An Aboriginal Mental Challenge: Can You Read Without Preconceptions?

2021-02-27 G.K.ChestertonG.K Chesterton is the source for today’s blog: a challenge to do some mental gymnastics to discover something we may have been missing.  In his 1925 philosophical tome, The Everlasting Man, the “prince of paradox” presents an interesting challenge: to read a Bible story from an aboriginal mindset.  You see, we have Christmas and Easter, jewelry and architecture, names of streets, cities and buildings and so many myriad additional references in our world to that unique man, Jesus, that it is difficult to imagine anyone anywhere in our global community that does not know something about Jesus.  And depending on the source of that something, our views of Jesus have been significantly shaped by the introductions we have been given, whether from a church, synagogue, mosque, temple, friend, enemy, or Christian/anti-Christian teaching.  And Chesterton contends that much of our view, even in the “Christian west” is significantly distorted.

So I wish to challenge you, as Chesterton has challenged me, to do some mental exercising.  Set your mind as though you have never heard of Jesus, a Christian church, or anything “christian.”  Pretend for this exercise that your only exposure to the divine has been the thunderous clouds that bring rain and frightening lightning; a starry sky at night and the warm and sometimes burning heat of the sun at day; the long graceful hop of a wallaby or neck of a giraffe; the worrisome growl of a bear or roar of a lion; a baby’s sweet coo and cry and the caress of your beloved.

Begin by beguiling your brain into thinking you have never received a Christmas gift or hunted an Easter egg or walked on Christchurch Avenue or stood in front of the spires of Notre Dame Cathedral.  You have never heard of Adam and Eve, Abraham, Moses, David, Paul or John.  Equally, you have never heard of Aristotle, Buddha, Confucius, Mohammad, Rama or Krishna or Zoroaster.   Add to that, you have never been concerned with politics, social structure or economics; no Communists, Conservatives, Democrats, Greens, Liberals, Republicans, Socialists, Tories or any other ideology for guidance of a nation.

This is a difficult mental exercise, but I encourage you, that it is not impossible.  Settle in your mind that you have never been taught anything about any god or history of creation, whether theism or atheistic evolution.  You have never worried about issues of government or society.  Your mind has been focused all these years on eating and drinking to stay alive and whatever day-to-day activities were required to survive, be at peace, avoid enemies and enjoy your time on earth.

Now, with this mindset, approach a new short book someone has brought you.  Its title is very short, just four letters, L-u-k-e.  If you can find it in its original formatting, without chapter and verse numbers, all the better.  (Chapters and verses were added centuries later to make research and memorization easier.)

However, it is available at a website where you can look up your language in which to read it.  If English is your native language, I encourage you to use the ESV noted in the website connection.  If another language is your “heart language,” feel free to try to find it under the ALL tab when you pull down the languages from the little arrow by the default version that opened.
So sorry, Mongolian is not on the list . . . yet.  But Arabic, Hindi, Punjabi, Tagalog and LOTS of others are there.
Any Gujariti readers here? 😉

2021-02-27 Biblegateway

Now that you have emptied your mind of any preconceptions about this little story, begin with Luke’s introduction to his narrative for his friend, Theophilus.  Read the short biography at a single sitting if you can; in your heart language it should not take much more than 90 to 120 minutes .  Remember, you have never heard of these people, Luke, Herod, Elizabeth, Martha or Jesus before.  Your entire impression of these people will come from your reading this for the first time!

You may want to have a pencil and paper handy, and note what you discover about some of the characters introduced to you for the first time.  Questions are sure to come up, as we begin with no information on the culture or history of these people and events; Why did He say THAT!?  Why did she do that!?  Why was He so rude?  Why did that confuse them?  Isn’t Jesus supposed to be meek and mild? Aha, you’ve slipped from the aboriginal mindset and are remembering something you’ve heard.  Try again! 😁

If you want to dialog about your questions, email me (capost3k@gmail.com) or comment here.  No guarantees I have any answers for you.  Either Tim Keller or Rick Warren wrote (but I cannot find the referemce), “When someone thinks he knows all the answers, you have to wonder if he knows all the questions.”   (Similar to a Confucius quote.)

Here’s to hoping you have a good week and discover who Jesus really is.
Enjoy Peter Hollen’s and Home Free’s a-capella performance of Amazing Grace.

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the devil of hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”  C.S.Lewis

Baggage We Do Not Need To Carry

“Praise be to Yahweh, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens.” Psalm 68:19

Ecclesiastes1.jpgThe author of Ecclesiastes seems somewhat pessimistic at times in his short book.  He laments in chapter three that God places a heavy burden on mankind.  He goes on to suggest that humans and animals share the same fate of dying, and questions, Who knows if the human spirit rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?” (3:21)  This is a far cry from what Solomon’s dad penned in Psalm 68.

David was a man who knew his God, from the times he sat on a hillside watching Jesse’s sheep and worshiping Him in the solitude of the lonely hills to when God delivered Goliath into his hands.  Even so, with a list of failures and missed cues from God, he still found refuge in God’s faithfulness to “daily bear our burdens.”

Baggage1We all tend to tote weights that God would prefer to bear on our behalf.  A dear friend has a heavy bag that is carried everywhere as if her life depended on it.  In her own words she told me that she has to walk slowly and stooped because of its weight.  However, Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”  (Matthew 11:30)  So we must ask ourselves whose burden we are carrying.

Consider if that purse was snatched from her by a thief (God forbid!).  But she would not die from its loss.  She would still have food to eat, a place to sleep, and clothes to wear.  She would still have a family that loves her and would help recover the important things that were taken, believers who would gather round and try to help.

Baggage 2.jpgWe must unburden ourselves of this kind of baggage, and metaphorically release other weights we carry.  Hebrews’ author instructs us: Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (12:1-2)

I am learning to travel light, carrying the truly essentials: my driver’s license, a few dollars cash (usually not more than $20), a pen and pencil, my house and car keys, a comb and handkerchief, a day’s supply of meds, a small notepad and my phone.  Think very carefully about adding anything to this list.  We need to be ready when Jesus returns, and bags of “stuff” only slow us down and make us stoop.  We all carry many other weights that are not of God’s choosing, and would be healthier and happier without them, if we could let our Lord carry them.

There was a time I was afraid to throw something away because I would have to go and buy one when I needed it, which usually seemed to be as soon as I threw it away!  Then I realized that was specifically God’s plan!  Because in getting rid of stuff, He leads us into new relationships where we can get what we need when we need it, but not before.  He wants us to build trust, and this is one way He does it.

BaggageBeyond material things we carry with us, there is a lot of baggage in the unseen world of the Spirit that slows us down and hinders us from letting God work through us.  Habitual sin fills the heart with “stuff” that holds us back from what God wants to accomplish.  Pride often blocks the avenues through which God would like to pour blessings on others.  Selfishness keeps us from carrying each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:2).  Unbiblical priorities rob us of energy that should be given to bringing our world closer to God, and instead we let opportunities slip through our hands.  Deafening noise from iPods, music-streaming services, or on our TVs keeps us from hearing the whispers of His Spirit (see October 2, 2016).  Even religion, when practiced for its own sake, can keep us from following Jesus, and blind us to His scandalous love for us.

The unburdening begins with practicing God’s Presence (August 27, 2017).  Recognize that He is always with you, even when you do not want Him to be!  Become aware that there are Eyes watching what our eyes see, Ears listening to what we are hearing, a Mind that understands our weakness but does not intend to leave us in that pitiful shape.  And begin to “cast all your cares on him because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)

And remember, “This is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome.” (1 John 5:3)  Not at all!  He sets us free from burdens!!  We do not have to carry all that baggage anymore.