The Desert Sanctuary

Spirit * Soul * Body

A long-time friend confronted me by text message the other day.  He probably won’t read this and I’ll keep the details vague so you can’t tell who he is.  Most people that confront me about my beliefs do so with some level of concern, so I try to recognize their vulnerability and courage to do that.  My guess is that they feel they might be able to “save” me in some way.  Often the coversation reveals something about me and especially about my former beliefs.

Here are a couple of things this person said to me:

  • “There are many people that are worried about you and praying for you”
  • “Karl, you are not on a good journey”
  • “You may be finding worldy peace but not what God has intended for you”
  • “You have turned from the love you once knew”
  • “It brings me to tears to have to say this to you.”

I am sure this is how I would have confronted someone in the past.  Apart from the judgement and worry and fear, which aren’t prescribed in the Bible, I could tell he was genuinely concerned.  But,  why exactly was he “about to cry?”  The  more I thought about it the more I remembered the fear.  Fear was a natural part of the organized religion I was involved in.   We called it concern, but it was really just fear.  It was a natural part of doing business.

Using my conversation with my friend, I would like to tear this apart a little and talk about what I now understand as flawed in this type of fear-based regious system.  What does it say about our image of God?  What does it say about us?

It assumes no one really has peace.

I talked about peace when I was a pastor, but I’m not sure if I ever really experienced or truly understood it.  My friend told me that I didn’t have peace even though he can’t look into my heart of feel what I feel.  He asumes that because I don’t follow his specific belief system that all kinds of things have gone wrong for me.  After all, that’s a part of the sales pitch every week, “You bettter stay close to God and stay in his word and stay in prayer…”  The list goes on, and you never really feel like you’ve got it quite nailed down.  But you’re sure that others outside your circle couldn’t possilby have it together.

When messages and conversations begin with fear, they are certain to end with solution that always leaves us with a little anxiety.   Am I doing it right?  Did I get the facts straight?  Did I perform well enough?  And, if we’re responsible for each other, did I warn enough other people?  There’s always a “slippery slope” or something to be afraid of.  Success in a Fundamentalist Evangelical world many times looks more like hide-and-seek and the performing arts more than a relationship.

Like I said, I don’t know if I ever felt real peace until I got outside of that environment and experienced some mystery and nuance and allowed myself to be uncertain.  I know it sounds like a contradition, but it’s not.

It makes God out to be a Jerk

When someone says they are praying for me these days, it causes me to go into a tail-spin.  I have to assume what they mean because I don’t use that language any more.  I’m assuming it means that they want me to do something different.  If they are assuming that I’m in some kind of peril, then they are also assuming that God could convince me of what would change my situation.   But when I was doing it, we assumed we needed more people to pray to make it happen.  That makes God out to be a cosmic jerk, waiting somewhere at a distance saying, “one more person — pray harder — I don’t think you mean it– you didn’t even cry.”

But, deeper than this is the underlying assumption that God is angry and retributive.  I’ve been angry as a father (occasionally), but the basic assumption to this type of religious system is that God is angry and retributive most of the time.  Since this type of system assumes original sin and that we are inherently bad, the natural assumption is that retributive God is mad almost all the time and it’s our fault.  Again, it paints a picture of a God that is waiting somewhere for us to mess up.  Don’t make a wrong choice in your belief system!  Don’t question the belief that you inherited!  Don’t step out of line or challenge too much!   The picture is of a God that has a short-fuse and is mostly retributive instead o the restorative picture we find in Jesus.

Many times I couldn’t hardly get the words grace, love or mercy out of my mouth when describing God, without someone adding, “but also judgement!”

What Really Bothers Me

The thing that really bothers me about the situation is that there is so much fear that the people from my previous life don’t want to talk about it.  They just really want me to know that they are uncomfortable with my change and they would rather me change back to be like them.  If I can fit into their belief system, they might accept me back after a little bit of shaming, but there would be great rejoicing at the Baptist church when one of their lost sheep comes home.

The other thing is when we do that religious thing of saying, “I’m concerned for you,” that’s not what we really mean.  What we really are tring to articulate is muti-layered.  First, it means that we are absolutely sure that the specific belief system that we have inherited 2000 years after Jesus walked the earth is absultely right, correct and the Bible that we carry is infallible.  Are we really that arrogant to think that the chain of custody for our faith is untarnished and pure as the driven snow.  The second assumption is if someone thinks differently they are in danger of hell-fire or at least of being unworthly of our fellowship.  They especially shouldn’t expect to be in leadership or have a voice in the group, especially if they are women.   Again, that’s a very arrogant stance to take, but almost universal when speaking about my former affiliations.

Do you know what the strangest part of my current belief system?  I don’t really feel the need to change what my former friends believe.   Do I wish they could see what I see? Yes!  But, for now, I understand that all of us are on different journeys.  And as long as we are inquitive and open, I think it’s good for us to be on different paths.  As I look back, I would love to bring my old friends with me and I’d be okay if they didn’t agree.  But, to go on the journey, it’s imperative that we begin learning to be brave.  And bravery requires that we begin to let go of the fear.

My friend took the first step to the desert journey by doing something uncomfortable and facing his fear.  The more he does that, the more he will have the courage to ask the hard questions and risk exploring the big question, “What if I am wrong?”

I wish you well on the journey that you are on.  I know that fear is tenacious, but I promise it gets easier to manage every time we face it.   Lean in!  We’re not wrong to question and to journey out into the unknown.  I can tell you for sure, it’s not a slippery slope and you won’t lose your soul — in fact you might find it.

Karl


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Of course, she is not only just my favorite teacher–she is my favorite in lots of areas.  I hope you appreciate how vulnerable it is to share our life with you.  Our hope is that it will enhance your life.

Did I tell you we also wrote a book together — check back later this year!

Find Laura on Facebook



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Laura and I enjoyed this conversation…

Kerri Hummingbird, is a Soul Guide. She has served as a social activist, leader, and philanthropist for over three decades. She is the Founder of the Skills Not Pills Movement and Host of Soul Nectar Show. Ms Hummingbird inspires people to lead their lives wide awake with an authenticity, passion and purpose that positively impacts others. She catalyzes mind-shifts that transform life challenges into gifts of wisdom with her Reinvent Yourself programs for individual and group mentoring. She is the international best-selling author of “The Second Wave: Transcending the Human Drama” and the award-winning best-selling book “Awakening To Me: One Woman’s Journey To Self Love” which describes the early years of her spiritual awakening.


Her Website * Her Instagram * Her Facebook * Her Podcast * Also Check out her books



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Over the past couple of years, Michelle has become a closer friend. She is an accountant, writer, body builder, podcastor, coach and psychology buff. I think you’ll find our ecclectic coversation interesting.

Her voice needs to be heard and very soon, you will get to read her book!

Find her on Facebook



Oh wow, my book, Apparent Faith, got nominated for a Christian Indie Award in Theology for 2020!! This is quite humbling. Please help me out by voting and then spreading the word.

“Apparent Faith” under Theoloology

—>VOTE HERE<—

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If you still haven’t ordered the book, it’s still on sale and available in print, audible and Kindle version.

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(this is a rewrite of something I did about a year ago)

If you are like me, it’s hard not to watch the show called The Curse of Oak Island.  It is a “reality” show that combines myth, legend, some history and quite a bit of mystery.  I don’t know if I even like it, but it is compelling.  The theme is a treasure that seems to always be just out of the reach for the treasure seekers.  Like most reality shows, there is a certain level of believe-ability and a certain amount of showmanship.  It’s just fun to kind of get lost in the “what ifs” of the treasure hunting journey.

It takes me back to my childhood.  Before the era of computers and video games, sometimes children just went outside to play.  My brother(s) and I would do what the brothers on the Treasure Island show did.  We would leave in the morning seeking treasure of unknown quantity and destination.   I remember one day we set off for the Lake.  We really didn’t know where the lake was or how far it was, but we strapped our fishing poles to our bicycles and headed out.  It was a good thing my mom came to rescue us because we were literally exhausted by the time we got there.  My own children went to explore a pond in the area of our  home only to come back with leaches all over their body.  What were we actually doing when we went treasure seeking?

In my mind, treasure seeking is discovering the unknown.  Someone outside our circle has given us a hint that something exciting or intriguing or better is out there somewhere.  In various ways, they give us a map to hopefully help find this treasure that we seek.  They draw a map because they have experienced it before us.  In a way, the Bible is a map to lead us to a destination and treasure we seek.  It names it as the Kingdom of Heaven with its main treasure being the Son of God, Jesus Christ.  The map even hints that this treasure is something we should sacrifice everything to find.  Everything in this map is pointing to the one thing, the treasure.  It’s not a handbook or a history book – it is full of poetry and word pictures and descriptions of past treasure seekers.  It progressively leads up to the revelation of when this treasure was observed—the one time when people saw it in person.  Then, the rest of the map tries to explain what they saw and how others can find it too.

In the Oak Island show, many different maps appear from all over the world.  These maps might be described as different accounts of where they think the treasure is and what is buried there.  When the brothers on the show investigate the different maps, they are not weighing them against one another—what they are doing is looking for similarities.  They often lay one map over the other to find out which points on the map are common to the other.  I think that is a great point to consider.   They don’t dismiss one map because it is slightly different, they look for things that match up and spend their time “digging” there!  But, even that is not the most important point.  To me, the most important point is:

THE MAP IS NOT THE TREASURE

Even though it seems silly for us to fall in love with a treasure map, many have made the Scriptures an idol to be worshiped instead of a treasure map to be used.  The treasure map of the Bible points us to Jesus, not the other way around.   The treasure map is not perfect- the true treasure, is!  It is a means to the end—not an end in itself.

But, let me push this just a little further.  May I suggest that sometimes we don’t even need the Bible (the treasure map) to find the treasure.  I know, right?  It sounds heretical because the map has often become the treasure.  But may I just investigate a couple of ways quickly that we find treasure without a map.  You probably could think of more.    The map is helpful to start us in the right direction, but then we often can effectively use other things to lead us to the treasure.

Sometimes it’s helpful to have a guide.  I am very adventurous and love to discover things on my own, but usually before I head out to discover the new thing, I ask a couple of people that have been down that road before.  You see that in the Oak Island show and it ‘s true in life.  Paul needed Barnabus – Timothy need Paul – and, even Jesus, needed the Father and the Spirit and even his mother and teachers at times to tell him what they knew.  “What I’ve discovered to be true …” is one of sweetest sounds to me.  It means this is a possible way to interpret the map and an approach that someone has found success with – it’s experience.

Sometimes we stumble upon treasure.  Many times, my brothers and I went out without a plan.  We just went out open for adventure and finding what we hadn’t already experienced.  So, in a way, it’s the opposite of the previous point.  To me, this relates to my contemplative experiences when I am meditating and not really focusing on anything and I receive something that is truly a treasure – like a thought, or peace or confidence.  All these are treasures that I wasn’t specifically looking for but found none-the less.

I am a treasure seeker at heart.  I’m always looking for that which I have not yet discovered.  Sometimes that comes within the pages of Scripture.  In others words, I see something on the map I have never seen before.  But most often, it is the treasure that the map points to that is most worthy of my attention.  It is possible to fall in love with the map, but that’s not what treasure seeking is all about.  Guarding the map or guarding the treasure is the trap that all treasure hunters fall into.

What if we would stay excited about the treasure hunt and we stayed on the journey?

Karl


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Over the past few years, I have had the privileged of having some great guides lead me on a journey of healing. Most often, the wounds in our life were inflicted by people that genuinely cared for us and by our own stubborn strategies that didn’t work and only made it worse. In a addition to a guide, I think it’s also important to have a good friend.

Jason and I have very similar stories, so we decided to get vulnerable and talk about our stories without any reservations. If we would have done it in any other way, it would have seemed phony and that is probably why I’ve avoided having him on the podcast for so long. This is probably what we longed for all those years as a pastor — to be vulnerable – to have real friends – and to find real healing!

Enter at your own risk!


Connect with Jason Elam


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I was a pastor for 20 years, but I never really considered myself a theologian. When something puzzled me or interested me, I would do some research and try to find understanding. Often, I was more interested in what made people work than proving a religious point of contention. But, over the past few years there have been several things that I once held to that no longer make any sense. Inerrancy is one of those things that I no longer ascribe to. Here’s why.

For inerrancy to hold up, here are just a few of the things that must be true.

  1. God only spoke directly to writers for 1600 years

This is what people with flat Bible beliefs believe. They would insist that writers in the 21st Century couldn’t possibly have any new revelation. There was none before that time period and none after. Of course, unless it directly copies what is said in the pages of the Bible.

  1. Inspiration has to mean innerancy

I have often been inspired, but very rarely am I inerrant. But, to be a flat Bible person you must believe that each writer of the Old and New Testament was not only inspired, as Paul said, but they were also perfect and got it all right. Everything they wrote down must be exactly what God meant for them to say (even the bashing babies on rocks, ruthlessly killing and owning slaves, etc.)

  1. The Apostle Paul has to be equal with Jesus

When flat Bible people take Paul’s words and make them literally the law for all times, such as women keeping silent, they are demanding a perfection out of Paul that he didn’t even acknowledge of himself. Paul certainly had a transformation and did lots of work and suffering to tell people about Jesus, but he acknowledged several times that he struggled to understand. Why would we take some of his words as infallible and ignore the fact that he said he wasn’t?

  1. The oral tradition had to be flawless

Many people don’t know that the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) were not written immediately after they happened. The four evangelists participated in the oral traditions for approximately 30 years before they wrote them down. Jesus probably died between AD 30 and 36 and the gospels were probably written between AD 66 and 110. That means every time someone said, “Remember when Jesus said that..” or something similar, they had to remember and retell it perfectly for the gospels to be inerrant and for Matthew, Mark, Luke and John to record perfectly what happened and what was said. This seems way more than unlikely to me.

  1. Jesus judgment would have to come into question

In the “fire from heaven” passage, Jesus tells the disciples to ignore what the author of I Kings said. Several times, when quoting Hebrew Scripture (OT), Jesus left off the violent parts of the scripture He was reading. Several times in the Sermon on the Mount, he directly opposed the OT Scripture by saying, “You have heard it said, but I say…” Paul also did this occasionally, but let’s focus on the one that was supposed to be perfect. Jesus quoted Scripture, but often corrected it, not just for cultural correctness but because He disagreed with the basic premise (using violence, being retributive, etc.). For the Bible to be infallible or inerrant, Jesus opinions (as quoted in the Bible) would have to be demoted or ignored.

  1. The church didn’t realize it until recently

Biblical inerrancy was not included in any of the creeds or councils until after the reformation (500 years ago). Even by loose standards, that means that it’s only in the last few hundred years did the church officially adopt inerrancy as an official view. Many of the modern-day stances on inerrancy come from sources such as the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy in 1978. The early church certainly thought Scriptures were “useful” as they were piecing together their understanding of the Divine, but there is almost no indication that anyone for the first 1500 years of Christianity would have taken this view.

  1. The men that chose the books were perfect

To make a long story short, several groups of men got together in the 4th and 5th Century and decided what books were to be included in the Bible. To be fair, they were partially guided by what was commonly accepted at the time but try getting anyone to agree on what is accepted in your life. My point would be simply this, there have been multiple councils in the 4th, 5th, 16th and 17th centuries by fallible men (again, unless you’re going to ascribe perfection to normal people). For the books of the Bible to be infallible, they had to get it all right. For it to be inerrant, the right books have to be IN there. The book of Revelation almost didn’t make it – wouldn’t that change things if it didn’t? Are we sure they got ALL of it right through ALL the councils and revisions? Does even one convention like the Southern Baptists make perfect decisions every year. Obviously NO!

  1. We would have to ignore some things in the Bible

The writer of Hebrews makes a special point to tell us that in the “last days” God speaks through Jesus. In other words, like many now are accepting, Jesus cleared some things up about the Law and the Prophets (OT Scripture). In the account known as the Transfiguration, Peter, James and John are brought to a place where Moses and Elijah are seen (representing the law and the prophets). A voice says “This is my son, listen to HIM!” If you believe the Bible, like flat Bible people do, this creates a contradiction for you. Why? Because Jesus brings into question Moses and Elijah’s inerrancy. If you’re going to say something is inerrant in the Bible, you must make a choice whose words you will follow.

Conclusion

As I said earlier, I’m not a theologian. These are just my thoughts. I no longer take the flathead approach to the Bible, yet I still read it and find it to be “useful.” I find a greater peace in wrestling with my understanding of truth that is found there than in trying to wrestle it down to a doctrinal statement that someone taught me to recite. I’m pretty sure Jesus would have never forced a flat Bible approach to the Bible, at least it doesn’t appear that way in the pages of the New Testament.


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