Tag Archives: Velvet Elvis

Prayer garments and healing

In Numbers 15, God instructs Moses and the people to put tassels on the corner of their garments.

Numbers 9:37-41: The LORD said to Moses, 38 “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘Throughout the generations to come you are to make tassels on the corners of your garments, with a blue cord on each tassel. 39 You will have these tassels to look at and so you will remember all the commands of the LORD, that you may obey them and not prostitute yourselves by going after the lusts of your own hearts and eyes. 40 Then you will remember to obey all my commands and will be consecrated to your God. 41 I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt to be your God. I am the LORD your God.’ “

The point of the tassels was to look at and have something physical to remember the commands of God by – to be constantly reminded to live as God made them to live.

In Malachi, one of the Old Testament prophets, there is a prophecy about the coming of the Messiah

4:2 But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings.

Interestingly, the word for ‘wings’ is the same Hebrew word that was used for the corners of the garments.

So Jesus arrives, and people are saying that he is starting to fulfil the prophecies of the Old Testament. There is a crowd gathered round him. Jesus is on his way to raise to life the daughter of a local ruler, when a woman who had been bleeding for 12 years came up behind him and touched Jesus’ cloak. Instantly she was healed (Matt 9).

Oh yes, as a Jewish man who observed the OT law, Jesus would have been wearing the prayer shawl – the garment with the tassels. The sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings.

Some points from the links:

  • She belived he would be the Messiah
  • She knew the scriptures and acted upon them, to her reward
  • The use of a physical garment as a reminder (and sign) of God’s commands acted as a sign to her as well as a reminder to the person wearing it.
  • The Old Testament really fits together well

Thanks to Rob Bell for this!

Bible-believing Christians – Velvet Elvis 2

Martin Luther, Wycliffe, Cranmer and other church reformers of the fifteenth and the sixteenth century were some of the first to suggest that the Bible should be available in the languages of the people – English for the English, German for the Germans etc. Previous to that, people generally didn’t own their own Bibles, the church would own one in Latin which the priest would read and interpret for them.

Everyone having access to the Bible was a wonderful thing. But it didn’t half cause problems. Almost as soon as the reformation caused a split in the church between Protestants and Catholics, the church split again into smaller denominations – lutherans, calvinists, anglicans, anabaptists, puritans and so on. They all read the same Bible, but came to different conclusions on what certain parts of it mean (not, I might add, on anything fundamental like the deity of Jesus, the Cross etc, but mostly on issues of practice.)

It is fantastic that now everyone can read the Bible for themselves. But doesn’t that lead to the possibility of everyone understanding it differently?

I am a Bible-believing Christian, but what does that mean?

It means I take the Bible seriously and I work to understand it and apply it to my life. I consider it inspired by God. There are no parts of the Bible that I can simply ignore, but I work to understand what it meant when it was written and what it might mean for us now. I don’t pretend to understand it all.

Having said that, there are many other people who also ‘believe the Bible’ who come to different conclusions from certain passages than I do. Rob Bell, in his book, Velvet Elvis, mentions a lady he met who said something like this “I just believe the Bible”. But at the same time, she describes her faith as ‘a personal relationship with Jesus’. The phrase ‘personal relationship’ is not found anywhere in the Bible. It’s not a bad phrase, it can describe what being a Christian is like so long as you define what it means, but the point was that someone had interpreted what it means to know got and summed it up in the phrase ‘personal relationship with Jesus’ So, Rob points out, that she obviously believes a lot more that just what is found in the Bible – she believes in the interpretation of the person who told her that phrase too. So, everything is interpreted.

Rob bell says:

“The idea that everybody else approaches the Bible with baggage and agendas and lenses and I don’t is the ultimate in arrogance. To think that I can just read the Bible without reading any of my own culture or background or issues into is and come out with a ‘pure’ or ‘exact’ meaning is not only untrue, bit it leads to a very destructive reading of the Bible that robs it of its life and energy”

How can we be sure we have the right interpretation?

This is his point. The Bible is inspired, and it’s words are ‘living and active’ because they came from a God who is ‘living and active’. This is why we shouldn’t just read the Bible alone, we should read it in the context of prayer, and of a community who prays, thinks, and supports each other. Point of the Bible is to point us to God, and the joy of reading the Bible comes from a desire to seek God and wrestle with the texts as we apply them.

Rob Bell again:

“The writers of the Bible are communicating in language their world will understand. They are using the symbols and pictures and images of the culture they are speaking to That’s why the Bible has authority – God has authority and is present in real space and time. The Bible is a collection of stories that teach us about what it looks like when God is at work through actual people. The Bible has the authority it does only because it contains stories about people interacting with the God who has all authority”

It has authority because God has authority, not because it fell from the sky as a holy book.

Questions, questions, questions, Jump – Velvet Elvis 1

I’ve just started reading Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell. So far, I’m loving it. He basically says that people can see Christianity in two ways. He uses the analogy of a trampoline to descibe Christianity. Being a Christian is getting on and jumping, the doctrines of the faith are the springs in the trampoline  – the framework, the things that allow you to jump. They stretch and flex. If one is being questioned, the others still support it.

 The second way is to think of each doctrine as a brick. Put the bricks together and they make a wall. Bricks don’t flex. Walls keep people in and keep them out. The bricks might seem like a firm foundation, but bricks all hold each other up. Take one out and the whole wall may fall down.

For example, some Christians believe that the world was made in six literal 24-hour days. (I don’t, but fair enough if you do). If we use the brick model, this doctrine might me one brick. OK. But what happens when that one brick starts to become questioned? What happens when arguments concerning intelligent design or some sort of evolution start to become compelling? Well, the whole wall may fall down. In the book Rob Bell quotes a preacher who actually said that if you didn’t believe the world was made in six 24-hour days, you are effectively denying that Jesus ever died on the cross. This is what Rob Bell means when he talks about a ‘brick’ – the whole wall falls down.

Instead, faith is like the trampoline. It is about getting on and joining in. You don’t have to have every single doctrine worked out, the springs still help ou to jump. In fact, Bell says that Christianity is about the jumping – discovering the mystery of God by asking the questions, testing the springs, and doing it with God.

And that is how it works really isn’t it. We never discover it all. We never get full answers to our questions – but we tend to get more questions.  Acknowledging the questions is freeing and humbling. When Moses got to go up the mountain to talk to God (Exodus 3:14), he effectively asks – Who are you? What is your name? The response in confusing. God says “I AM WHO I AM” (or “I WILL BE WHO I WILL BE”). It is an answer. It’s enough to say, I am here, was here, I will always be, but it opens up a whole load more questions. How is he here? Did he always exist? How do we relate to him? What does this mean for me? and so on. The act of finding the answers to the questions, is the act of coming towards God. Get on the trampoline – come and join the questioning about the Almighty God, and enjoy the experience of living life with him.

I find this incredibly freeing – we don’t have to have it all worked out, but we can come to God and begin to ask the questions. The truth is the mystery of God, and we can all jump on and live the mystery with him, and delight in the jumping.

I’m looking forward to reading more of what Rob Bell has to say. He gives a different spin on it, focusing on the ‘living with God’ rather than the ‘beleiving the right things’.