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

You’ve Never Failed Me Yet (?)

Nice words to a beautiful worship song, but what about when it does not feel true?  When you pray and seek the face of Father and the heavens seem bronze.  Worship ceases to be celebration of love and care because no one really seems to care, not deeply.  Worse yet, leaders do not seem to care about the people for whom they are performing with volumes too loud for comfort and enough to injure ears.  (Psalm 55:12-14)

Like the story in Reader’s Digest, a wife complained to her husband about the car beside them with the booming stereo that was rocking their car, “Well, that driver will soon enough be almost deaf.”  To which he replied, “Yes, Hon, but it won’t do us any good, He’ll just crank it LOUDER.”

Maybe denominational leaders should require hearing tests for pastors and worship leaders to see if they are operating with damaged ears.  They might realize then what they are doing to the rest of us, especially children with not fully developed hearing apparatuses.  Maybe the rocker, Ted Nugent, was right, “If it’s too loud, [I’m] too old.”  Maybe too old to attend “worship” performances that will damage my hearing as much as circular saws and hammer drills which operate at ~90-100dB.  (See https://capost2k.wordpress.com/the-science-behind-if-its-too-loud-youre-too-old/.)

Just feeling very discouraged these days and wondering if anyone really cares.

2018-12-10 Someone Watching Over Me

“Someone Watching Over Me” © c.a.post, 1985

  1. So many times I’ve been so lonely,
    no one seemed to really understand.
    The pain I felt inside was more than only
    an ache that could be soothed by a gentle hand.
    Longer than I even can remember,
    the bleeding heart-wound never seemed to end.
    Looking for relief I just would wander,
    blinded by the razor hurt within.Yet, time again I’d catch a glimpse behind me and I’d see
    the flash of death’s cold glinting sword that brushed so close to me,
    and wondered how it failed to end the task it had begun,
    my soul so tired, I couldn’t, if I’d known which way to run.Chorus
    There must be Someone watching over me.
    I surely couldn’t make it on my own.
    I feel the pull of His unseen hand.
    I hear His silent whisper in my soul.
  1. I never found a crowd that I could fit in;
    could never find a home where I belong.
    Running from the weakness that I knew, I’d just pretend
    the loneliness would leave if I was strong.
    Looking for a circle that would close me in its arc,
    I’d cover all the fears I had to hide.
    But as the line drew closer to what’s really in my heart
    I’d step back and watch it close with me outside.So darkness followed sunset just as dawn came after night,
    and days turned into weeks and months without a hope in sight.
    Year by year I wondered how this life could still go on,
    waiting for each day to pass and glad when it was gone.
  1. Sometimes my days just turn like empty pages.
    Sometimes they feel so full they ought to burst.
    I know too well how far I missed the best that life can give;
    I also sigh relief; I missed the worst.
    But now I know that Someone special’s standing by;
    knowing, yet it does not stop His care.
    Laughing with my laughter, feeling every tear I cry;
    there’s nothing in my heart that we can’t share.Now all those empty memories of tears I cried alone
    are just shadows of a nightmare passed before Your love-light shone.
    And all these times and questions that I still don’t understand
    don’t really matter anymore since You now hold my hand.Alternate chorus
    Then You reached out and took me by the hand
    even though You’d seen the dark inside.
    You loved me back to life and made me understand
    there’s nothing from Your love I have to hide.Chorus
    There must be Someone watching over me.
    I surely couldn’t make it (couldn’t take it) on my own,
    I feel the pull of Your unseen hand.
    I hear Your silent whisper in my soul.

Psalm 130:1-6
Out of the depths I cry to you, Yahweh; Yahweh, hear my voice.
Let Your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.
If You, Yahweh, kept a record of sins, Yahweh, who could stand?

But with You there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve You.
I wait for Yahweh, my whole being waits, and in His word I put my hope.
I wait for Yahweh, more than watchmen wait for the morning.

Please, don’t ask me to pray . . . at least not for a while.

Please, don’t ask me to pray, at least not for a while.prayer3

After several blogs on prayer and knowing God (January 18, 2015, October 9, 2016, January 16, 2017), I am back at square one.  I have prayed for church leadership in America, and specifically for my fellowship, that they would show some concern for the well-being of their attendees, but churches continue to damage the hearing of people as though thumping base and pounding volumes will make people think the Holy Spirit is touching them.  Even non-believers are concerned about the volume of noise in our society, an ungodly culture which evangelicals are imitating.  (See How Sound Affects Our Health and Hear, Hear: The WHO Gives Lower Volumes a Ringing Endorsement.)

I have prayed for God to reveal Himself to family members who behave in ways that embarrass our Lord, but they seem oblivious to the commands and examples of the Bible.  I pray for my neighbor’s MS; I love him like a brother and cannot understand why God has not healed him.  I keep waiting to hear how he got up one morning and walked to the bathroom to shave before realizing that he should have needed his scooter to get there!  Imagine the amazement and celebration as he called to his wife and together they wondered at the fact that he was standing on his own.

I pray for others, family and friends, who do not even believe that Jesus arose from the dead.  I pray for relationships that seem already dead ended, stuck in place until we die.  I pray for those for whom no one else that I know of is praying and see no evidence that The God Who Is There cares about their plight.  I pray according to Scripture for our country that continues its slide into divisiveness, a trend more the result of social media than political parties; if we disagree, we just “defriend” and never hear other intelligent views different from our own.

So please, don’t ask me to pray, at least not for a while.

Do not misconstrue my consternation.  I know that God is there/here.  The historical evidence for the accuracy of the Biblical record is unchallengeable by any reasonable mind (May 17, 2015).  The truth of the resurrection is as certain as George Washington being our first president (August 16, 2015).

This confusion of mine over prayer is against a history of answered prayers.  I remember standing by a hospital bed in which Yolanda’s baby with meningitis lay wracked with fever; a group of us prayed and the next day one of the doctors was angry because he was convinced the labs and staff had messed up the tests; this perfectly healthy baby could not be the one he had examined the day before!  My own stroke recoveries are nothing short of miraculous; how many people do you know with six strokes who still appear to function normally every day?  Several times God seemed to speak to me or to people or situations around me, thoughts that seemed to come out of thin air, including “remembering” a verse of the Bible at a critical juncture in my life; one that I had never memorized.  And testimonies of hundreds of others recount supernatural interventions for which there are no other explanations.

Still, depressing discouragement sets in when the answers do not come.  Maybe He is simply saying, “No,” by not speaking.  Maybe my motives are mixed so that I can brag about my prayers getting answered (James 4:3).  Maybe there is unaccounted sin that makes the heavens like bronze (Psalm 89:30-32; Psalm 81:11-14).  Maybe He is just waiting for His time to be right (John 9:2-3).  Maybe there are simply things I do not understand.  Now there’s an original thought!  Imagine, I don’t understand!?

A couple weeks ago, speaking with a highly intelligent and expertly qualified therapist, we began discussing “blind spots.”  There was something in his description of deductive logic with which I disagreed, and I mused maybe it was simply a blind spot in my mind.  Trying as hard as I could, I could not see his reasoning.  A minor side point of our discussion, but a major point of understanding “blind spots.”

Blind Spots.jpgA blind spot is just that: you cannot see what is there!  I still cannot see his point, and he thinks he sees mine.  We simply disagree.  Maybe it is my blind spot, or maybe it is his, but one of us does not see something.  Imagine, maybe I don’t understand something about prayer.  Imagine, maybe I don’t understand much about The God Who Is There.  Imagine, I don’t even know how to pray. ☹

So please, don’t ask me to pray, at least not for a while.

But my heart aches for the relationships for which I pray, for my neighbors difficulties, for the family and friends who are missing God’s best for them, for the servants of our God who I present to Him, for church leaders’ deaf ears, for the attendees who are being damaged and misled about worship, for so many needs I cannot mention them all here.  And where else can I go but to The God Who Is There? (John 6:65-69)

So go ahead and ask me to pray, but don’t expect any miracle.  That’s for next Sunday’s blog.

The Choice of Ways So Small, The Event So Great

When I was a child the Good News of the Gospel was usually couched in fear that if you did not “get right with God” you would go to hell; basically, cosmic fire insurance.  We were told in no uncertain terms that we must repent of our sin, which seemed to mean to confess it to God (fortunately not to anyone else!) and He would forgive the bad stuff we had done.  Not very good for Good News.

These days the word “repentance” is hardly ever uttered from pulpits in America, so much so that I do not recall the last time I heard it in a meeting of the church.  (This does not mean it was not discussed; I may have missed it or be forgetting a sermon or two.)  The focus appears to be on the wonderful plan God has for your life and surrendering your will to His.  Just figure out what God wants you to do and allow Him to work it out through you.  Mostly this seems to come from one Dr. Z. Hodges of Dallas Theological Seminary who wrote in the 1970s:

“One of the most striking facts about the doctrine of repentance in the Bible is that this doctrine is totally absent from John’s gospel. There is not even so much as one reference to it in John’s twenty-one chapters… Since John’s Gospel omits the message of repentance, are we to conclude that its gospel is not the biblical gospel after all? The very idea carries its own refutation. The fourth evangelist explicitly claims to be doing evangelism (John 20:30-31). It is not the theology of the gospel of John that is deficient; it is the theology found in lordship salvation.”

This sounds all well and good, but the fact that John’s gospel does not mention “repentance” is hardly justification for eliminating this doctrine of historic Christianity.  In fact several points of reasoning show this “theology in lordship salvation” is erroneous and at times downright dangerous.  The result is people who attend church, sing the worship songs and lead in prayer, and then promptly go out and live as though God was not aware of them; at least, they certainly seem unaware of Him!

Repentance means “turning away.”  Plain and simple, it means stop doing what you are doing that is displeasing to God.  It is more than just accepting another plan; it is more than just remorse (Hebrews 12:15-17); it is more than just regret (Matthew 27:3-5).  This is not an attempt to bring back “fire insurance” salvation, but to balance the idea of Jesus’ lordship with the fact that we cannot honor Him as Lord and behave the way we did before.  We must be willing as C.S. Lewis says to go back to where we first left the path.  “Progress means getting nearer to the place you want to be. And if you have taken a wrong turning, then to go forward does not get you any nearer.  If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man.”

First, the Gospel of John is not the only book the apostle wrote.  Repentance is featured heavily in the Revelation where five of the seven churches of Asia are told to repent.  Ephesus (2:5), Pergamum (2:16), Thyatira (2:22), Sardis (3:3) and Laodicea (3:19) are each issued dire warnings if they refuse to repent.  Refusal to repent is justification for severe judgment in Revelation 9:20-21 and 16:9-11 for those outside the Church.

Further, in John’s letters, although the word “repentance” is again missing, its concept is not.  He goes so far as to say, “the one who makes a practice of sinning is of the devil,” and that one who is born of God “cannot keep on sinning.” (1 John 3:4-10)  Not abiding in the teaching of Christ is paramount to not having God at all! (2 John 9; 3 John 11)  The same can be said of John’s Gospel.  Just read John 3 and try to understand being born again without the repentance clearly called for in 3:16-21!

Furthermore, the argument from absence of “repentance” in John’s gospel is a logical fallacy based on an argument from ignorance, similar in informal logic to the argument from silence.  The Apostle John also never mentions God’s grace in the gospel.  Are we to conclude that we should avoid teaching about grace because of its absence from one book?   One could just as easily contend that because the word “love” does not appear in the Acts of the Apostles, it must not matter to fulfilling the Great Commission.

Lastly, the Gospel of John is one of 66 books in the mini-library that is the Bible (see January 25, 2015).  It is not difficult to do a word search for various words of significance to our relationship with God and find several books that do not mention any of them: justification, sanctification, love, grace, peace, joy, etc.  Our understanding of these themes must be developed based on the “whole counsel” (1 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:19-21) of the Scriptures.

The Old Testament prophets, John the Baptist, Peter, Paul, and yes, even Jesus all began their service to the Kingdom with calls to repentance (Matthew 4:17).  Jesus said, “there will be more joy in Heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine who do not need repentance.” (Luke 15:7)

Biblically, “repentance” that does not result in a change of direction is clearly not repentance.  John the Baptist commanded his listeners to behave in a way that showed they had repented (Luke 3:10-14)  It is not just a change of mind, but a change of mind that results in a change of action.  We will behave according to what we really believe. (See April 19, 2015, Do You Agree or Do You Believe?)

This is not written smugly as though I have found an answer to sin and if you do not, you can go to . . .; God help me if I ever forget the pit from which he brought me.  My heart is for you, dear reader, that you will find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16), strength from Outside yourself to be transformed by the renewal of your mind (Romans 12:2) that will result in a change of heart so that you will be able to worship Jesus as Lord without faking it (Acts 8:20-23).

Nearly they stood who fall;
Themselves as they look back
See always in the track
The one false step, where all
Even yet, by lightest swerve
Of foot not yet enslaved,
By smallest tremor of the smallest nerve
Might have been saved.

Nearly they fell who stand,
And with cold after fear
Look back to see how near
They grazed the sirens’ land.
Wondering what subtle fate,
By threads so spidery fine,
The choice of ways so small, the event so great
Should thus entwine.

Therefore oh, man, have fear
Lest oldest fears be true,
Lest thou too far pursue
The road that seems so clear,
And step, secure, a hair’s
Breadth past the hair-breadth border
Which, being once crossed forever unawares,
Denies return.
the Guide in Pilgrim’s Regress by C.S.Lewis

Why Go To Church Meetings?

Why should we go to church meetings?  Well, there is the obvious: the Bible commands it.  Hebrews 10:25 says we should not neglect meeting together, and that this becomes increasingly  important as we see The Day approaching.  But there are two major reasons for going to a meeting of the church and a bunch of other ones (that I will not dare to call “minor!”).

We used to sing a song, “I Don’t Know What You Came To Do” that attempted to answer this question back in the ancient times of the 70s.  The words of the original were very simple:
“I don’t know what you came to do,
I came to praise the Lord.”
Then there would be a bridge with “Allelu, allelu, allelu-u-ia.”
A creative alternative to verses in a church meeting I attended once had additional verses, but all centered on worship:
“Some people come just to show off their clothes,
But I came to see the Lord.”
This was followed by:
“Some people come just to talk to their friends,
But I came to hear from the Lord.”
And a couple other verses that followed this theme.

IMG_5417.JPGSo one of the beneficial reasons for gathering with other followers of Jesus Christ is to worship him in corporate fashion.  There is something tremendously uplifting to hear an anthem choir sing, whether it is patriotic songs, Broadway show tunes or love songs.  But when the object of that anthem singing is a friend and lover, a savior and healer, one who loves you more than His own life, prestige, privilege or comfort . . . and when the anthem in sung from the hearts of a large group of people, there is something overwhelming in it.  It lifts you into a preview of Revelation 5:9-14!  Beyond that are times of corporate prayer, either led by someone or simply everyone joining together to talk with the Lord.

There are two major reasons, though, for gathering with a meeting of the church.  The first is simply because sometimes I need the encouragement of others struggling with the same things with which I struggle.   They may at times be further along than me in following Jesus and can tell me how to listen more carefully to His voice, what He is teaching them in their conversations, and what “the Spirit is saying to the churches”  (Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 12, 22).  Their “ears” are simply better attuned than mine.

Along with this is solid Bible teaching from scholars who study the history and cultural contexts of the Scripture’s human authors.  Their insights can often make a difference in how I understand certain passages of the Bible.

An example of this is what Ron Gifford once explained about loving our enemies.  Proverbs 25:21-22 instructs us:
“If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat,
and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink,
for you will heap burning coals on his head,
and the Lord will reward
you.”
Paul reiterates this instruction years later in his letter to the Romans in 12:19-21:
“Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Now when I was a kid, I heard this expressed as a wonderful way to make an enemy suffer!  Like the old adage, “Smile; it’ll make your enemies wonder what you are up to,”  my understanding of these verses was that by being kind, my enemy would wonder what I was scheming and would become suspicious, always looking over his shoulder for when I would get even with him; his life would become a constant misery because I had been nice!

However, when a historian explained this in its cultural context, I realized I had a lot of growing up in Christ to do!  You see in the times in which Solomon and Paul lived, they did not have matches or automatic lighters.  Fire was actually a precious commodity, especially for cooking or staying warm in cold months and for light at night.  When someone lacked a fire he could not cook his food, warm himself or light his path!

Coals of Fire on Their HeadsA common way of transferring fire was to put the hot embers in a large bowl and since heat rises, it was awkward to carry it in front of your body, so the bottom of the bowl would be wrapped and placed on ones’ head.  I learned from those wiser than me that my heart had some adjusting to do to come into line with what the Scripture actually taught about loving my enemies.

There is a second major reason for going to a meeting of the church.  Sometimes others need the encouragement I can offer because I have overcome some of the struggles with which they are struggling.  I may at times be further along in following Jesus than some others and can help them listen more carefully to His voice as He is teaching me stuff in our conversations.  My “ears” may be better attuned at times, and if I do not offer how God is guiding me, it reflects a selfishness that is less than Jesus wants from me.  This includes sometimes sharing insights that I have learned in Bible study . . . or from Ron 😉!

So among the many reasons for attending a meeting of the church: fellowship, Bible study, worship, friendship, mission sharing, etc,  there are two major reasons for going;
Sometimes I need it; Sometimes I am needed.