Category Archives: Church

He has risen

Tomorrow on Easter, I will not be going to a church building and celebrate with fellow believers. Easter will look very different this year. I feel a little sad and disturbed.  Easter is the biggest day of the year for Christians. 

I love the big event. Churches around the world pull out all the stops for this special day.  They do special music, everyone is dressed up, we usually see the biggest crowds, those who don’t usually attend show up, there may be an egg hunt on the lawn, the preacher will have his sermon refined to a fine point and rehearsed to a place where he could do it without notes.  It is a wonderful day in the controlled chaos that is called Easter. All in the hope of a spiritual breakthrough for someone on the edges of the church. 

I’m sad that it won’t be happening this year. Or at least not in the way that I’m used to.

Yet then I must take a step back and come to the realization, Church is about more than the big event happening at your building. It’s about the big event that happened 2,000 years ago in Jerusalem when it was discovered that there wasn’t a body in Jesus’ tomb.

This is a time of social distancing and face masks.  For some, it is a time which, “the Church has left the building.”

There is a valuable truth to be comprehended here.  When the Church is forced not to meet together there comes to us a lesson.  That lesson is: the church is not a building, WE ARE THE CHURCH. Church isn’t an event you go to. It’s a people you belong to.

So as you gather around your blue tinged screens, watching a message or two, please remember and set your hearts on the founder. A founder who came out of the grave on the third day.

HE HAS RISEN.

HE HAS RISEN, INDEED.

The domesticated Church

In the last 250 years the United States has changed drastically. This change is an antithesis what our country was founded upon.  The very idea of a nation that could and did have the right to believe what they ever they like was one of the best ideas of the Bill of Rights. Our nation has changed. It has changed from the idea of freedom of religion to freedom from religion.

The very idea a nation can survive in a culture where there is a choice between religion and no religion at all was simply crazy thinking in the beginning of our nation.  Our dependence upon the divine was built into every thing our nations was built upon. Belief was the basis for our total identity. It was not what was possessed it what was believed. A mandate to believe in something was required in oursociety. There were few atheists or agnostics.

There was no duality in the early years of our republic.  Religion and life were inextricably tied together. It changed in small little steps. Now we live in an age that would separate Faith and life.  The default mode is to see faith as simply an escape from the madness.  Carl Marx is now seen as correct when he was quoted as saying, “Religion is the opiate of the masses.” Christianity or any belief is seen as a crutch. And we have fallen for a dualism.  The life of the everyday has been segmented from the life of faith.  It is much like a plate of food where the mashed potatoes are never allowed to touch the peas. 

This dualism attitude says it really doesn’t matter who is in control: Republicans, Democrats, Socialists, Communist, Secular Humanists, Green, Libertarians.  The secular can go ahead and run the world.  Let them run the country as long as those who believe can have their little piece of heaven.  As long as Jesus is there in the believers little corner of life, all is well.  Jesus can be well scheduled, secluded, private and quiet.

If one would try to invade the other’s space, whether the world into faith or faith into the world there is anger.  Any attempt to join the two is seen as revolt of personal rights.  Today, there is a separation worlds because there is no possibility of co-mingling of authority.  The world would say the only authority is man.  Faith says the only authority is God.  They don’t mix well. 

Christianity in the west has become like a boxing ring. Christians in one corner and the world in the other.  And if each is in their respective corners all is quiet.  The Faithful, if they stay in their corner they are ignored by the world.  The world is equally ignored in our prayer closets and our pulpits.  Until one or the other makes a step to meet in the middle there is no reaction.

This duality of life is almost satisfying.  There is little motivation to step out to the middle of the ring. To enter the battle place to fight the good fight.

A Christian nation is a good thought.  It gives the average churchman solace of purpose. It is an acknowledgement of rightness of God.  It is good to be a part of something that is well accepted.  There is even a group called the Religious Right that has influence on the culture of the West. They have made an imperceptibly small nudge toward the center and the other corner calls foul.  Foul because the world not only wants its corner but the middle too.

Those in the corner act Christian.  As long as our corner is not invaded by the world, if the world does not take our tax deductions, If the world allows us to occupy a corner or two, then it is good. And this corner keeping attitude brings with it an expectation.  Not a faith expectation to change the world, but an expectation of something in this life.  It is an expectation in which each generation will have it a little better off.  We will live longer.  We will have all the food we need.  We will be able to go wherever we want. To be treated fairly.  In a Godly nation we will have the best healthcare, the best lifestyle, the best leisure opportunities.  This Nation which stamps on their money, “IN GOD WE TRUST”, comes with it an expectation of being better off than the ungodly nations.  In doing so we have lost the bigger viewpoint.  It is all about the battle.

We have developed a form of Christianity to support this concept of prosperity.  It has become a Christianity which is acceptable, comfortable, secure, and prosperous as seen by the other corner.  This corner Christianity that looks at our uniqueness, our personal goals, our own needs, our own wants, our own preferences, our own prosperity.  We have nice churches, nice chairs, nice heating and cooling, good lighting, the best music, and short messages about other people.

There is no call to be an alien, a traveler, or a selfless soul on a journey. It is an attitude of arrival.  Heaven on earth. And we are good with that. 

We get angry if the world doesn’t treat Christianity as something that is not normal.  The church has become comfortable.  And all this normalcy, this duality is destroying our relationship to the real Jesus.  The world has domesticated the church.  I don’t want to be a comfort seeking, entertainment addicted, survey craving, approval desiring Christian.  I can not stay in my corner.  I don’t want to waste my life just fitting in.  I want God.  And I want God to be the authority.  I want God to rule my life. No duality. Just primary. I want God in the whole ring.

Wandering

As the Israelite’s wandered in the wilderness for 40 years looking for God and His will, I have constantly tried to understand what motivated the Israelite’s to go in circles for all these years in an environment that was trying to kill them with every step.  I would think they would have grown tired of constantly moving and getting nowhere. As a Christian, I find that at times I also take to wandering.  Why do I do the things I do?  I think there is a direct relationship between the wandering by the Israelite’s  when they were trying to find their purpose and following a Godly leadership, with my own Christian walk today. I would think that there are four ways to understand the motivation of Christians in today’s modernistic world: Gizmos, pathways, rebels, and stubborn fatalism.

Israel in the wilderness was called to follow an external device of smoke and fire.  True they had a leader. Yet even Moses was guided by these heavenly prompts. When the manifestation of God moved so did the Israelite’s.  It did not matter what the path these prompts pointed toward, there was an inner belief that these manifestations knew where they were going. They were guided every mile, every year to following the presence of God. When the smoke moved, they moved. Following as they were pointed, may well be characterized as a mechanical device or Gizmo we find in most cars: the GPS. When we want to go somewhere, we simply punch in a destination and there is a turn by turn guide to grandma’s house. It tells us when we will get there and even if there is any delay on our path.  We listen carefully to a voice, usually a woman’s voice, telling us where to turn, what road or exit to take, even the name and number of the street or highway which is on our path.

When our GPS Gizmo tells me to turn, I make every effort to follow and fully expecting she knows better than any path I could figure out. But there are times when I may well think “That’s not right”, or “I want to make my own path” or  “I know better than this,” or I want to stop along the way to get a Diet Pepsi.”  But when I do, my loyal GPS gleefully reports, “Recalculating.”

That little disembodied voice say does not say, “this is not what I told you to do.” Instead, this tiny Gizmo realizes the place you are and plans a new path. Recalculating is saying, “I will start from when you have gone astray and I will map you a new path to your destination. I will set you straight. Trust me I will get you want to go.”

Sometimes I question this seemingly blind faith in the displayed path.  I know for a fact there are two routes from the church to my house and they both get me there.  The problem is my GPS GIZMO randomly chooses one path over the other because they both are the same distance and duration.  To the Israelites God was their heavenly GIZMO.  God gave them a turn by turn directions and the first type of Israelite and consequently many blessed Christians will find their way to the promised land.

The second way we can look at the wandering at the wilderness and also our Christian walks in our wandering is characterized by the ant. The total purpose of an individual ant is to serve the whole.  To follow the rules of searching to find a source of sustaining resources is the entirety of one class of ants.  Some stay home and take care of the young.  Some receive the bounty provided by the wanderers.  The wanderers provide for the rest of the ants.  Each ant has a responsibility to do their job and not to stray in the least. The philosophy of an ant is to survive the journey.  And they do this by sending out individual ants in search of a new source of food and bring it back the report to the nest.  To find their way back to the nest they produce tiny scent trails wherever they go.  They spread out as far as their scent will allow them to go.  If they don’t find anything they simply die.  Wandering along looking for some choice morsel or better yet a large source of choice morsels like a dollop dropped from my peanut and butter sandwich.  If they find the gooey mess, they follow their own scent trail back and tell everyone.  In rapid succession, hundreds of ants follow blindly the previously laid down path.  All the while, the additional scent is laid down to reinforce the path. Every ant in this parade simply follows the ant in front of them.  Every time a new path is found a group of ants will follow.  Every time there is a new source of plenty there are followers.  Each Ant following dutifully the ant in front of them.

A problem arises when the lead ant loses the scent for a moment and doesn’t know which way to go. When the scent is lost the lead ant turns abruptly looking for the scent again and all the while, every ant behind follows. The lead ant repeats this turning until it finds the scent. What often happens is they run across their own scent line and turn to follow it and in doing so they make a giant circle and they go around and around and around each of the succeeding circles.  Every ant following in step following the ant front of them. The mindset of every ant in the parade is to constantly follow the ant in front, “he must know where he’s going.” Every ant following believes and accepts the, “follow the one in front” idea and is fully convinced that they are going the right way.  And every trip in the grand circle it increases the scent and they can’t stop.  They go around and around and around and ultimately, they simply die of exhaustion. A catastrophic end. Again the Hebrews followed until most of them who had experienced Egypt died.  In the Christian walk we must keep the cloud in mind not the person in front.

The 3rd characteristic of those who would find themselves in the wilderness trying to find God’s will is the rebel. The rebel mindset says to himself, “there must be something more in my divine destiny of life.”  In the Hebrews in the wilderness, they were characterized as the “Grumblers”.  They grumbled about the quality of water, they grumbled with the lack of food, they grumbled with the lack of variety of provided food and they complained because there was not enough water.  Dissatisfied with Moses on the mountain they were the first ones to, “make a god for ourselves.”  This rebel belief reveals itself with trying and changing everything. A complaint of “we have always done it this way” is confronted with “we have never done it this way.” Let me be first.

These rebel firsts keep saying, “I have to go faster, fly higher, explore everywhere, to boldly go where no one has gone before.” “I am the creator of my destiny.” Or “I can do anything I want.” The rules of sanity and common sense simply doesn’t mean anything to me. It doesn’t matter if I crash and burn; at least I can be an example of what not to do. It is a modern self-description. It is a mindset that says, “I have emerged from the cave where man created God, created faith and created religion and I no longer will follow blindly. It is an attitude of personal self-responsibility. “I know who I am and I don’t need or want some old sage to dictate my life.”

The rebel is plastered all over YouTube.  Riding bicycles off of a roof into a swimming pool, or trying to jump over a car while it is coming at you at 20 miles an hour are examples of this rebel attitude.

It is the rebels who have stretched the common beliefs of the church. “Let’s have a church in a deserted drive-in theater,” or “we don’t need pews” or “let’s get tables and coffee” were all once thought of rebellious ideas. “Let me be the first, at least I will be cool about it.”

They live by their own rules because everyone else seems stuck in a pattern and that pattern is I can’t live with. This rebel spirit believes and is willing to die for that belief. Columbus was going somewhere and if he died along the way so be it. Alan Shepard strapped himself onto the back of a rocket to prove something not only to himself but everyone who was going to follow him. It is not a question of, “lead or follow” but just stay out my way.  And like Evil Knievel and all his copies, more often than not they crashed and crashed hard.

The last group of wanderers is those who simply give up: the fatalists.  “If we keep going, day after day, we will ultimately die, so why go on.”  To the fatalist, any path is a path to destruction.  The Egyptians wanted to kill them, the people in the destination wanted to kill them, the desert wanted to kill them, all the new laws set by Moses are all filled with death and punishment, I might as well just dig a hole and climb in. When the Christian does not see that perfect path before them like a heavenly GPS, or another ant in front of them, or there is no unction in your gumption to change the path, the fatalist simply sits down and dies. “If I don’t know where I am to be, this spot is good enough.”  These fatalists die alone because they find no responsibility to follow anyone or conform to any path.  

 Four paths:  Follow the presence of God, follow the other ants in front of you, rebel and do your own thing, or give up. As we walk the walk that is Christianity, it is my choice and it is your choice.

Ten Fears for the American Church

My Bible tells me perfect love casts out all fear.  Here on the edge of a new month, a new year and a new decade, I am alarmed at the signs within the church which can well be called fear.  Here is the ten that disturbs me:

  1. I am greatly fearful of the church having the form of godliness but without the power of God.  I find more and more people using Christianity as an inoculation to provide an entrance into the Kingdom of God and not truly living the life of a blood washed throng.
  2. I am fearful of the body of believers tolerate sin far too much.  Some would well say it is legalism but sometimes we swing to far to acceptance at any lifestyle there is no real distinctiveness.  If it makes no difference, then there is no difference.
  3. I am fearful of the relevance movement in the church.  We have music that no longer teaches us about God and more about the beat and the light show.  Sometimes it may well be called 7-11 music: eleven words sung over and over eleven times.  We tell the world come as you are, but even at a football game there are uniforms. 
  4. I am fearful of the seeming lack of the use of the Bible.  In church, if the scripture is not posted up in a PowerPoint presentation on a big screen the Bible is ignored.  We don’t take our Bibles to church, we don’t study, we don’t memorize, we don’t hide the Word in our hearts much anymore.
  5. I am fearful of the American church that thinks it is the center of Christianity.  The growth of the church is stagnant if not declining in America.  The places where the church is growing is in the poorest places in the world.  Has the Church in America become complacent?  Probably.
  6. I am fearful of a church that gets hung up on the things that simply don’t matter.  We readily say we are in agreement with our Christian denominations but under our breath, we think they are simply misguided and wrong theologically.
  7. I am fearful of the American church which reserves prayer for the up-fronters in worship.  Prayer meetings have become a thing of the past.  The power of prayer has been replaced by the power of the committee and community.
  8. I am fearful of the American Church that produces not strong Christians but milk drinkers.  Discipleship that reciprocates to create more disciples is being lost.  When Jesus said to go unto the whole world, he said our job was making disciples not increasing attendance at a worship service.
  9. I am fearful of the American church because of the movement to the Mega-church model.  There is nothing wrong with big churches, but they often kill the small fellowship of believers with care for each other and know each other.  Sure, there is more struggle to make ends meet in the small church, there are fewer opportunities for specialized ministries. Never-the-less they have been and must be the source of the true strength of the American church.
  10. I fear for the American church because they seem to have lost the awe of God.  I miss the tears, the testimonies, the victories, the little old ladies with handkerchiefs raising them in victory, of altar calls, of singing Victory in Jesus and meaning it, of my heart pricked to do more for God, of a preacher that gets excited at what he has to share, of sinners saved, of habits broken, of redemption and rejoicing.

Just my thoughts today. If you agree with any of these, pick one and work on it. Strengthen the American church by beginning with your congregation.

Sadness of lost potential

I am troubled.  In my Bible studies, it is not often my emotions are bent to the melancholy. I am currently trying to comprehend the Church as it existed between Pentecost and the end of the century.  It is often characterized as the Apostolic age. The sadness comes from the fate of the Hebrew Church.  The very nature of the church in this age was inextricably tied to the faith of Israel.  For the years after Pentecost the church was a sect, a part, a division of Judaism.  What took my usually flatline mood was ultimate fate of the church that Jesus came to establish.  “First to the Jew” as Jesus said, did not come to a great revival of the Son’s of Abraham.  The church to which Jesus came to change never really happened.  The Church for the Hebrews, for all intents and purposes simply did not make it.

There was always a remnant and even today there are bits and pieces of the Hebrew church.  But for the most part, it is a gentile church.  For many in the first century and beyond, Jewish followers of Jesus did not form a different functioning religion. They lived in Judea and the Galilee, and as long as the Temple stood, they participated in its rites.

These chosen people of God who proclaimed Jesus as messiah were ostracized by their own families, their community, and ultimately by the church as it moved to a primarily gentile emphasis. The dual identity of the earliest followers of Jesus became the also rans of Christianity.  Seen as a threat to the established religion of Judaism and seen as an part of an anachronism in its death watch.

I read of some of the second generation of Christian leaders proclaiming those who believe in the Messiah Jesus and still practice Hebrew customs as an absurdity. I find a sense of intolerance in the church as it transitions across the century line which could well have contributed to the death of the Hebrew Church. 

What could have happened if the church stayed within the arms of the Mother of Judaism, we will never know. Could God’s design have been furthered by the incorporation of the traditions and customs of the Chosen people?  

Why am I sad? I would suppose, it is the could of, should of, would of world of conjecture. How much could the rich culture have added to the church’s beliefs of today?  Hence sadness.

The truth is not enough.

Sometimes I just don’t get some of the assumptions I hear from my brothers and sisters in the church.  It could well stem from personal experiences or even pre-conceived understandings of my own.  Whatever my problem may well be, I hear some of the strangest voiced conclusions and they set my own sensibilities on edge.

A few years back I was teaching a class on the book of John.  We were trying as a group to understand Jesus. What brought up the edgy feeling was the response to the question, “Why do you study the Bible?”  That question had many answers.  Some of the answers were conditioned “Sunday School” answers, while others were a little more honest, and others from those who were truly seeking more in their spiritual lives.  It was the last answer that didn’t seem quite right.  “I study the bible to be a better Christian.”  What it sounded like to me was this apt student was equating the accumulation of facts and theological understanding with growth. 

I pressed him to clarify and he quoted from John 8:32, “The truth will make you free.” He was saying when there is enough truth in your life you will, by that accumulation, become a better Christian.

I didn’t argue or tell him he was wrong, I simply smiled and jotted down a note to get a better understanding of his perceived pathway to growth.

At issue is endemic to many in the church. The idea of filling your heart with so much knowledge, so much scripture, that you become a super Christian, is often proclaimed.  What a terrible thought.  What an indictment against the very God in which we serve.  Before you get your own hackles up, let me explain.

First, the Gospel of John does say, “the truth will set you free.” But like most misconceptions of the will of God, it was taken out of a larger portion of scripture.  Jesus was speaking to Jews who had been influenced by the Pharisees and had come to an understanding of Jesus.  They had the head knowledge.  They had accumulated so much Jewish theology and insight of the prophets, they saw these as pointers to Jesus being the Messiah. Consequently, they had accepted the words of Jesus as truth.

Second, the Gospel of John in the same eighth chapter and which this “make you free” statement was stated also includes a preface. “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.  Then you will know the truth, and that truth will set you free.” The key is not accumulation but a holding.

Holding is not just gathering the wheat in the fields and taking it as an accomplishment.  Holding is knowing the purpose of the wheat and making bread. To be a disciple is to conform to the teachings of God, to stay on a prescribed path set by God, and it is to be more than a sponge.

Why do I study the Bible?  Two things.  I study to understand God and His path for me. And subsequently, to finding that path, I utilize my new understanding to follow that path.  My life is one of revelation and reconciliation. Without the second part, the first part is without much help to my growth.  My growth is dependent upon my understanding of God’s place for me AND my willingness to do something about it.   

Christian Sabbath?

The big question for the Sabbath is whether in the New Testament a commandment to keep the Sabbath day holy, is the same it was commanded in the Old Testament.  Do we, as enlightened new covenant Christians, be constrained in the same manner and constricted like the Hebrews.

Remember, if you will, if we say yes to this conformity, then the same punishment is also attached.  The Hebrew law for Sabbath keeping states you could be killed for carrying sticks on the sabbath day.

Let’s ignore the issue of which day is the sabbath, we can address that some other day.  That issue need not be addressed here because we have to understand the requirements of sabbath and their relevance to us before setting a time and place.

In Romans 14 we are admonished not to quarrel and accept those whose faith is weak. But it goes on to speak to the sabbath issue in verse 5:  “One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike.  Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind.”  Please notice this is not an indictment of those who keep one day holy and another as secular or unholy.  The argument is the keeping a day holy when they all should be kept as holy.  So what Paul was saying in Romans was that every day is to be holy AND one day is special.  Holiness of the Sabbath is a good thing AND Holiness of every day is even better.

Paul did not take a side.  He simply said, “Let both honor God.”  Keeping the sabbath is making it special. For the Christian, the sabbath should be holy, like every other day. Where we get confused is the special part.

How do we make one day special?  This special day, in my opinion, is the day I STOP.  That is what SHABOTH in Hebrew means.  Stop and set a day and “BE STILL and KNOW THAT I AM GOD.”  My sabbath is that day of the week that I set aside to first, STOP my usual life, second WORSHIP, third to FELLOWSHIP with fellow believers. It is a day of POINTED REST.  It is a day when I express my “I LOVE YOU GOD”, “I COUNT YOU MY LORD”, “I AM YOURS IN WHAT EVER HAPPENS.” That is the rest meant for the Israelites in the wilderness. That was the rest for the Hebrews in Canaan. That is the rest that Jesus talked about in Matthew 11:28,29

The Changing Church

Has the church changed so much that some really cannot relate with the Bible.  Have we trod the path from Acts when Peter preached and 3,000 repented?  The church has changed from a bible believing, monotheistic, well accustomed to digging deep into scripture and willing to talk about it. The group to which Peter in Acts 2 were like that, full of knowledge and willing to understand and accept the teachings of the new rabbi.  But the church has become like the audience in Acts 17:22, “I see that in every way you are religious.”  Paul walked around in their city and what he saw was great belief in the wrong things. They even had an altar with the title, “To an unknown God.”  He accused the believers in all the religions that abounded and simply told them, “you are ignorant of the very thing you worship.”

Have we come so far as to having a form of religion without the very reason for that effort? Isn’t Paul’s logic still hold true: 

24 The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’

29 “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill. 30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.”

Rise and Shine

I don’t understand.  I wake up and the first thing I hear is the news on in the living room and I am blasted by the latest scandal, the latest opinion that is contrary to the ones I have. I wonder how our “Christian nation” arrived at a place where our college students don’t think and just react to the latest rhetoric pumped from a tiny screen. I am aghast that our government seems unwilling or unable to just sit down and talk with each other.  Rather they are so polarized they would rather the country fail than not get their ideological viewpoint undermined.  I sit here questioning seeming fluid self-declared gender identity sweeping our culture, thrown in the face of God-created differences.

It is not just secular tidal waves that loom on our horizon. The church is being changed by these forces.  The church is called to change the world, not the other way around. I read of what we would call mainline churches just giving up on basic Christian beliefs.  “Mary wasn’t a virgin, she was just a maiden.”  “Jesus did not raise from the dead, it is just an allegory.” It has become more of what you do than what you believe, “Live the good life.”  The church no longer talks about the blood of Jesus providing a life-changing salvation.  It is all about an entertainment of the senses in a joint expression of euphoria as a substitute for worship.

As a result, there is a cultural relativism.  There are no absolutes. “We don’t need theology, we need a social application of cultural norms,” is touted at the latest seminar or church conference. The sheep have been set free to roam where ever they think is best.”  And they have taken this relative culture and ran with it.  Running toward destruction.

We must get back to basics.  Where we hold standards high. Where the truth is the truth.  Where the Bible is the basis of life.  There must be an evangelism in our church.  We must show unity, we must love one another. There are mainline churches across this great nation that are dying because they are not connected to the True Vine.

I pray for the church to be filled.  I pray for the church to be called to prayer.  I call for the church to change our culture.  I pray that the great churches of America have a genuine revival of the Spirit of God.

And with this revival will come a change in our country.

Do we still need a Bible?

As I was preparing to attend church last week, I dutifully selected one of the many Bibles that fill a goodly part of one of my shelves.  There are big ones with plastic tabs along the edge, so scriptures can be more easily found.  There are old broken-down ones that have lost their binding and used only gingerly on my desk and examined with care. There are numerous Bibles that are differentiated by the translation; NASB, MOFFAT, KJ, NKJ, NIV, Message, RSV and on and on.  This week I chose a TNIV.  It is a study Bible with lots of helps and references.

As I sit in the sanctuary just a few moments later and the scripture for the sermon is blaringly displayed across three screens, I wonder, “what is the necessity of lugging a big black book to church”.  What is it that makes me feel that I have my act together in worship when I carry my Bible?  Has the church passed by the need to have pew Bibles for those don’t have one, or do we don’t need one at all?  The Word is passed down to the congregant in little spoons full by the upfronts and that seems to be good enough.

I have one Bible that I started my ministry way back there and since then the cover fell off, the pages are so well worn that I must be careful not to tear them.  It has been marked, highlighted, annotated and referenced thousands of times.  There is a sense of history about it.  If I have the latest version with updated references and scriptural research, why don’t I just throw it away?

Books have lives, and for me and my fellow attendees, consideration must be made for what we have lost personally and collectively by neglecting the Bible as a tangible object.  As one writer said of both the Bible and the hymnal that they, “straddle the worlds of literary and religious reading, of song and private reflection.”   They are a part of the method that should not be done away, just because there is no pocket in the back of the folding chairs. Bibles at church are part of the foundational formation of the family of God? Another scholar points out that what we hold dear affects us and called it, “hand piety.” That which we hold, that which we carry, that which we place on our laps at church has a significance.  These things are permanent parts of our experience of knowing God.

With the Bible on our phones and words on the screen in most evangelical churches, are we being molded into the church by the objects we touch, hold, and memorize? I really don’t think a Bible app on a smartphone holds the same importance as a Bible you have prayed with, cried with, laugh with and come through terrible trials with. A smartphone is just too easy to become a group of loosely networked individuals, where devotional practices and worship are experienced in an individualized manner.

Take your Bibles to church.

By the way, I was snooping a couple of weeks ago and those who had their screens on during service were not looking at a Bible application.