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

Intermezzo: A Corona-Virus Version of the Bible ;-)

2020-04-21 Corona Virus Version of the Bible

Well, a couple of months of self-quarantining can affect anyone’s brain, but for some of the editors at The Salty Cee (https://saltycee.com/news/translators-work-furiously-on-new-corona-virus-version-cvv-of-the-bible/), methinks it has gone on too long!  Working on the Corona-Virus Version of the Bible either commits sacrilege or heals with hilarious humor.  For a hearty belly-laugh, enjoy the first draft of Proverbs 31:10-31.

“Who can find a virtuous infection-free wife?
For her worth is far above toilet paper.
Her hand-sanitized husband safely trusts her; so he will never get the virus.
She empties the grocery store shelves all the days of the pandemic.
She seeks paper products, and willingly works with essential oils to bring her homemade hand sanitizer recipe to the merchant ships while maintaining social distancing protocols.
She ships her food from Amazon to avoid any added social contact.
She also rises while it is yet night to keep tabs on the COVID-19 infection statistics in various states and countries.
And provides food for her household because all the restaurants are closed.
And fires her maidservants since, who knows, they might be carriers!
She considers stock in Scott Paper Company and buys it.
From her profits she increases her homemade hand-sanitizer production quotas to meet demand.
She perceives that her essential oils and alcohol content are both good.
She girds herself with a stylish N95 mask.
And her internet connection does not go out by night.
She puts her hand to the spindle to make cloth in case paper products do end up running out.
She extends her hand to wipe horizontal surfaces that are in need of daily doses of disinfecting.
She is not afraid of visitors to her household, for all her household is also clothed with N95 masks . . . but turns them all away anyway, just to be extra safe.
Her husband is known in the news for selling toilet paper on the black market as he sits among the preppers of the land.
Paranoia and precaution are her clothing; she shall rejoice when the time of COVID-19 has come and gone.
She opens her mouth with wisdom for how to prepare for catastrophes and on her tongue is the fine print within the governor’s “shelter-at-home” laws.
She watches over the driveway of her household to shoo away any and all visitors.
And does not wash her hands with idleness but with THREE Happy Birthday recitations.
Her children rise up and call her blessed and corona-free.
Her husband also, and he praises her: “Many preppers have done well, but you excel them all.
CNN is deceitful and Trump is passing, but a woman who fears the LORD and COVID-19, she shall be praised.”

Marked by Bible Reading and Bible Study (Part 1)

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A Man (or Woman) of God will live a life Marked By Bible Reading and Study. Be sure and understand, knowledge about God is not the same as knowing God. This is an important distinction to make because far too many people think that because they can quote volumes of Scripture or name all 66 books of the Bible or discuss theology like a . . . well, a theologian, that they know God.

IMG_7072But you could just as easily read all of Genghis Khan’s biographies, become an expert in the history of Mongolia, explore all the archeological digs, and become the world’s foremost authority on Genghis Khan, and you would still never know the man. After all, he is dead and gone, and all we can know is about him. You can never look into his eyes, share a meal together, talk over the day’s events, or know him by experience. In the same way, there are theologians who know much about God, but do not know Him. Be careful in reading and studying the Bible that you do not become like them.

Sugar BabyEven an infant knows his mother or daddy, though he cannot even speak their names. That is why we talked about prayer before Bible study. It is more important that you know the Creator than it is to know about Him. And He made this possible by revealing Himself through Jesus, the Christ, or Anointed One. He that comes to God “must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6) All it takes to know Him is to “call on His name.” (Joel 2:32, Acts 2:21) And we will address later His name, but for now, just call on Him as you understand Him to be, Father, Creator, God, Jesus, Lord.

A man or woman who wishes to be a man or woman of God must read and study the Bible. One who does not read and study the Bible will be like a baby that never gets out of his crib nor learns to eat solid food. How sad when we see an adult, who because of mental disability remains an infant, always dependent on a caretaker to feed, bathe, clothe, and nurse him.

In John 4:32 Jesus told His disciples, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.” Paul later lamented about the Corinthians (I Corinthians 3:1-2), as did the writer of Hebrews, that when they should be eating solid food, he had to feed them with milk like babies (Hebrews 5:12-13). This leads us to recognize that milk is predigested food. This is what you are receiving when you attend a church where a pastor/teacher “feeds” you; he has fed on God’s word, eaten it, digested it, and now gives you milk. It is what you are receiving when you read this blog, or any other Bible scholar’s work; or when you attend conferences to learn from teachers.

Then what was Paul wishing he could give the Galatians as “solid food?” He wanted to give them assignments to do to expand God’s kingdom on earth. The author of Hebrews wanted them to be teachers instead of just hearers. Jesus “food” in John was that He was doing His Father’s will, accomplishing the things He was sent to do.

We begin to grow in grace and knowledge as we read the Bible (II Peter 3:16). It is God’s written word. His “markings” left for us to follow so that we can understand as much about Him as we are capable.

IMG_2559The Bible is NOT one book. It is a collection of books, most of which can be read aloud in less than four hours, more quickly if you read silently, some of which might take only a few minutes. This means that with good planning you could read the entire library we call the Bible in 66 days, reading just one book per day. In any case, if you plan your day for your job, your family, your responsibilities, your recreation, why not include some time to read the Bible? A few minutes a day will take you through the library in a year. Whether you read it aloud or silently, and whatever version or language you read, simply set aside some time so that a year from now, you will have read the entire Bible.

There is no particular order for reading. I recommend the “easier” books first, such as New Testament books about Jesus and letters to disciples. Then skip back to history books of the Old Testament (Joshua to Ester), and then the Wisdom Literature (Psalms to Ecclesiastes) and the Prophets. Finally, you can approach the books of the Law, Genesis through Deuteronomy as some of the more difficult passages. We will talk more in future blogs about times, methods and order of reading the books of the Bible.

Bible Study is another matter. There are many guides available in bookstores or online that can guide you in methods of study (of which there are several), and details of cultural and historical accuracy that will enhance your understanding. You may wish to study alone or with a group, but your activities should change with Bible study. If you only study for knowledge you run the risk of becoming “a blind guide for the blind” (Matthew 23:24), knowing more and more about Father, but knowing Him less and less.96

Study should be to develop a taste for the meat of the word, the assignments He will give you to share His word with unbelievers, with “new-born” disciples, and to serve others. Like newborn babies, desire the spiritual milk of the word so that you may grow up, and someday teach others (II Peter 2:2). Look for Bible reading and study to reveal more about Father to you, but more importantly, allow it to get into your spirit so you know Him better.

See April 6, 2015 for Part 2.

A Marked Man (or Woman); an Introduction

A “marked man” used to refer to one who had done something for which he was going to suffer. And our usage of the term may turn out to be the same at times. But I wish to consider what constitutes the “Marks of a Man (or Woman) of God.”

These marks are not what many outside of faith would expect.
They do not include any of the following:
Regular Church Attender
Nice to NeighborsIMG_0327
Gives Lots of Money to Charity
Never Cusses
Lives a Moral Life
Goes to a Religious School
Observant of Religious Holidays

Please understand, none of these are opposed to the Marks of a man of God, but they do not mark a man as one who belongs to God. Anyone may do these things listed and not have anything to do with God.

There are three distinctions, or Marks, that will mark a Man of God, and I will address each of these in more detail in blogs that will follow. But for simplicity, let’s consider first what the three distinctions are in general.

These are presented in journalistic style of the most important idea first, and developing it later, in case someone is inclined just to read the first paragraphs for a quick summary . . . in which case, I may have lost you already!! 😉

The first Mark of a Man (or Woman) of God is LOVE.
The second Mark is Reading and Studying the Bible.
The third Mark is Prayer.

Wow! That is a lot to digest, even if you just stop reading there, if you are thoughtful about these things. But allow me to clarify each of these a little, with more thorough treatment to follow in subsequent blogs.

The LOVE referred to here is not a mushy feeling or sentimental emotion. It is the fluid water of life that can take any shape depending on its surrounding, yet is so strong that not even rocks can resist its persistence. It is more powerful than hate (which is not its opposite), it is consuming of the one who loves, yet fulfilling and completing. Its simplest definition is “to look for the best for another without regard for the cost to oneself.” It is the stuff that made Father create us; it is the stuff that makes Him still reveal Himself to us; it is the stuff that took Jesus to His cross; it is the stuff that will remain when faith is no longer needed because we will see Him face-to-face, and hope will be unnecessary, because all will have been fulfilled and completed. But more on these in another blog.

Reading and Studying the Bible is not like studying Holy Writing of other faiths. The written Word of God has been provided for us over a passage of 15 centuries by 40 different authors, but in an area spanning less than 10,000 miles2 (26,000 km2) of territory. But the constancy of its themes, the consistency of its revelations, and the thoroughness of its addressing the human condition make it a full and complete guide for faith and life, making any other unnecessary, and extremely weak by comparison. It has never been disproven on any point of history or science, although it is not intended to be a complete history nor a scientific text. It has been the most challenged book of history with detractors trying to discredit it since Jeremiah’s scroll was burned by King Jehoikim (Jer. 36), yet it has stood up to every challenge when all the information was gathered. A good resource for questions about the Bible and its authenticity is found at http://www.gotquestions.org/Bible-God-Word.html. In the meantime, Wikipedia and many other online resources follow the old tripes of trying to discredit the Bible. Read carefully, all the time, even this blog!

Many other books may have some value in providing historical context or showing what men teach each other when they lack the Light in God’s Word, but only the Bible has stood the test of time and proven to be true in every word in every way at every level. Its effect on individual lives, its transformative power in societies, and its prophetic accuracy all attest to its distinction over all other claims of Holy Writing. Truth is self-evident to the seeker of Truth, and it rings with a crystal pitch like pinging a goblet of fine glass. The Bible has that ring. The lover of Truth will discover it to be all he needs for a rule of faith and practice.

Finally, Prayer is more than the recitation of words into the air. It is a two-way communication with Father, our Creator. He is so vastly higher and Other than we are, as Trish O’Connor says, “Humans explaining the nature of God is like an ant trying to explain who dropped the sugar.”  This is true when humans begin with their own perceptions, but He is willing to explain to us what we are able to understand. In this case, we are not merely ants annoying a picnicker. He loves each and every one of us “ants” and places the sugar for us, and shows us what He is like; He even became an “ant” like us, so that He could more completely explain the rest of His creation, and so that we could communicate better with Him.

So these three mark a man or woman of God: Love, Bible Reading and Study, and Prayer. Have you heard from Him lately? He is there and He is not silent! Are you listening? Next blog, next week, January 18, 2015.