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Tuesday, March 22 2011
Has anyone ever told you that they thought Christian faith was disgusting because it is centered around a case of "cosmic child abuse?" They can't understand what kind of "religion" would celebrate a supreme being sending his own son to be savagely slaughtered. How could anyone love such a God? How could anyone claim that such a God is good? (I've heard this, but maybe your friends and acquaintances are more polite.) 

My reply has always been, "If that actually were all there is to the gospel message, I'd have to agree. But you've apparently only heard the middle of the story, and not the beginning or the end."

To really understand what the story is, we have to see what the Christian portion of the Bible says about it (because, after all, that is where the first Christians wrote it all down.)

I'll save the end of the story for a future blog, but here is the beginning:

The gospel of John starts by saying "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." So, the first question a person might have is "Who or what is the Word?" And then further on it says, "The Word became flesh and pitched his tent to live among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." And also, "For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ." (Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ, the One and Only, the Word that became flesh.) "No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father's side, has made him known."

So, what's this saying? It's saying that God himself became one of us! How could God become human and still be God of all that exists? Well, first of all, we're talking about the creator of everything, existence, time, matter, energy, thought, . . . everything. So nothing should really surprise us. Not only that, but the Hebrew Scriptures talk a lot about God being simultaneously specific and yet all-encompassing and all present at the same time. God's Spirit could fall on people or dwell in someone while sustaining all of creation. Unlike Bruce in Bruce Almighty, the God of the Bible can hear and speak to everyone at the same time. The God of the Bible can see past, present, and future at the same time. Since God created time, space, energy, and matter, God is not limited by time or space or energy or matter.

The first chapter of the book of John also tells us that all things were created through the Word that was made flesh and pitched his tent to dwell among us. That "person" of God that interacted with time, space, energy, and matter in creation became part of that creation, in Jesus. John uses the term "One and Only Son of God" to describe this. Early Christian thinkers explained this in terms that seem almost contradictory. Jesus is both fully God and fully human.

The letter to the Philippians explains this Chapter 2, verses 6-11

6 Though he was God,
he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to.
7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
he took the humble position of a servant and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
8 he humbled himself in obedience to God
and died a criminal's death on a cross.

9 Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor
and gave him the name above all other names,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Jesus is the Word made flesh, and the Word is God. We may not understand how God did this, but we are told why. It is because God loves us. (John 3:16)

Posted by: Michelle AT 07:36 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, March 22 2011
  When people talk about the bible, they sometimes talk about the “Old Testament” or “Hebrew Scriptures” in contrast to the “New Testament” or “Christian Scriptures.” What's the difference?
The Hebrew Scriptures tell the story of the Hebrew people and their relationship with God, beginning with creation and ending several hundred years before the birth of Jesus. The major divisions of the Hebrew Scriptures are the Torah, the Prophets and the Writings. Each of these sections are divided into “books” with specific names, like Genesis, Isaiah, or Proverbs. The Hebrew Scriptures, or the Old Testament, makes up approximately the first three fourths (about 77% or so) of the bible. The Christian Scriptures, or New Testament can be found after that.

What is in the “New Testament” or “Christian Scriptures?”
The first four books of the Christian Scriptures, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, are called the gospels. They tell the story of Jesus' life from four different perspectives. The next section is called “Acts” or sometimes “Acts of the Apostles” and is a history of the beginnings of Christianity (in fact, it even records where and when followers of Jesus were first called “Christians.”) The rest of the chapters except for the last one are collections of letters that various early leaders wrote as the Christian church was first forming. These letters explain, interpret and supplement the gospel stories, and also offer practical advice to local churches. The final chapter, called “Revelation” or sometimes “The Apocalypse” is a highly symbolic account of the visions of a man named John.

Some people find it helpful to read the bible in a version that uses the kind of language we use today, like the “New Living Version,” or the “Contemporary English Version,” or the “Message.” You can find various online bible translation versions at and other sites. These sites allow you to specify a particular book bible, chapter of the book,and even the specific verse of the chapter that you want to find. In addition, most printed bibles have a table of contents in front, and a concordance (a list of terms and verses where the terms can be found) to make finding things easier. If you are interested in knowing what was written in the original languages, or the definitions of terms, is another good site.

Posted by: Michelle AT 07:21 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
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