Day 53

Exodus 3

Here we enter God’s abstract period. Moses brings the flocks up to Horeb, “the mountain of God” (Exod 3:1). God appears to Moses as a fire burning within a bush. Moses heads over to investigate the strange occurrence, and to see why the bush does not burn.

A “burning bush” at sunset. I thought I was going to have to wait much longer to share this picture.

Another shot of the “burning bush.” Zoomed in and touched up.

God speaks to Moses, and tells him to remove his sandals. God introduces Himself as “the God of your father—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (Exod 3:6). In the New World Translation used by the Jehovah’s Witnesses, this whole episode is the point at which God introduces himself as “Jehovah,” as we shall soon see.

God tells Moses that He has heard the cry of the Israelites, and that He has chosen Moses to lead the people out of Egypt. Moses isn’t sure what to make of this.

But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?”

So He said, “I will certainly be with you. And this shall be a sign to you that I have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.”

Then Moses said to God, “Indeed, when I come to the children of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they say to me, ‘What is His name?’ what shall I say to them?”

And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”

— Exodus 3:11-14, NKJV

God gives Moses some other commands and gives him details of the plan. Anyone who wants to read all that, just go check out Exodus 3. I’d rather talk about…

The Name of God

I’ve always considered this to be one of the most interesting and possibly one of the most overlooked passages in the Old Testament. Moses imagines a scenario wherein the Israelites ask him, “Oh yeah? You’re so smart, what’s God’s name?”

In the New King James Version, and many others, God responds by telling Moses, “I AM THAT I AM,” or “I AM WHO I AM.” Then God clarifies that His name is “I AM.” I’m going to skip ahead a bit to Exodus 20 because I have a point I’d like to make. Exodus 20 is the chapter that introduces the Ten Commandments, one of which is

“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain…

— Exodus 20:7, NKJV

Now what did we just learn is [one of] the name[s] of God? “I AM.” This phrase, “I am,” is one of the most simple declarative statements that a being can make. It tells nothing and yet it tells everything, for it is a simple statement of the fact that one exists. Even though it seems simple, it implies a great deal, for it implies all that we do, say, and experience, for it wraps our very existence into three simple English letters.

But we are not to take the name of God in vain. If a statement conveying the fact of our existence is indeed a name of God… then it is not only the name but our existence itself that we must honor. The very fact that I AM, that I am here today, that I am writing this, that I am reaching out to you… this very truth of my existence is a recognition of God. And it is something that we can all say and recognize.

Do not take your life in vain, for God speaks His own name through your Being.

We are all manifestations of God. God who is the Spirit that flows through us, the Infinite Moment that allows us to live, and the Word that becomes us. Christ is known as the Word Made Flesh, but there is a little bit of Christ within all of us. Though we may not be the blesséd Son of God, we are all His sons and daughters. Just as we carry our biological parents with us in the form of genes and chromosomes, we carry the essence, the Consciousness that is God with us in our mortal forms.

Some Christians have said that we were created to honor and worship God, to give Him praise. This is true, but by living consciously, by experiencing the world and the life that we have each been given, we are honoring God. We are all manifestations of God, and our most basic statement of Being is God’s sacred name.

Everything in the universe, from stars to ants to atoms, is written in the Word. When we open our eyes or our ears, we read the Language of the World. When we touch, when we smell… when we move our bodies and let our emotions soar like eagles… we are experiencing the Language of the World, the Language of God, an infinite interminable sentence that relates every particle, every atom, every rock, plant, human, and star…

The Jehovah’s Witnesses observed that God’s name, written יהוה in Hebrew and often transliterated as YHWH (Yahweh, or Jehovah) appears to be related to the verb “to become.” To the Jehovah’s Witnesses, then, God’s name means “He Causes to Become,” and I find this also strikingly appropriate. Every moment that comes into being, everything that we experience is all manifested within God. We are but different reflections of the same thing, the same infinite force.

One of my favorite phrases that I have mostly forgotten until this moment is the Spanish “Vaya con Dios.”

“Go with God.”

Could it ever be any other way?

Day 31

I’ve said quite a bit and done quite a few summaries of the chapters of Genesis thus far. This is the latest I’ve been, I think, but I haven’t slept yet, so to me it’s still “today.” I read Genesis 31, and I will talk about it and summarize it, but I feel the need to discuss something else.

My girlfriend recently sent me an article called This Is Why Switchfoot Won’t Sing Christian Songs Anymore that it seems has been all over under slightly different titles. I remember when I was in middle school, I knew a boy who was Christian, whose family went to church, and he listened to Switchfoot and Christian rock. I just now looked up the name of the band, and while it is related to surfing, it has a connotation that I expected. Quoting Jon Foreman, the lead vocalist,

“To switch your feet means to take a new stance facing the opposite direction. It’s about change and movement, a different way of approaching life and music.”

Sounds about right to me. This article was written because of a question that Jon was asked about whether or not Switchfoot is a Christian band. This is his response, as edited by me.

“To be honest, this question grieves me because I feel that it represents a much bigger issue than simply a couple [Switchfoot] tunes. In true Socratic form, let me ask you a few questions: Does Lewis or Tolkien mention Christ in any of their fictional series? Are Bach’s sonata’s Christian? What is more Christ-like, feeding the poor, making furniture, cleaning bathrooms, or painting a sunset? There is a schism between the sacred and the secular in all of our modern minds. The view that a pastor is more ‘Christian’ than a girls volleyball coach is flawed and heretical. The stance that a worship leader is more spiritual than a janitor is condescending and flawed.

These different callings and purposes further demonstrate God’s sovereignty. Many songs are worthy of being written…. Some of these songs are about redemption, others about the sunrise, others about nothing in particular: written for the simple joy of music.

None of these songs has been born again, and to that end there is no such thing as Christian music. No. Christ didn’t come and die for my songs, he came for me. Yes. My songs are a part of my life. But judging from scripture I can only conclude that our God is much more interested in how I treat the poor and the broken and the hungry than the personal pronouns I use when I sing….

You see, Jesus didn’t die for any of my tunes. So there is no hierarchy of life or songs or occupation only obedience. We have a call to take up our cross and follow. We can be sure that these roads will be different for all of us. Just as you have one body and every part has a different function, so in Christ we who are many form one body and each of us belongs to all the others….”

Mr. Foreman here makes several good points. A song can inspire religious feelings, or it can inspire someone to do or be better. But a song does not itself feel the Holy Spirit, although the notes may be a wonderful vessel by which God speaks to you.

This line of thinking is important to me because it implies that different things and different people exist for a reason. But I took this reasoning down a road that I don’t think Mr. Foreman would like. If he says that a profession cannot be “Christian,” or a song or work of art cannot be “Christian”… Then I am curious if the Bible can be considered to be so. I realize this line of thinking may be disrespectful to some and downright heretical to many, but as Christ did not die for a song, neither did He die for a book. The purpose of His death was to save the souls of men. (I have not yet decided how I feel about souls, since I know that the Greek word was “psyche,” meaning mind. I’ll let you know when I’m done with the Bible.)

Is the Bible not a useful tool, that we may know God and His works? That we may better serve Him and ourselves? Truly, it is, and I think anyone who says otherwise has a skewed perception of the Bible, of religion in general, or of Christianity. As far as I’m concerned, that skewed perception is understandable. Vocal people who call themselves Christians give the group as a whole a bad name. Consider Pastor Terry Jones, who burned a copy of the Islamic holy book, the Quran, because of the September 11th attacks. Consider Ken Ham, who denies or comes up with alternative explanations for things that are measurable, observable, and help our understanding of the modern world (biology and evolution, to name a few).

I realize I’m diverging from my point here, but I don’t care. I had a good conversation with my partner about this the other day, and I finally just said, “You take the Bible literally, and I do not.” There is no biological mechanism that indicates how a human being would have lived to be nearly a thousand years old, and there is no historical evidence to my knowledge, besides the Bible (if you consider that to be historical), that makes mention of men living for fifty generations. There are no fossil records or anthropological sites that show evidence of long-lived, “perfect” humans who degenerate (whatever that means biologically) due to sin.

Now, the archaeological record does show that life expectancy and quality of life dropped after the development of agriculture. People lost their hunting and gathering lifestyle and were confined to long work days, slaves to the seasons and the growth of crops. Over-farming would destroy lush wilderness and leave barren desert in its place, and women sat for hours grinding grain into flour only to develop malformed backs, crippled knees, arthritic joints, and so on. A high-starch diet rotted teeth and gave way to more suffering. If one looks at the story of Adam and Eve as an allegory, this is the Fall of Man. This is the loss of innocence: a carefree lifestyle gone and never to return. Hell, the first murderer was a farmer, according to the Bible.

Eden was a lifestyle of innocence and freedom. It was also likely a place, preserved in memory and eventually in text, of the once-lush land that existed, watered by the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.

Before I return to my point (whatever that was), if you are a Christian, I want to hear your opinions on these things. I want to know if you take the Bible literally or figuratively, and if so, which parts, and why? I’ll reiterate this at the end, and hopefully someone will comment for me and we can start a dialogue.

Anyway, where was I? Oh, yes. The Bible as a “Christian” book. As I have said before, I operate under the assumption belief feeling knowledge idea that there is one omnipresent God. I tend to stick with the Christian convention of a male personal pronoun, and I have the idea that this omnipresent God is timeless, that He forever was and forever will be. I have the idea that all things are manifested through God, and that His energy is what brings us into being. I have the idea that God’s existence implies everything we see, know, and do, and that our existence implies God. I have the idea that God is a Consciousness, but not in a human sense, and that He is present in all the matter and energy and space and time that comprises our universe. Perhaps, if there be something beyond this universe, then God is there as well. But these are just ideas.

Together they form what I consider to be a functional theology. My theology and my ideas lead me to see an underlying Unity with my fellow man, with the beasts and plants of the earth, with the water and the fire and the wind and the stars that shine from impossible distances. My theology leads me to deem everything and everyone worthy of respect and reverence, not in an idolatrous sense, but in the sense that everything is an aspect or manifestation of God. My theology leads me to love myself, to meditate and write and create art and go deeper within the depths of my mind and soul, to find where God resides in the shadows of my heart. My theology leads me to always strive for more, to be a shining example to others that they too may seek more. My theology motivates me to learn and to grow and to strive for spiritual Unity with God, that my life may be transformed and that I may realize the spark of divinity within myself.

I think I’m forgetting something. Oh, right, the Bible. I’m not very good at this game.

I consider the Bible to be a good way of learning about God. But it is not the only way. Truly, it is a sacred book, but in my eyes all things are sacred, one way or another. The problem I have with the Bible that I will address today is that as much as God can speak to us in our own language, God’s power works within the world, and the Language of the World is closer to what I would call God’s “native tongue.” My Bible is the world itself, all that I experience and all that I do. It teaches me many of the same lessons taught in this book which lies before me. Just as the Bible has many books, so too does the world, and each chapter of one’s life, no matter how long or short, contains valuable lessons.

If anything, the Bible is important because it teaches about Christ. Christ, as a person, an idea, or both, is to me the ultimate key. In the Bible, he is a link between God and man. A point of contention that I have with Christians is that they heap all of the divinity on Jesus and forget their own. True, perhaps we are not the miraculously conceived “Son of God,” complete with Capital Letters (again if you believe in that), but we are all children of God, and we have the potential within us to know God and to be like God, filled with mercy and wisdom and love.

My new Bible that I received from the Jehovah’s Witnesses has some introductory questions, and the second of these is “How can you learn about God?” It offers numerous examples from scripture, but this is my favorite:

“For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.”

— Romans 1:20, NKJV

God is present in the Bible, but He is also present in everything else. His qualities and presence are “clearly seen,” but only by those who have the eyes to see them. To me, subject of one’s study is less important than the act of contemplation, the act of wanting to understand, the act of seeking God. Seek God in the Bible, and you will find him. Seek Him in a thimble, and you will find him there as well. But perhaps you have to look differently.

On that note, I will leave you with a quote from the Book of Matthew.

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.

“For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.”

— Jesus Christ, Matthew 7:7-8

Peace be upon you.


This Is Why Switchfoot Won’t Sing Christian Songs Anymore

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This Is Why Switchfoot Won’t Sing Christian Songs Anymore

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