Fear Of Whales

Archive for April, 2016

Reading the Bible for Fun and Prophet

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How should one read the Bible? Should one study a little piece at a time? Should the whole thing be read cover to cover? If so, Where does one begin? Actually it’s a trick question. The Bible is not one thing, and for optimal enjoyment, you should not read it all the same way.

You need to consider the particular books of the Bible as individual documents with particular identities and not approach them each the same way. Some books There are best read and enjoyed in one sitting and become confusing when parsed apart into verses (Esther, Job, Revelation) are other books in the canon (like Proverbs) that become dreary and incomprehensible when read all in a lump. Most of the books are somewhere in between. Like Psalms, where one psalm has little to do with the next, but certainly needs to be read in it’s entirety as a psalm. The canon order puts all the historical together, and all the prophets together, and that makes reading them a slog. That means it’s generally not advisable to go in order for the same reason you wouldn’t eat all the beef in your monthly diet on the same day, and then all the vegetables on the next. You wanna mix it up.

Then there are the genre’s of the text. Is this text primarily for instruction, is it for inspiration, for encouragement, for reproof? Is it just an interesting character study or a funny story? Is it a dispassionate statement of historical fact or a stirring morality tale wrapped in allegory? The answer to those questions depends entirely to which part of the Bible you are talking about.

So where to start? That depends. And it matters. Where you start will lay your foundation and set your bias for your reading of the rest of scripture. If you start in Romans, you will be inclined to read the rest of the Bible through the lens of salvation by grace alone like me and the protestant reformers, and you won’t be able to get it completely out of your head when you open Isaiah. If you start with The Torah like many in the Messianic community suggest, you will understand Jesus as a Rabbi much better than you will understand Jesus as Lord the first time you study the Gospels. Wherever you start, it will become important to come back again and reread the text with new eyes, being open to the new things the spirit says to who you are as a reader that time.

If you are new to ancient Jewish texts, I recommend Mark. But I do so pretty arbitrarily (it’s nice and short, narrative). You can read it for as long or as short as you want, but remember that this is supposed to be fun and interesting. Stop when it’s not, and move on. Easy peasy

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April 20th, 2016 at 5:35 am

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“Don’t Think, Just Believe” -WHAT???

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Sometimes I encounter people who claim to approach the bible in a childlike manner, and invariably, that so should I! Just have blind faith and do what it instructs. Do not question God. But I just have a really hard time with that.

char_38694I mean, I disagree, but that’s besides the point. I don’t think it’s biblical, but most things aren’t. I have a hard time with it because I cannot even understand what those words are meant to imply, or how a person can think they think those words are true. Let me explain”

I understand theoretically how someone can approach the Bible in a trusting and blind sort of way. "I’m just going to blindly follow this" they would say as they begin to read the book.

But after you DO IT for a while it has to become less blind. What happens when the Bible makes allusions to Greek Mythology and expects you to be familiar with them? What about all the references to other books we don’t have like Paul’s "earlier letter" in First(!?) Corinthians or the "Annals of the Kings Of Judah" in First Kings? Did you read those? The Bible told you to.

And what about all the stuff that is not instruction? Or did you somehow manage to get through Psalms and Revelation without being the least bit curious why we needed that many words for God to say "Be good". If indeed, those books do a poor job of that, then what are they for? That requires thought.

Also, Leviticus is a thing. Do these people "blindly follow" Leviticus? If do do they also at the same time blindly follow the totally different organizational structure that it laid out in the Pastoral Epistles? How?

The Bible makes you think. It FORCES it. Trying to "Just believe" the Bible is like trying to "Just Believe" Shakespeare, or Mozart. It’s not just wrong, it’s incomprehensible.

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April 13th, 2016 at 10:15 pm

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Talk To People

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Almost three years ago I wrote an article here condemning the trend to “Raise Awareness” as an alternative to actually making a difference. I challenged my readers to think of things to do to make the world a better place other than fundraising, marketing, and shopping.

It’s a tough challenge to rise to. It seems there are two levels of involvement. Either I become Rambo and save the child soldiers myself with my homemade bow and arrow, or I just “like” Rambo on Facebook. We are not presented with a lot of “middle” level challenge options to participate in the healing of the world. But here’s one:

Talk to people.

Break down the walls of separation that insulate you and your life from the lives of people who are different.

Service-Suggestions-Visit-Senior-Citizens-2012-10-08Go to the place where we hide the old people (Retirement Home) and talk to them. Listen to their stories from recent history, learn from them about their lives and how they wish they had lived differently. Comfort them in their loneliness and fear of death. Sometimes just listen to them ramble even if you can’t understand. Be there.

Go to the place where we hide the sick and dying (Hospital). Talk to the people there. Volunteer to walk with the chaplain and help the chaplain with anything they need done. Many chaplains make “rounds” to all the patients, but really wish they had time to spend with the one or two in crisis who really need attention. Volunteer to cover the rounds. While you are there think about your own mortality. Affirm what the patients say about their feelings.

Go to the place where we hide the poor (Shelter) Talk to people. Bring some food or something if that helps your guilt, but don’t let it excuse it. Feel your guilt. Know that everything you have was given my God and the roles could easily have been reversed. Learn from them about their exciting stories of survival in the jungle that you call a comfortable home. Treat them as people for what will probably be the first time. Ask them where their friends who are not in the shelter sleep and then go there, because only a select group go to the shelter.

Go to the place where they hide people of color (Ghetto) Talk to the people there. Realize they are mostly Christians. Seek their instruction in the ways of Jesus. Their context as a culture is different from yours and sees different things. Their context as a people who are not in power resembles the people of the bible more closely than your own people.

When you talk to all those people (and any others you can think of). As they express felt needs, apart from the need to be heard which I promise you they feel. Then and only then should you begin to up the challenge level as you craft service projects to begin to meet those expressed needs.

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April 6th, 2016 at 10:09 pm

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