you’re gonna be tossed into a furnace of blazing fire – and who is the god who can rescue you from my power?

These three God-fearing men were not anxious at all. They tell the king, “Nebuchadnezzar, we don’t need to give you an answer to this question. 17 If the God we serve exists, then He can rescue us from the furnace of blazing fire, and He can rescue us from the power of you, the king. 18 But even if He does not rescue us, we want you as king to know that we will not serve your gods or worship the monument you set up.” You see, confidence in God’s power and ability results in an inner peace that cannot be shaken. They knew the character of their God. They knew the power and ability of their God. Their confidence resulted in unshakable peace.

Even if God’s power did not save them from the fire, they still had confidence that God could, and because they knew that God has everything under control, they did not have to be anxious about it. I think this is where we sometimes drop the ball. We believe that God has everything under control but then expect Him to swoop in at the last minute and deliver us. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego realized that God is in control even if He doesn’t swoop in and save the day – the big picture is still God’s to direct. Oh, that we could have that kind of confidence. That is the confidence that leads to unshakable peace.

But their answer really ticked off the king, and he put those three into a blazing furnace. He commanded his soldiers to heat the furnace as hot as it could go, and ancient kilns could be heated over 1700 degrees Fahrenheit! It was so hot that the soldiers putting the men into the furnace died. But the king looked again and couldn’t believe his eyes. He asked his advisers, “Didn’t we throw in three men?” His advisers said, “Yes, of course, your majesty.” And the king says, “Look, I see four men walking around unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.” So King Nebuchadnezzar gets as close as he can to the furnace and yells, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego – come out of the fire!” And they come out untouched by the flames. The king then turned the tables and said, “Anyone who says anything offensive about their God will be torn apart and their houses turned into garbage dumps, for no other god can do what their God can do.” Who has the power, and who can save you? God has the power, and He can save.

In his letter to the church in Philippi, the Apostle Paul, who wrote about 31% of the New Testament, says: “Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Notice that Paul does not say, “Tell God about your problems and He will take care of everything.” He says, “Tell God and let God’s peace, a peace that the human mind cannot understand, wash over you.”

There’s an old hymn from 1752 called “Be Still My Soul”

Be still my soul the Lord is on thy side
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain
Leave to thy God to order and provide
In every change He faithful will remain
Be still my soul thy best – thy heavenly Friend
Thro’ thorny ways leads to a joyful end

Thorny ways are going to come. Tough times are going to happen. We are not promised rescue – we are promised peace in the midst of troubled times. Some of you are in desperate need of peace. Anxiety has you tied up in knots, and your worries lay heavy on your mind. Surrender your worries to the God of the Universe.

Confidence in God’s power and ability results in an inner peace that cannot be shaken.

Forced Gay – Part Two

Image courtesy of nuttakit at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of nuttakit at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Permit me to get out my soap box. I waited a couple days, debating whether or not I should even bring this up again. But the firestorm that I caused in my circles only solidifies in my head that we need to be talking about this…

If you had told me a year ago that I’d be arguing against Evangelical Christians in support of civil rights for same-sex couples I would’ve told you that you were nuts. Yet here we are.

A couple of days ago I wrote a post revolving around the wedding photographers in New Mexico that refused to provide services for a same-sex marriage. The Supreme Court of New Mexico ruled that the photographers had violated the couple’s civil rights – and Evangelical Christendom roared.

After a lot of thought about it and an eventual change in my own position, I publicly stated that I think the photographers were wrong to discriminate against the couple and that all Christians should think twice about refusing service to same-sex couples (I’ll post the link to my full post below).

I know that my position would clash with mainstream Evangelical thought, but I never expected the backlash I saw. And, not being one to back down from a verbal sparring, I’m going to write about it some more. I’m convinced more than ever that the Church has got to make some changes in how it approaches the LGBT community – for Christ’s sake. So…here we go.

I am a conservative Evangelical Christian (at least I thought so). I believe that God designed sexuality to be between one man and one woman who are married to each other. This means that adulterous relationships, fornication, and same-sex relationships are not part of God’s intended design. I believe that the Bible makes this case. I believe that nature and human physiology itself bears this out.

At the same time I believe that the Church should not be party to mistreating and discriminating against people – any people. I believe that the Church has been complicit in such discrimination. In my last post I compared the photographers’ behavior to establishments in the south that used to post “Whites Only” signs out front. I received criticism from Christians who told me that I cannot compare the racially charged civil rights movement with same-sex issues. I was told that the gay marriage issue is different from REAL civil rights.

To me it’s not an issue of gay marriage, racial equality, or any other issue. The topic at hand is about businesses refusing to serve certain elements of the public because of a personal disagreement with that element. Who gets to decide who is worthy of service or not? If conservative Christians can refuse to serve the LGBT community, who’s to say that racist business owners can’t refuse to serve other races?

I know, I know. “Racism is different.” That’s what I was told by other pastors. “You can’t compare racism with LGBT discrimination because racists distort the Bible for their own ends while we understand that the Bible is clearly against homosexuality.”

Excuse me?!?

Do you understand what was just said? “It’s wrong for racists to discriminate because they believe the wrong thing. It’s okay for us to discriminate because we believe correctly.” This infuriates me. The whole idea of freedom of religion is that we don’t hold another person’s private beliefs against him. You can believe anything you want and I can believe anything I want and we still come together as citizens in the same nation.

You can’t claim that your discrimination is okay because you read the Bible correctly and say another person’s discrimination is wrong because they misread it. So the civil rights laws step in and say, “We’re going to make sure that all people are treated the same no matter what their status or what your personal beliefs may be.”

If you have a business that serves the public you are not allowed to say, “Well…I won’t serve THOSE people.”  I was told by other Christians that vendors ought to be allowed to refuse service to same-sex couples because a gay marriage might violate the vendor’s idea of marriage as a covenant between the couple and God. I agree that marriage is designed to be a covenant between the husband and wife and between the couple and God. Being a vendor does not endorse the views of the couple.

A baker can bake a wedding cake without endorsing the couple. The florist can arrange flowers without endorsing the couple. A Christian waiter can’t refuse to wait tables if it were an engagement party for a gay couple.

A Christian owner of a candle store doesn’t vet her customers to make sure that no Wiccans buy candles. “Excuse me, are you Wiccan? Because I won’t sell these candles to you if you’re going to go conjure up spirits with them.”

In all honesty, I sincerely doubt that Christian wedding vendors are performing background checks to make sure that every couple they serve fits the biblical model of marriage. Would the vendor refuse to provide services for a man who divorced his wife so that he could marry his mistress? They never even ask that question. At least I was never asked about my relationship background when my fiancée and I visited vendors. No one double-checked to make sure it wasn’t an adulterous relationship.

Rather than pretending that we care about God’s ideal for marriage, we should simply admit that we’re picking a particular segment of society to discriminate against. It’s the thing to do. Gay relationships offend our sensibilities more than an adulterous relationship. It’s become socially acceptable within the Church to single out the LGBT community for condemnation.

The natural follow-up question I received: “If you believe this way would you marry a same-sex couple?” And without hesitation I answer all who ask, “No, I would not.” As I said, I believe that God’s design for sexuality is for one man and one woman who are married to each other. It was at this point that I was called a hypocrite, putting myself and other pastors up on a pedestal while calling out non-clergy Christians.

I don’t see it as hypocritical. I genuinely see a difference between a wedding vendor and a pastor. I was told by one Christian that there is no difference between a pastor and any other vendor or justice of the peace. Am I not obligated being licensed by the state to perform same-sex marriages?

Let me clarify in case you did not know: pastors are not licensed by the state. I have never been nor will I ever be licensed by the state. I am ordained by the church. The state merely recognizes the church’s endorsement of the clergy. I am not a vendor – I am a pastor and spiritual care-giver. I do not claim to serve the public through my service. Pastors are not the same as vendors. We’re not the same as a justice of the peace. When I marry a couple it is more than a ceremony. I pastor them – talk to them about what marriage looks like from a biblical point of view. I talk to them about God’s ideal for healthy relationships. I read Scripture to them. I’m not a vendor, I’m a pastor. That might not make a difference to you – it makes a difference to me.

A friend commented to me that any issue combining civil issues and moral issues is messy. It is messy. There is no easy solution or answer to this stuff. But I do see too many Christians behaving poorly. We’re not acting like Jesus.

There were several times in Jesus’ public life that he encountered “sinners”. In these encounters we see him acting the same way. He talks to them. He touches them. He cares for them. He loves them. THEN he tells them to go and stop sinning. Not so much the Church today. Our attitude is often, “Go and stop sinning. Then come back so we can love you.”

I’m ready for the Church to lead the way in loving people. Too many Christians think that loving people means encouraging and allowing sin. I’m not for a soft-sell faith. I’m not for white-washing Jesus. I still believe in the Jesus of the Gospels who proclaims, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” But we forget that he loved first, called for change second. And, honestly, I think most people in the LGBT community know my position as an Evangelical pastor. I don’t have to beat people over the head with my view of the Bible. I can love them in spite of our differences.

So…call me hypocrite. Quote Proverbs to me. Tell me you think I’m going against sound judgment. Tell me that you can’t believe I’ve fallen away.

Me? I can’t believe the Church has become so coldhearted.REPENT We don’t have to stop preaching righteousness. We don’t have to stop talking about Jesus, the cross, and forgiveness of sin. But we don’t have to discriminate, no matter what our differences may be.

We can still love people, no matter who they are or their type of sin. At least – I think that’s what Jesus would do.

So I’m off my soap box. Please feel free to send this to CNN. Or Oprah. It would be kind of cool to be on the air as the Evangelical pastor who is against gay marriage but for civil rights. But keep it away from Fox News – I don’t want to be crucified… 😉

I welcome all discussion, just keep it civil and polite. If this post resonates with you in any way, please share it on Facebook, Twitter, or email!

Related Posts:
~ Forced Gay
~ A Christian Response to Gay Marriage

What’s Holding You Back?

What's Holding You Back?
What’s Holding You Back?

Creating significant change is tough. In America 25% of us blow or discard our New Year’s resolutions in the first day. Change can be so difficult that even people who want to change will most likely fall back into old patterns and not make change permanent. One reason permanent change is so hard is because we continue to hang around people who knew us before the change – we maintain old relationships and patterns of life that don’t want to allow or recognize change in us!  The Apostle Paul wasn’t always a stand-up guy. Before he became a Christian he used to arrest and terrorize Christians. Then God got a hold of him and turned his life around. But even after God changed him, the Bible tells us in Acts 9:26:

“he tried to associate with the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, since they did not believe he was a disciple.”

It’s often easier to change who you are when you make a clean break and get a fresh start. No one knows your old mistakes or the way you used to be. You get a chance to make brand new mistakes…

I remember my first week on the job as an associate pastor some years back. On Monday morning, the senior pastor was taking me around to introduce me to people in the office. In one room the maintenance guy was laying down some tiling. The pastor introduced us and I stepped forward to give the guy a warm handshake. I didn’t realize it but I stepped right into some tiling mud that he was using to tile the room. The pastor looks down and says, “Watch it – you’re steppin’ in some mud.” And I say, “Oops” and step back.

Then the pastor took me over to introduce me to an office admin lady. After about 30 seconds of talking, he looked down at the carpet and said, “What?!? What did you do?” There were gray footprints from the door way right over to where I was standing! I quickly stepped out of the room to wipe off my feet and, being the good Christian man he was, the pastor whipped out his cell phone and began taking pictures! What a great start, huh?

Saul did not get to start a new job and make fresh impressions. He had to change even when people did not believe he could. Similarly, when we decide to follow Jesus, we need to make permanent changes as we leave behind the old “us” and walk a new path.  Romans 12:1-2 says:

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Paul’s words are just as appropriate today as they were thousands of years ago. We need fresh starts. There are three things I want you to understand from what Paul is saying here, and then four things to do about it.

I. Our change is motivated by God’s mercy

1Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God…

God cares about you – the Bible says, “Cast all your cares on him because he cares for you.” The Bible says that we know Jesus loves us because when we were still sinners he died for us. We didn’t have to get right before he gave his life for us. This is what Paul is trying to say here in Romans. “By the mercies of God….” Because of God’s compassion, he acts on your behalf. All of God’s interaction with humanity is summed up with one pattern: action; reaction. God acts and we respond. The mercy of God compels a response of continual sacrifice – a life of worship. The result of encountering God is that we are forever changed, completely transformed.

There’s a story I once heard about a mother who approached Napoleon seeking a pardon for her son. The emperor replied that the young man had committed a certain offense twice and justice demanded death. “But I don’t ask for justice,” the mother explained. “I plead for mercy.” “But your son does not deserve mercy,” Napoleon replied. “Sir,” the woman cried, “it would not be mercy if he deserved it, and mercy is all I ask for.” “Well, then,” the emperor said, “I will have mercy.” He spared the woman’s son.

We do not live out our Christian lives because of a massive guilt trip or fear but as a loving response to what God has already done for us. Because he has mercy and compassion and acts on our behalf, our response should be to offer Him our very best-our everything. We accomplish this by turning from the world and living out a different kind of life.

II. Surrender your entire being to God

…to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice

The sacrifice is pleasing to God. What Paul is talking about is our attitudes and the contrast in who we please before we meet Jesus and after we meet Jesus. In our old lives, we lived to bring pleasure to ourselves. Now we should live to bring pleasure to God. It’s easy to picture when you think about children.

A child has only one focus in life – find pleasure. My wife and I hung a humorous little plaque in our daughter’s room that says: Toddler’s Rules: If I want it – it’s mine. If I see it – it’s mine. If it’s mine – it’s mine. Nevertheless, as children mature into adults they realize that the world is not all about them (at least they’re supposed to – I think we all know adults who have yet to mature to this point!). But that’s exactly what I’m talking about! When we make the decision to follow Jesus, our focus needs to be not on us but on Him. In this regard, I think we all have room for improvement. Have you surrendered 100% to Him?

In Romans, Paul sees the Christian life as a sacrifice. In the Old Testament, sacrifice meant killing an animal. Paul does not do away with sacrifice. He only changes what it looks like. Instead of the dead body of an animal, the sacrifice is now the living body of the believer in surrender to Jesus, the ultimate sacrifice for all! Worship now moves out of the temple and into everyday life. Worship is not just what we do – it is now who we are.

III. Life now needs to be different than it used to be

2And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind

It is no longer acceptable to be the way we were.. Paul writes that a transformation is needed. The Bible is serious about our need to change! In Ephesians Paul writes:

“I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” Later he says, “…put off your old self…to be made new in the attitudes of your mind.”

The Apostle Peter writes:

“As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do…”

He calls us to be changed. Do you admit that you need a change in your life? In your marriage? In your habits? In your attitudes? In your relationships? In your thinking?

It’s time to change. But how do you make change last? It’s like working out. I want to change. I want to get fit.

Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I know how to use gym equipment. I know things that can help me get in shape. So what’s the problem? I will never get in shape if I never do the exercise. How do we make change permanent?

1. Pray that God will help you change ~If you’re not praying about it, you must not want it that badly! God can do what we could never do. If you really desire to change, start talking to Jesus about it.

2. Become vulnerable and accountable to someone else to help you change ~ It is hard to change without help. When God turned Saul’s life around, God sent good godly men into Saul’s life to help him as he matured as a Christian. We need good godly people in our lives who can be real and honest with us an help us become the people we are supposed to be.

3. Refuse to let people, circumstances, or sin hold you back ~ The disciples did not accept that Saul had truly changed and become a disciple. But Saul continued to pursue God and live a changed life. Sometimes old friends will want to drag us back into old habits and patterns of behavior. Don’t let them. If you have to, make new friends.

4. Take it one day at a time ~ Saul did not become the Apostle Paul overnight. He spent a lot of time growing and maturing with other Christians before he became the man who wrote ½ of the New Testament. Likewise, we can get overwhelmed when we try to live for the big picture change. Focus on one day at a time, and before you know it you will actually be that person that God desires you to be!

God calls us all to be changed. Is it time for change in your life? How is God calling you to change? What are you gonna do about it?

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Related Posts:
~ Sustaining Change in Your Life

Leave Your Bible on Your Shelf

Image courtesy of -Marcus- at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of -Marcus- at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I recently read a blog post admonishing pastors to bring their physical Bibles to church and to stop using electronic media instead. You can read that blog here.

I’ve never written a post directly responding to another blogger, but I really felt that I had to this time. You see, I think that Dr. Barrett couldn’t be more wrong in his assessment of Scripture, technology, and culture – and the idea of reprimanding Christians based on his faulty assessment drives me up the wall.

Just so that you don’t think I’m some crazy, anti-Bible nut-job, let me write a couple sentences about myself. My first graduate degree was in Biblical Studies, where my Master’s work was on the authority of Scripture. My second graduate degree was in Pastoral Preaching. I am FULLY committed to the authority of Scripture in shaping the life, thought, and action of Christians. I am FULLY committed to preaching the truth of Scripture from the pulpit and not watering down the message and removing Jesus and his exclusive claims from God’s story. I have a deep love for the Bible. On my desk right now I have two Bibles (one English and one Greek New Testament). On my shelves I have 3-4 different translations, a Hebrew Old Testament, and two collector’s Bibles (a 1942 Bible produced for the Army and an 1895 printing of a Westcott and Hort Greek New Testament).

I love my Bibles. But the idea that using tech in the pulpit instead of one of my physical Bibles is doing damage is erroneous teaching and needs to be corrected. Dr. Barrett lists 5 “dangers” of using tech Bibles instead of print Bibles:

  1. A Different Message: the tablet represents many things besides a Bible. It represents apps, magazines, games, and much more. “A print copy of the Scriptures in the pulpit represents something far more focused and narrow: a visible symbol of God speaking to his people….”
  2. Biblical Illiteracy in the Pew: the tablet may…encourage biblical illiteracy in the pew. People won’t know where things are in their Bibles because no one is asking them to “turn to chapter such-and-such.” They fail to see the big picture of God’s story.
  3. Flesh and Blood: reading from a tablet removes the reality of having something “there”. As physical beings who gather in a tangible place, God is really with us as Lord of space and time. “This God has made himself known by sending his own Son in flesh and blood.”
  4. Visual Reminder: We risk the Word of God becoming lifeless when we take away the physical book. “And should an unbeliever walk in for the first time, would he know that we are a people of the book?”
  5. Nonverbal Communication: Carrying your Bible around with you communicates to others that you are a Christ follower. Forget the physical Bible and we lose our witness to the world.

Now let me tell you why he’s flat wrong:

  1. You cannot reduce the Living God to a symbol: If you believe that you need a visual symbol of God speaking to talk about God’s story then your god is too small. Yahweh cannot be contained or limited to a mere symbol. No matter what the delivery method, the power of the Gospel is not the literal word but in how the WORD of God pierces our hearts and souls. God can do that through a preacher who uses a print Bible, a Bible app, or an audio Bible while you listen to the Bible on CD.
  2. Biblical illiteracy goes far beyond what happens on a Sunday morning: There are many people who love God dearly and live their lives to conform with the desire and will of God but don’t know that Lamentations is somewhere after Leviticus. The Gospel is not about knowing the order of the books of the Bible. It’s not about being able to find a particular passage whenever asked. The Gospel is about surrendering our story to God’s story. In the history of the world illiterate people have usually outnumbered the literate. For the first1600 years of Christianity most people did not even own their own Bibles. It was only after the advent of the printing press and Reformation that it gradually became commonplace for families to own Bibles. Dr. Barrett’s accusations create a false superiority of literate Christians over illiterate Christians. It says that Christians in underdeveloped nations are lesser Christians because they can’t read the Bible or know the order of the books. This mindset actually does DAMAGE to the Gospel.
  3. A flesh and blood Savior does not necessitate a “flesh and blood” book: Jesus is the center of our faith – not the book. The Gospel is his story, not the black (or red) words printed on a page. The only flesh and blood that matters are HIS. Whether I am reading from the Bible or simply telling someone the story of Jesus, HE is all that matters, not the book. Books deteriorate, get torn, fall apart – but the Gospel will go on eternally.
  4. No visual necessary: as stated above, the hard-text is not necessary for telling God’s story. In fact, holding TOO tightly to being “people of the book” places too much emphasis on the printed word – it elevates the book to the status of idol! It creates two Bibles: the “real” Bible that is printed and the “faux” Bible that comes in other media. It does damage to the Gospel to create this dichotomy.
  5. Jesus didn’t tell his disciples that people would know them because they carried Bibles: he said that people would know they are followers of Jesus by their love. Behavior is more important than outward symbols. We’ve all seen people who wear crosses around their necks or tattoo a cross or fish on their bodies. It doesn’t make them Christian. I once heard a pastor state that wearing a cross doesn’t make you a Christian any more than sleeping in the garage makes you a car. Outward symbols do not mean anything about the condition of our hearts. I would rather people see Jesus in my character and behavior rather than because I lug around a book.

There is a real function to the sacred text. As Paul writes:

For everything that was written long ago was written for our instruction, so that we might have hope through the endurance and encouragement that the Scriptures give us. ~ Romans 15:4

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete and thoroughly equipped for every good work. ~ 2 Timothy 3:16-17

There is a real purpose to Scripture, and that purpose involves shaping and forming the believer. There is a relationship between the text and our life. There is nothing neutral in claiming the Bible as Scripture. The Bible must be “normative and life-shaping” because the writers were commissioned by God (whatever your view of inspiration). The divine voice demands response.

I do not impugn the authority of the text for Christian life and thought. We must not, however, substitute true authority, i.e. the story of God’s redemptive actions through human history, for cheap bibliolatry. The printing press was revolutionary technology in its day, giving the common person access to words never dreamed possible. Technology today is no different, giving us the Bible in new ways. But it isn’t really a new Bible, is it? It’s still God’s story – unchanged. And when we learn this then we can access HIS story through any means.

The Bible doesn’t change. We do.