Confessions of a Questioning Christian

Archive for August 2012

Jesus Said

Posted on: August 30, 2012

Since I proclaim to love on what Jesus said and did and told people to do, I sometimes need a reminder of what that actually was. This portion of the blog, “Jesus Said,” will be just straight up Jesus quotations.

“You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? (Matthew 5:43-47 )

 

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Acts 1

Posted on: August 29, 2012

I didn’t realize I’d finished Matthew already (I kept trying to look up Matthew 29). I had initially planned to go through the gospels, but to be honest: I’m bored. I decided to jump forward to Acts.

I’m not making any promises about updating daily like I did (for the most part) with Matthew. Especially because Acts has always been a more trippy book to me than some of the others. It’s like, whoa, let’s take what Jesus said and mix it with some unicorn magic. Presto! We have a new religion! I don’t really understand much of what’s happening in Acts, and I still don’t have a firm grasp on the Holy Spirit. I remember asking my Sunday School teacher once, “We pray to God, and we pray to Jesus, but we don’t pray to the Holy Spirit. If they’re the Trinity, then why don’t we? What’s that about?” She didn’t know how to answer me, so that’s still frustrating me.

Al’ight. Let’s go.

Acts 1

English Standard Version (ESV)

The Promise of the Holy Spirit

1 In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen.  He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.

And while staying[a] with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with[b] the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

Who is Theophilius? Wikipedia says

Theophilus is the name or honorary title of the person to whom the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles are addressed (Luke 1:3, Acts 1:1). It is unanimously agreed that both Luke and Acts were originally written in a refined Koine Greek, and that “θεόφιλος” (“Theophilos”), as it appears therein, means friend of God[1] or (be)loved by God or loving God[2] in the Greek language. No one knows the true identity of Theophilus and there are several conjectures and traditions around an identity.

Luke writes that he’s been with Jesus from the beginning. Sometimes people tell me they don’t trust the bible because all the books were written like, 50 years after the fact. But is it possible that the books were written sooner, and we only found the copies that were around 50 years later? Just curious.

The Ascension

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

So, up until Acts, Jesus is kinda like, you guys all suck, stop being stupid, just love each other and help make society better. And he also says things like, “I’m the son of god.” And that’s cool, because what does that even mean? I guess what I’m trying to say is, you could certainly interpret the Jesus parts of the bible as this amazing Jew who was like, a prophet or genius or someone like MLK, Jr. But Acts makes him into a super hero, flying into the sky.

Matthias Chosen to Replace Judas

12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away. 13 And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James.14 All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.[c]

15 In those days Peter stood up among the brothers (the company of persons was in all about 120) and said, 16 “Brothers,the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. 17 For he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry.”18 (Now this man acquired a field with the reward of his wickedness, and falling headlong[d] he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out. 19 And it became known to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the field was called in their own language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) 20 “For it is written in the Book of Psalms,

“‘May his camp become desolate,
and let there be no one to dwell in it’;

and

“‘Let another take his office.’

21 So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22  beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.” 23 And they put forward two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also called Justus, and Matthias. 24 And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen 25 to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” 26 And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.

First he’s like, Judas’s actions happened for good reason. Does that mean he’s forgiven? But then he’s like, that field is cursed. Kay.

Okay, the last part is really crazy. Because we would NEVER use something like lots (or dice or cards or whatever else magical-seeming) in modern day Christianity. We’d say it’s evil, a window to demons, or something like that. When did it suddenly become wrong to pray and then ask God to let his answer be however some dice roll? Kinda don’t know what to think about all of this.

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One of my dear friends, who is a Christian, encouraged me to listen to a sermon she recently heard about why church is important. Of course I’ve already known for a while that I can’t find a church (or even a like-minded Christian community) in the city I live in now, but when I get home I’d already decided that I would try to get back in to church. Do I believe there is God? I want to. Do I believe in Jesus? I want to. Do I follow his teachings? Jesus’s – yeah, I try. That’s the best I can do. But even if that sets me apart from every other person in the sanctuary, I like church because it’s a group of usually kind-hearted people who are good at encouraging you. That’s certainly not the worst thing in the world. And even though I absolutely hate when churches get political and I might not always agree with things that are even taken verbatim out of the bible (sorry, I just can’t swallow some things from the Bible, and I don’t think that’s bad or condemns me to hell for eternity), I still think there are a lot of valuable nuggets of truth and positive life lessons to take from it. Again – this is a good reason to go to church (as long as it’s not a bunch of super hypocritical people being “preached” at by someone with an agenda/small world view). The church I went back to met those requirements, with injections of social justice and serving the community. Just my style.

Anyway, I started to listen to the sermon (but it, as well as another one I tried to listen to, cut off about halfway through. Not sure why) per her request. And it made some similar points to those above, plus more traditional Christian ideology like “we need to surround ourselves with like-minded community to keep us disciplined.” Agreed, agreed. The thing is, this only seems to work out best for those who believe that the bible is 100% God-breathed. I can’t say I believe that because of the history of how the bible was collected, translated, and influenced. Now, don’t get me wrong – I’m not so cynical as to believe that means you can’t glean any of the author’s intentions or inspirations. It just means that I can’t just take verses at face value. And if I don’t take them at face value – and actively toss some things out (go ahead – call me Thomas Jefferson), where does that leave me with the community. If the goal of church is to keep people disciplined in their pursuit of knowledge for God, but that pursuit doesn’t question or ever consider ignoring (or at least interpreting things in non-traditional ways), then what good does it do  – especially for someone like me?

I guess it means I can sit quietly, like the polite, well-mannered, church-raised girl I was taught to be. And I can take what I can, and let the rest go. Is it still worth it then? I guess… I guess I’ll find out next time I live in America again.