Monthly Archives: February 2019

On a better way to spread the Gospel…

“I Want to Be like Mike” – An idea that just may be the key to spreading the Gospel better…

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Welcome to “read the Bible – expand your mind:”

This blog has four main themes.  The first is that God will accept anyone.  (See John 6:37.)  The second is that God wants us to live lives of abundance (John 10:10.)   The third is that God wants us to do even greater miracles than Jesus.  (John 14:12.)  The fourth – and most overlooked – is that Jesus wants us to read the Bible with an open mind.  See Luke 24:45:  “Then He” – Jesus – “opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.”

And this thought ties them together:

The only way to live abundantly and do greater miracles than Jesus is – as noted – to read the Bible with an open mind.  For more, see the notes or – to expand your mind – see the Intro.

In the meantime:

NOVA: The Bible's Buried SecretsThe other night I watched The Bible’s Buried Secrets.  That was the NOVA program that aired on PBS in 2008, and explored the historicity of the Bible.  In other words, it explored whether the Bible was “factually accurate,” or history as we understand it.  According to Wikipedia:

The producers surveyed the evidence and [took] positions that are mainstream among archaeologists and historians, although they continue to raise objections among both Christians who believe in the bible as either literal or historical truth and minimalists who assert that the Bible has no historical validation.

Which I thought missed the whole point.

That is, among other findings the program said there was “no archaeological evidence to corroborate the stories of Adam and Eve, Noah’s flood and Abraham.”  That finding led the conservative American Family Association – promoting “fundamentalist Christian values” – to issue an “online petition urging Congress to cut off federal funding for PBS.”  The petition said that “PBS is knowingly choosing to insult and attack Christianity by airing a program that declares the Bible ‘isn’t true and a bunch of stories that never happened.’”

Which I thought – again – misses the whole point of the Christian faith.

My theory is that you can’t “prove” the Bible-faith by scientific or courtroom evidence.  You prove the validity of that faith by your own experience walking with and/or working with God.  Like the man with the legion (demons), as told in Mark 5 (18-20):

As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him.   Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you…”   So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him.  And all the people were amazed.

In other words, the demon-possessed man could care less if archaeologists found Noah’s Ark in Turkey, or whether there was “archaeological evidence to corroborate the stories of Adam and Eve, Noah’s flood and Abraham.”  He cared about what Jesus did for him.  Or as it says in Psalm 66:16:  “Come and listen, all you who fear God, and I will tell you what he has done for me.”

Which is – to me – the far better way of spreading the Good News of Jesus

Getting back to the Gerasene demoniac, the man with “legion” told people in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him “and all the people were amazed.”  And – no doubt – many of them tried out this “new faith” for themselves.  Or as applied today – when few of us seem so possessed – we start by reading the Bible and applying it to our lives, then “proceed on:”

[Like the Bible, e]very martial art – judo, kendo, aikido, etc. – has its own forms, actions, procedure.  Beginners must learn the kata and assimilate and use them.  Later, they begin to create out of them, in the way specific to each art.

Jesus Christ, Public Defender: and Other Meditations on the Bible, For Baby-boomers, “Nones” and Other Seekers by [Ford, James B.]That’s a thought from my e-book “Jesus Christ, Public Defender.”  Near the end of Chapter 8, I wrote about the early years, when I’d just started daily Bible readings and applying them to my own life.  (And in particular to my own “obsession,” college football.)

“In the process, something seemed to happen that may be like what happens to a student of an eastern martial art.”  I also noted that maybe the Bible student – like a good karate student – first struggles to learn the basics, and then – after he learns the fundamentals – he can start to use them in his daily life:

Finally, after the student has been at it long enough, he can begin to “create” out of those Bible readings, and in the process create something new out of something very old, or as the Bible says, “sing to the Lord a new song.”  As time passes the student can “create” something new, giving a new meaning to the “old” Bible message…

The result could well be a “new song to the Lord,” as illustrated and updated in the student’s own life.  And incidentally, that theme of singing a new song to the Lord – and not just another stale, old “conservative” or literalist rehash – is repeated again and again in the Bible.  Like in Isaiah 42:10, and Psalm 96:1, Psalm 98:1, and Psalm 144:9.

So what’s all this about a “better way to spread the Gospel?”  We can start with one basic assumption and one big question, two points common to all the world’s religions.

The basic assumption is:  “You’ve been given a gift.”  The big question is:  “What are you going to do with it?”  You can say you’ve been given the gift of “salvation through Christ,” which basically means that you’ve gotten the gift of a “new”  bridge to God.  Or for that matter you can say you’ve been “gifted” the road to a more spiritual life, through Islam, Buddhism or one of many other spiritual paths.  (Though I believe all those others will eventually “lead you to Christ…”)

Or you can just say that you’ve been given the gift of life, by whoever or whatever gave that gift to you.  (Possibly even some generic Higher Power.)

Luther's roseBut the big question remains:  What are you going to do with that gift?  Or in Christian terms, “How are you going to help spread the Gospel?”  (The Good News or “the message of salvation, justification [illustrated by Luther’s rose, at right], and sanctification.”)  That’s the question raised by the Great Commission, as detailed notably in Matthew 28:16–20:

 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.

Of course one method – so favored by conservatives – is to browbeat people, telling them that they’re going to hell if they don’t listen to you.  Or you can become a parrot, spouting out random Bible verses, generally full of hell and damnation, fire and brimstone.

Or you can be “like Mike.”  You can be the kind of person other people want to emulate.  You can lead the kind of life that makes people look at what you’ve accomplished, and say, “That’s what I want!  I want what he’s got!”  Or done, or accomplished.  In other words, you – “like Mike” – could be a walking advertisement for the kind of Bible faith that potential converts want to imitate.  (See 1st Corinthians 11:1, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”)

Like – for example – my being 67 years old and keeping fit by stair-stepping an hour at a time, wearing a 25-pound weight vest and 10 pounds of ankle weights.  Or having a series of “adventures in old age,” like Mike.  Or like successfully hiking the Chilkoot Trail (“meanest 33 miles in history”), or canoeing 440 miles down the Yukon river (in 12 days), or canoeing 12 miles out into the Gulf of Mexico, primitive camping for eight days on offshore islands (and an occasional salt marsh), or hiking and biking 450 miles on the Camino de Santiago in Spain.

As detailed in the notes, and which incidentally will be the focus of my next blog post…

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And no, at 67 “I’m not too old to have some adventure in the time I have left…”

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The upper image is courtesy of I Want To Be Like Mike – Image Results.

Re:  “Be like Mike.”  See Be Like Mike – Wikipedia, about the “Gatorade commercial featuring American professional basketball player Michael Jordan that originally aired in 1992.”   See also “I Want to Be like Mike” – Josh.org:  “A MAJOR SPORTS-drink company once ran an ad campaign encouraging people to ‘be like Mike,’ as in NBA basketball legend Michael Jordan. The phrase, ‘I want to be like Mike’ was everywhere.  Kids said it.  Adults sang it.”

The “buried secrets” image is courtesy of Amazon.com: NOVA: The Bible’s Buried Secrets.

Re:  The Bible’s “historicity.”  See Asimov’s Guide to the Bible: Two Volumes in One, which noted, “The Bible is not a history book in modern sense, of course, since its writers lacked the benefit of modern archaeological techniques, did not have our concept of dating and documentation, and had different standards of what was and was not significant in history.”  (Avenel Books edition, 1981, page 7.)  Of course Asimov is “probably going to hell too…”  (Kidding!  See Deuteronomy 19:16-19.)

Re:  “Insult and attack Christianity.”  I’d respond that the PBS Nova program didn’t insult my Christianity.  Or as I’ve said before: “It was never ‘contrary to Scripture’ that the earth revolved around the sun.  It was only contrary to a narrow-minded, pigheaded, too-literal reading of Scripture.”  See “There’s no such thing as a ‘conservative Christian.”

Re: “Proceed on.”  The link is to “We proceeded on” : Lewis & Clark – oi – Oxford Index Home.  It spoke of a concluding chapter in a book about the Lewis and Clark Expedition:  “This concluding chapter presents the perspective of a documentary filmmaker who traveled the entire length of the Lewis and Clark trail.  It looks at the inspiration he derived from the unofficial motto of the expedition—’We proceeded on.’—and observes that the phrase is frequently used in the Journals.” 

Re:  “Come and listen, all you who fear God…”  Note that in the Revised Standard Version of the Psalter in the Book of Common Prayer, the verse is 66:14.

Re:  “Jesus Christ, Public Defender.”  Available at Amazon.com: Kindle eBooks.  Just type in the title and look for the 4th Edition, with Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch on the cover.

Re:  Sing a new song to the Lord.”  See On singing a NEW song to God.

Also re: the Nova program The Bible’s Buried SecretsSee Wikipedia, which noted what the Biblical Archaeology Review wrote: “The producers have done a magnificent job summarizing over a century of biblical archaeology and biblical scholarship in two hours.  The film strikes a balance between the old-fashioned biblical archaeology approach, which tried to prove the Bible’s historicity, and the extreme skepticism of some minimalists, for whom the Bible contains little factual history.”  Rabbi Wesley Gardenswartz wrote: “Conservative Judaism is fully accepting of the type of scholarship featured in this documentary.”  And Rev. Kenneth Himes, OFM Professor, wrote:  For some, the ideas presented may seem novel or surprising, but this is material that is being discussed in the theology courses found at many Catholic universities.”  

See also Historicity of the Bible – Wikipedia.  But again, my theory is that to focus on the Bible’s “historicity” is to miss the point of the faith entirely.  The question is:  Having accepted God and/or Christ, what now do you do with your life?  How will you live out the life you’ve been given?  What will you accomplish with that life?  How are you going to make this world a better place?

Re:  “Walking advertisement.”  The cite-link is to Human billboard – Wikipedia.

Re:  Some of my adventures in old age.  See for example – from my companion blog – Remembering the “Chilkoot &^%$# Trail!”  Also, Canoeing 12 miles off the coast of Mississippi.  (From 7/19/17.)  That cited On canoeing 12 miles offshore, from May 2015As to the Yukon River trip, see “Naked lady on the Yukon.”  As to hiking in Spain, see “Hola! Buen Camino!” – Revisited, and “Buen Camino!” – The Good Parts.  Another “incidentally:”  Future pilgrimage-trips include two weeks in Israel, and another hike, this time on the “Camino Portugues.”  Also, I’ve written about some overnight adventures into the Okefenokee Swamp in several posts:  Operation Pogo – “Into the Okefenokee” (11/7/15), “Into the Okefenokee” – Part II (11/15/15), “Into the Okefenokee” – Part III (11/24/15), “There he goes again…” (5/30/16), and “There he goes again” – Revisited (5/31/17).

And of course, those “adventures in old age” necessarily include writing this thought-provoking blog.  

The lower image is courtesy of happyotter666.blogspot.com.  See also Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom – Wikipedia, which provided the following “cornered” quote, which was in turn part of a blog-comment about the second day of my “adventurous” hike on the Chilkoot Trail:

Okay, it wasn’t quite as bad – crossing that “swinging bridge” the first day on the Chilkoot Trail – as it was for Indiana Jones in the photo above.  (For example, we hadn’t been “cornered by Mola Ram and his henchmen on a rope bridge high above a crocodile-infested river.”)  But that second day on the Trail was pretty &^%$ bad

See specifically On the Chilkoot &^%$# Trail! – Part 2.

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For further review you may wish to consult the following, some or most of which I’ve read for “Deep Background:”  What the Gospels Meant, by Garry WillsHow to Spread the Word of God: 7 Steps (with PicturesWhat is Christian mysticism? – GotQuestions.orgWhat is Christian mysticism? – fRimMinMysticism – Wikipedia; and/or Christian mysticism – Wikipedia

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As noted in the opening blurb, this blog has four main themes.  The first is that God will accept anyone.  (John 6:37, with the added, “Anyone who comes to Him.”)  The second is that God wants us to live abundantly.  (John 10:10.)   The third is that we should do greater miracles than Jesus.  (John 14:12).    A fourth theme:  The only way to do all that is read the Bible with an open mind:

…closed-mindedness, or an unwillingness to consider new ideas, can result from the brain’s natural dislike for ambiguity.  According to this view, the brain has a “search and destroy” relationship with ambiguity and evidence contradictory to people’s current beliefs tends to make them uncomfortable…  Research confirms that belief-discrepant-closed-minded persons have less tolerance for cognitive inconsistency

So in plain words, this blog takes issue with boot-camp Christians.  They’re the Biblical literalists who never go “beyond the fundamentals.”  But the Bible can offer so much more than their narrow reading can offer…   (Unless you want to stay a Bible buck private all your life…)

Now, about “Boot-camp Christians.”  See for example, Conservative Christian – “Career buck private?”  The gist of that post is that starting the Bible is like Army Basic Training. You begin by “learning the fundamentals.”  But after boot camp, you move on to Advanced Individual Training.

Also, and as noted in “Buck private,” I’d previously said the theme of this blog was that if you really want to be all that you can be, you need to go on and explore the “mystical side of Bible reading.*”   

http://www.toywonders.com/productcart/pc/catalog/aw30.jpgIn other words, exploring the mystical side of the Bible helps you “be all that you can be.”  See Slogans of the U.S. Army – Wikipedia, re: the recruiting slogan from 1980 to 2001.  The related image at left is courtesy of: “toywonders.com/productcart/pc/catalog/aw30.jpg.”

*  Re: “mystical.”  As originally used, mysticism “referred to the Biblical liturgical, spiritual, and contemplative dimensions of early and medieval Christianity.”  See Mysticism – Wikipedia, and the post On originalism.  (“That’s what the Bible was originally about!”)

For an explanation of the Daily Office – where “Dorscribe” came from – see What’s a DOR?

“The LORD is a God of knowledge” – The Presentation, 2019

At the Presentation of Our Lord (February 2) – “Simeon and Anna Recognize the Lord Jesus…” 

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Saturday, February 2, is the Feast Day of the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple:

2017Candlemas.jpgCounting forward from December 25 as Day One, we find that Day Forty is February 2.  A Jewish woman is in semi-seclusion for 40 days after giving birth to a son, and accordingly it is on February 2 that we celebrate the coming of Mary and Joseph with the infant Jesus to the Temple at Jerusalem…

In other words, the day celebrates “an early episode in the life of Jesus,” His presentation at the Temple in Jerusalem “in order to officially induct him into Judaism.”  It’s celebrated by many Christian Churches, and is also known as Candlemas(As shown above right.)  

There’s more later, but first a word about one of the Daily Office Readings for this February 2 Feast.  Those readings include 1st Samuel 2:3, “For the LORD is a God of knowledge.”  Which – taken together with Isaiah 27:11 – means that “therefore mercy is to be denied to him who has no knowledge.”  And that’s a bit of Bible law that may well affect the many today who label anything they disagree with – or that contradicts some cherished beliefs – as “Fake News.”

Which brings up another Daily Office Reading for the Presentation, John 8:32, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  Something to think about…

And which also ties in with the fourth great theme of this blog, citing Luke 24:45:  “Then He” – Jesus – “opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.”

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Getting back to the February 2 Feast Day, I wrote about it in 2015’s On The Presentation of Our Lord, in 2016’s The Presentation of the Lord – 2016, and 2017’s On the FIRST “Presentation of the Lord…”  The 2015 post gave some background on what was involved.

It noted this episode was described in the Luke 2:22–40, which said “Mary and Joseph took the Infant Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem … to complete Mary’s ritual purification after childbirth.” They were there “in obedience to the Torah (Leviticus 12, Exodus 13:12–15.”

Luke explicitly says that Joseph and Mary take the option provided for poor people (those who could not afford a lamb) (Leviticus 12:8), sacrificing “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.”  Leviticus 12:1–4 indicates that this event should take place forty days after birth for a male child, hence the Presentation is celebrated forty days after Christmas.

Yegorov-Simeon the Righteous.jpgThe 2017 post also expanded on Exodus 13:2.  That’s where God told Moses, “Consecrate to me every firstborn male.”  It also noted “the old-timey, ‘once-prevalent custom of churching new mothers forty days after the birth of a child.’”  That quaint custom came to be called “the churching of Women,” and it started – as far as we can tell – back in the Middle Ages.  Though rarely used today, “that quaint practice took place in ‘the good old days when giving birth was a time of real and great danger for all mothers.”  (As illustrated at left.) 

Fortunately, these days there isn’t such a great need for a blessing “given to mothers after recovery from childbirth,” including “thanksgiving for the woman’s survival of childbirth.”

And finally, the 2017 post pointed out this “First Presentation of Jesus” foreshadowed what might be called the “Second Presentation,” on Good Friday, as Jesus is about to be crucified(As illustrated in the image below.)  “The point being that from the time He was first ‘presented’ at just over a month old, Jesus’ life was one long journey to the Second Presentation.”  (On the eve of His making another ritual sacrifice, one that would literally change history…)

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Which brings up a more current event.  This very morning I was listening to the audio version of Garry Wills‘ 2008 book, What the Gospels Meant.  In it Wills – this morning – discussed the “Antitheses” in Matthew Chapter 5.  Also the chapter which included The Beatitudes, after which Wills went on to discuss the topic of Murder.  As Wills translated it, “anyone who calls his brother ‘idiot!‘ will be subject to the Sanhedrin.”  (For the offense of de facto murder, according to the interpretation of Jesus.)  And of course that Sanhedrin included “the final authority on Jewish law, and any scholar who went against its decisions was put to death.”

Which brings up my experience with Facebook, where a lot of people these days are calling a lot of other people “idiots,” and worse, for the simple fact of disagreeing with them, or holding a view contrary to their own “cherished beliefs.”  (See also ad hominem- Wikipedia.)

As another aside, the president of the Sanhedrin in Jesus’ time was CaiaphasHe was the one who accused Jesus of blasphemy, “a crime punishable by death under Jewish law.”  And thus of him it was said, “Not interested in the truth, Caiaphas preferred to destroy this challenge [of Jesus] to his beliefs instead of supporting it.”  In other words, if he lived today Caiaphas would probably say the Good News presented by Jesus was just “More Fake News.”

Which led me to Matthew 5:22 itself: “If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court.  And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell.”

Something else to think about…

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Ecce homo by Antonio Ciseri (1).jpg

This could be called the “Second Presentation” – Good Friday, as Jesus is about to be crucified

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The upper image is courtesy of Simeon And Anna Recognize The Lord Jesus – Image Results.  See also Simeon and Anna Recognize the Lord in Jesus – Rembrandt, and the “Simeon” link in the Wikipedia article on the Presentation, or at “Rembrandtonline.”  For another interpretation, see “Simeon the Godreceiver by Alexei Egorov. 1830–40s.”

Re:  “The Lord is a God of Knowledge.”  See Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers:

A God of knowledge. — The Hebrew words are placed thus:  A God of knowledge is the Lord, The Talmud quaintly comments here as follows: — Rabbi Ami says:  “Knowledge is of great price, for it is placed between two Divine names; as it is written (1Samuel 2:3), ‘ A God of knowledge is the Lord,’ and therefore mercy is to be denied to him who has no knowledge; for it is written (Isaiah 27:11), ‘ It is a people of no understanding, therefore He that made them will not have mercy on them.'”

Re:  “The truth will set you free.”  See again Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers:

Here, as in John 17:17, truth and holiness are spoken of as correlative.  The light of truth dispels the darkness in which lies the stronghold of evil.  Sin is the bondage of the powers of the soul, and this bondage is willed because the soul does not see its fearful evil.  When it perceives the truth, there comes to it a power which rouses it from its stupor, and strengthens it to break the fetters by which it has been bound.

Re:  Garry Wills.  See also The True Test of Faith, and On St. Mark’s “Cinderella story.  The latter blog-post cited a New York Times review of Wills’ book What the Gospels Meant:

Yet the paradox of modern Christianity is that the growth of biblical scholarship … has done so little to affect the mass of biblical illiterates who proclaim their convictions about what Jesus would do while knowing precious little about what he actually did or, more important, what he meant…   In this sense, Wills is a dangerous man. (E.A.)

Wills’ discussion of the “Antitheses,” Matthew Chapter 5, The Beatitudes and murder can be found in the 2009 Penguin Books paperback version, at pages 81 and 82. 

The lower image is courtesy of Pontius Pilate – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “Ecce Homo (‘Behold the Man’), Antonio Ciseri‘s depiction of Pilate presenting a scourged Jesus to the people of Jerusalem.”