A Year’s Worth of Bible Studies

Well…

Almost a year’s worth of bible studies.

I’ve served as director of youth and young adult ministry at Emmanuel UMC for over a year now. One aspect of my position is the chance to lead our Tuesday night young adult bible study. I’m certainly not the only one who lead the bible studies (Josh Weiss, Steve Stone Jr, Jayna Leitze, Jessie Teegarden, Drew Thomas, Carly Fields, Wayne Hamm…and more that I can’t remember) have also lead our group.

I know how difficult it is to come up with “original material” so I wanted to share the notes from our bible studies over the past year. Those who lead bible studies find this as a good starting point and for those who just want to read some bible studies will enjoy the ideas.

These bible studies are from March 2013-January 2014. A majority of these were written and facilitated by me but they aren’t all my thoughts/ideas.

One of our focuses last year was to focus on the “minor” characters of the Bible. A majority of our bible studies are based on their stories. Another main topic was the book A New Kind of Christianity by Brian McLaren. You will also find several stand alone studies.

Characters we covered/studied:

Anna

Jabez

Bezalel

Oholiab

Woman caught in adultery

Ehud

Jonathan

Father of boy possessed by impure spirit

Eutychus

Nicodemus

Dinah

Abigail

Onesimus

Rhoda

Abishag

Topics explored:

Humility

Focus

Prayer Expectations

Gifts

Sin

Violence

Friendship

Faith

Questions

Vengeance

Justice

Source of prayer

Peacemaker

Fear

Seeing differently

Incentive

Hesitation

Being used

Temptations

Selfishness

Bible

God

Jesus

Violence

Sexuality

End Times

Different Religions

Our young adults gather every Tuesday night for Bible Study. If you would like to join us contact me at (nwheeler@emmanuelmemphis.org). If you don’t live in Memphis you can still join us online. We broadcast our bible study every week starting at 8:15 CST on Google Hangouts. You can also watch live on YouTube. If you can’t join us on Tuesdays you can subscribe to our bible study podcast on Stitcher or iTunes just search for EUMC Young Adult Bible Study.

Click on link below to check out a year’s worth of bible studies.

EUMC YOUNG ADULT BIBLE STUDIES

The Holey Bible: Atheism For Lent Part 3

 

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*I hesitate to say this but atheism for lent is my Lenten practice. I’m embodying an atheist point of view in these posts…in other words I’m not articulating my viewpoint. I’m articulating viewpoints contrary to my own. But these thoughts are not regurgitated for semantic sake. These are my own words and I’m finding through this process that lots of these points are challenging to my viewpoints. Anyway, on to my third post in this series.

Atheism For Lent blog posts

Introduction 

Prayer, a beautiful mistake

Churches, Judgment Houses For Judgmental People

The Bible is holey. Don’t believe me?

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The editor of this book should be fired! It’s full of holes. It’s ripe with contradictions and full of inexcusable violence, misogyny, homophobia, cruelty and hate. All of this is divinely inspired which means a majority of these stories are said to be inspired by some loving, merciful, forgiving god. YIKES!

The argument is that His (of course god is a man) ways are higher than our ways so the Grand He in the sky is justified in His actions. REALLY? Is that the argument for real?

“Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” 1 John 4:8

Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

According to the HOLEY BIBLE god is love. Whoever does not love does not know God. Love is kind, doesn’t insist on its own way, it is not irritable…

If you are someone who reads the bible at face value. If you picked it up and read it cover to cover. Would you think god is love? By the time you reach those passages above you would be dumbfounded by god is love.

It seems more plausible to say the god in the bible must not know God cause the god scripture describes does not love according to 1 Corinthians 13. The god of the bible is super jealous, demands allegiance, is nowhere near kind and gets upset…a lot.

If the bible is really “a love letter“, it is the worst love letter ever composed. It’s not holy, it is holey.

Churches, Judgment Houses for Judgmental people: Atheism For Lent Part 2

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Atheism For Lent blog posts

Introduction 

Prayer, a beautiful mistake

I’ve heard that the church is not a building but the people. So, I must first make some comments about the people who make up the church. From my vantage point there are several types of people who make up the church. There are the people to whom church is a lifestyle. Going to a building every Sunday morning, sitting in pews listening to music, prayers and sermons and putting money in a basket is a way of life. But it’s deeper than that. It’s Christianized culture. It’s “Christian” shirts, jackets, shoes, necklaces, bracelets and rings. It’s “Christian” music, books, movies and television shows. It’s a lifestyle just like being an avid outdoorsmen, it comes with its own wardrobe, music, vocabulary, it’s a lifestyle. The next are the people to whom church is a hobby. They hike, fish, paint, cook, scrapbook, garden, play softball and go to church. It’s not their lifestyle but just one thing in a whole mess of things they do on a weekly basis. Lastly, there are the people to whom church is a place they visit. It’s like touring state parks or Disneyland, they enjoy being their but they don’t go very often. These are the people who make up the church; The life-stylizers, the hobbyists and the visitors.

Each can’t stand the other because of their perceived lack of commitment to God. Life-stylizers judge the hobbyists and visitors for not making the church a bigger deal. The hobbyist’s can’t stand the visitors because they aren’t as invested in attending. The visitors and hobbyists can’t stand the life-stylizers because they are so condemning. If the church is the people, then the church is a condescending, judgmental, black hole.

If you were planning to go out to eat would you pick a restaurant where you knew for a fact they lied about what was on the menu? Would you go to a library that was filled with covers but not pages? Do you like used car dealerships full of lemons? Churches, are judgment houses filled with judgmental people. Most of them lie and tell people that the church will make you whole and fill you with love but most spit out hate and fill you with hatred towards people who aren’t like you. They lie and tell you God will provide, protect, heal you but you gather in those same places to say goodbye to people whom God did not provide, protect or heal. The preachers preach messages of hate and lies. They tell you God’s going to make you rich with blessings or God is going to do this or that knowing full well they don’t know what is going to happen to you. The music is mostly Pollyanna, Jesus is my boyfriend or about some violent death that we are to celebrate. It’s places of segregation and misogyny. Churches are filled with millions of people gathering to remind themselves that their hate of another person is justified because God hates them as well. Churches are filled with millions of people gathering together to pretend that their life is grand and practice make-believe. It’s a lifestyle of judgment, a hobby of hate, a place visited to reinforce your prejudices.

Prayer, a beautiful mistake: Atheism For Lent Part 1

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As I explained in a previous blog post, I’m practicing Atheism For Lent. The online course doesn’t begin until next Thursday but Lent started Wednesday so in the spirit of practicing this on a deeper level I’m going to blog once a week as an atheist. I realize that this might be futile and probably insulting to atheists as well as insulting to people of faith. Let me apologize at the start and say I have no idea what I’m talking about but this is my blog and it’s my Lenten practice so read with caution.

Prayer.

It’s silly.

The definition of prayer is “an earnest request or wish.” Billions of people spend their days with head bowed and eyes closed requesting, petitioning, wishing god to heal, forgive, give, lead them and others. It’s a beautiful mistake. Don’t get me wrong, I admire people who are thinking of helping a friend or themselves but its placebo. It’s the same gesture as wishing someone good luck.

It’s an empty gesture. Our world is not controlled or limited by god because there is no such thing. We have each other, nothing less and certainly nothing more. It is up to us to realize our potential. It is on us to heal others. It is in our power to forgive someone not god.

To play devil’s advocate for a minute, let’s assume there is a God. Why doesn’t God act when people pray? Sure, lots of people say God does act when they pray. Some even say the cancer in their bones or a tragic death of a loved one is of God’s doing and then go to that same God to pray for healing. If that is true, then God is a monster. God is a bully. God is not worth our prayers. God might be worth our hatred but certainly not our earnest requests or wishes.

If there is a God, God heard the cries of innocent children begging for food. God has heard the petitions of millions of people who are in the throes of real life hells of addiction and abuse. God heard the cries of slaves. God heard the cries of millions of jews being slaughtered. God heard and God did nothing.

Beyond these examples, if God is unchanging as classically explained, then God will do whatever the hell God wants. God’s not going to do something because people prayed. God is unchanging. If it is in God’s desire to change a situation then God will do so without our prayers. God doesn’t listen to what we want, God does what God wants.

Finally, many people choose to do nothing because they are waiting to hear back from God. They destroy relationships, miss out on promotions, some people lose their life because they are waiting for God to tell them what to do. We have everything we need in our grasp to live good and fruitful lives without God. We have all the resources in the world, all the intelligence, all the skills to change our world without God. Quit leaving it up to a God, who even if God was real, wouldn’t help us anyway.

Seriously, stop praying. Live your life. Live it free of the burden of god.

You Can’t Eat A Dollar Bill

From the great site Upworthy

This trailer really got to me.

A few years ago I went to Lipscomb University to watch a old-time radio show called Tokens. If you live near or around Nashville you should go check out Tokens. Anyway, the time I went the whole show was on being “green.” It’s one of those subjects that was seldom discussed in church or in my social circles. I mean people recycled but it wasn’t something me and the people I was around daily spent a lot of time worrying much about.

At the Tokens show this guy named Nate Hale got up and sang this song called “Infinte Energy” that was based on him reading the words of Wendell Berry. I remember vividly the song and specifically the lyrics jarring me. This is the performance from that night.

“Money isn’t worth a thing cause you can’t eat a dollar bill.

I buy and I use and I throw away. And then it’s all sold back to me. I chase this paper economy. I live a life with broken ends.

I have to bend them back around again And mend this broken circle I’m in.”

Not to long ago I sent Nate Hale a message to tell him how much this song impacted me and he was even gracious enough to send me the chords to the song so I can play it myself. For years this song has stuck with me, challenged and convicted me and today, watching the trailer for Trashed it hit me once again.

God’s beautiful planet is being trashed and I’m a part of the problem. Not only that but people in other countries make their home in my trash! It’s beyond sad and I hate knowing I live in a manner that causes it.

The website for Trashed has useful tips to start reversing the trend. I’m making some of these small things one of my Lenten practices this year that I hope will become habit forming soon.

Here’s to living a life of broken ends and trying to mend this broken circle I’m in.

Atheism for Lent

Recently (Jan 2014) I wrote an article that was published in The Cumberland Presbyterian Magazine. I know you all read it so I won’t bore you with the details but for the few (all) of you who didn’t read it let me give a quick summary.

A few years ago I was given the task of writing something for young adult ministry. Specifically, it was to be something that could be used by congregations to build their own young adult ministry. I wrote about building your own faith. Well, that never really materialized into anything more than just an article but for the last few years I’ve experienced the weight of my own words. In short, I think beliefs are not a solid foundation for the Christian faith.

I’ve spent years in school delving into theological concepts and I continue that endeavor today. It’s not that I don’t think beliefs matter, they just aren’t the foundation.

With that in mind I’ve decided to practice what I preach so to speak this lent. Peter Rollins a few years ago introduced what he calls “de-centering practices”. One of these is called “Atheism for Lent”. He wrote in a recent blog post,

…the auto-deconstructive approach to theology is one that opens up a fundamentally different way of understanding faith, an understanding that is rooted in a form of life rather than the affirmation of some particular belief.

This speaks true in my life. I think the foundation or the root of the Christian faith is not some belief but a form or way of life found in the words and actions of Jesus.

So, I thought that nothing would help me continue my thinking, (dare I say… belief) that belief is not foundational than exploring atheism.

For lent, I’m “giving up” Christianity using the de-centering practice Atheism for Lent.

Check out this link if you want to join me!

High Gravity Course: Atheism for Lent

 

Coming out of the closet mania

Is Aaron Rodgers gay? Read this story on Yahoo and Huffington Post that Aaron Rodgers addressed rumors that he was gay. He said he’s not gay.

NFL: Washington Redskins at Green Bay Packers

Before I proceed, I would just like to mention that I am totally naïve to this subject matter. I am not gay and so I have no clue what it’s like to be gay so I say all of this with an open mind…

WHY DOES IT MATTER?

I don’t get why this is a story? I guess I understand that there aren’t really many openly gay athletes but why are rumor sites and sites like Yahoo and Huffington Post reporting on it?

Why is it everyday I see some story about whether or not someone is “in the closet”?

Is this really what we care about? Do we really care if someone is gay or is it just middle school played out over the internet and airwaves?

It just seems like madness! Why are we so interested in who is and who isn’t in the closet?

Once upon a time, a friend of mine came out as gay to me over a phone conversation. We rarely talked so when he called out of the blue late one night I answered. It took me a minute but them I recognized the voice. He sounded strange but I wasn’t sure if he was sick, nervous or drunk. Anyway, we talked for a few minutes and then he said, “Nathan, I want to tell you something.”

Now, this could have been anything. This friend had really gone through some hard times so I wouldn’t be surprised at anything he said. He took a second to tell me he really looked up to me and valued my opinion and then he said “I’m gay.”

It took me a second to register what he just told me, not because I suspected him being gay or because that’s a thing that bothers me, it took me a second to realize that he thought he needed to tell me. He went on to ask me lots of questions about my thoughts on him being gay and what that meant for his relationship with God. I’m not going to go into all that right now but I do want to tell you how I felt afterwards.

I felt drained. I felt terrible that my friend was so worried of what my reaction might have been. I felt sad that he had lived his life with the thought that I would reject him. To me, it really made no difference that he was gay. Is that being aloof or shortsighted? Is that being progressive? I’m not sure but to this day, I can truly say it made no difference to me if he was gay.

What mattered to me is that my friend was hurting and some of that was caused by what I might think and what God might think of him.

I’m tired of reading who might be gay or who came out of some damn closet. What matters to me is the lives that being hurt over our need to know something that isn’t our business at all.

My friend didn’t need to talk to me, he didn’t owe it me. Why do we feel so entitled that we seek out to know if our favorite athlete or celebrity is gay?

I’m sorry Aaron Rodgers felt the need to respond. I’m sorry there are thousands of people whose private lives have become public because some asshole seeks to “out” people that don’t need to be “outed”. Why can’t we just let people be? celebrity

Let’s play Doggie Doo! Or better yet, be the gift.

Watch the video below;

WHAT IS THAT!?!? THIS IS A REAL GAME!?!? THAT PEOPLE BUY?!?!

I saw this commercial last night and I had to rewind it to make share that I saw what I just saw. A game where the premise is to feed the dog to watch it poo. The first person to collect three dog poops wins!

FOR REAL? SERIOUSLY?

Did you notice the parent/adult in the commercial. She is the most excited! She claps when the dog poops.

I can’t believe that some kid in a few weeks on Christmas morning will receive this as a gift.

Then again, it’s pretty awesome!

Forget monopoly, phase 10, candy land…give me Doggie Doo!

Goliath Games is the creator of Doggie Doo but they have so many other great games!

They make a game called Gooey Louie.

Or what about Pop the Pig!

Here it is everyone…

I’ve found the reason for the season. Most people will watch these commercials and be disgusted. Ask questions of our moral compass and where is our society headed when fun games for children about dog poop and boogers.

But I’m not disgusted with these commercials. I’m more disgusted with the “games” or “toys” advertised to adults.

Like this…

This is way worse than any doggie doo or gooey louie game. This is “the pursuit of perfection.” NO IT’S NOT! IT’S A SUPER EXPENSIVE CAR.

Oh yeah, he’s a real man cause he bought some stupid watch.

This is what turns my stomach during this time of year. We consume christmas with a bunch of stuff. The last thing all of us need is more stuff. Buying that car is not the pursuit of perfection and buying a woman some fancy watch doesn’t make you a man.

I have no problem if you choose to buy stuff but If it’s the object that brings you the most joy and not the person, then you are doing it wrong!

Be the gift to someone this Christmas. Be the silly, childish game and have a good time. Be the loving, generous gift that someone receives this year. Don’t just buy some object and make it the gift. Be the gift.

Atheist Church?

Hey…I believe in life before death too!

Not to long ago I read about A.C. Grayling’s humanist bible called The Good Book. It’s a compilation of essays, sayings, thoughts complied and organized like the Holy Bible. It’s been on my amazon wish list for a few years, one day I’ll get it and read it.

The article I read on yahoo today is way beyond just a book complied like the Holy Bible, it’s Atheist Churches

It’s actually called Sunday Assembly and was started by two comedians in England. These assemblies take place in lots of cities in the U.K. and U.S.

Here is a funny video made by Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans, the creators of Sunday Assembly.

Their motto is, “live better, help often and wonder more.”

That’s a great motto!

In the article on yahoo, Sanderson Jones says, ”There was so much about it that I loved, but it’s a shame because at the heart of it, it’s something I don’t believe in,” Jones said. “If you think about church, there’s very little that’s bad. It’s singing awesome songs, hearing interesting talks, thinking about improving yourself and helping other people — and doing that in a community with wonderful relationships. What part of that is not to like?”

The part he doesn’t like is the core of a Christian assembly and herein lies the problem.

Christian assemblies and now, atheist assemblies look a lot alike. What’s the difference between what he describes and what goes on in our churches? Not much at all! The BIG difference is in a Christian assembly we say God, Jesus and Holy Spirit. Three (technically four) different words are spoken at a Christian assembly than atheist assembly. That seems off to me.

One way it’s off is Church is not a place, it’s people. We don’t go to Church on Sunday, we gather with the Church on Sunday. The Church meets in all types of different buildings, all over town but where we meet is not the Church…people are the Church.

Then the more I think about it, the more I love this atheist assembly. It’s beautiful. Sure, I want all people to come to know God, to know Jesus as the image of the invisible God and to be transformed by the Holy Spirit through Jesus Christ. For that to happen, there needs to be spaces of commonality. The buildings where the Church meets, can be that place of commonality. As Sanderson Jones points out there is a lot to like about “church”. Maybe there is some common ground to be found. A way to learn from one another, a way to serve together.

The gap is only going to widen between religious and non-religious people until we find common ground, a place to meet, talk, serve together. There are millions of people who gather on Sunday mornings, I’m cool to add a few more. No, we do not gather for all the same reasons but at least for some atheists and Christians, we get up and get together in assemblies on Sunday mornings. It’s a start.

All we have is each other

Over on Yahoo, I read a story about Jerome Jarre. Recently he started recording vines asking random folks in New York City, what is the most important message you would like to share with the world right now?

The name of the project is Humans. You can click here for the 8 that are up right now. 

This is my favorite so far.

 

 

“Help one another, because that’s all we have, each other.” Frank

I’m not sure I agree or know exactly what that means but it struck me. As someone who spends lots of time thinking theologically, I tend to over or under analyze things. Maybe that’s the beauty of this project and Franks’ words. There is nothing to sit around and analyze. It’s one man, sharing a message to the world. He says help one another. That’s a good message. A lot better than many we hear day to day. I don’t need to know exactly  what he understands that to mean in order to hear his message and ponder it.

I’m not sure if someone came up to me and asked me to share that I would come up with help one another. I’m glad that’s what Frank came up with.