Luther Decade Newsletter

I haven’t said anything in a long time about the Luther Decade celebration that is going to culminate in October, 2017, even though I have a dedicated page on this webpage. Since I just received a newsletter from the headquarters for this 500 year anniversary, I thought I’d copy it here. Please be aware that this is an English translation generated by computer from German.

Luther Decade newsletter

Luther Decade newsletter 2

Dear Readers,

Two years before the Jubilee 2017 assume the plans to the festivities shape and make the Luther Decade and Reformation for all alive. With this newsletter we inform you about plans and projects in the theme year “Reformation – Image and Bible” – and many other more!

We hope you will enjoy reading.

Nationwide school campaign: “Reformation – language – Media”

Together promoted the reading ambassador and Let’s Dance juror Motsi Mabuse and the head of the State office “Luther 2017″, Stefan Zowislo, at the education fair didacta in Hanover for a school campaign very special: it stands under the motto “Reformation – language – Media “ and of the “brought Reading Foundation” and the State office “Luther 2017″ nationwide on the way. It particularly asked the creativity of students. Because reading is to come the Contribute: Based on the Luther Rose competition invites “My day “(the digital age Greetings!) a to design an own distinctive sign.

Dedicated countries – for example, Bavaria and Rhineland-Palatinate

The Bavarian Minister of Education Dr. Ludwig Spaenle is located at the signing of the cooperation agreement Bavarian State Exhibition 2017 Coburg safe: Bavaria is perceived “as a central place of the history of the Reformation and the Catholic renewal”. Malu Dreyer – of course … – their view of things: “Rhineland-Palatinate than any other country in Western Germany boast central places of memory of the early Reformation” – the Prime Minister at the opening event for the exhibition series “The upheaval of the times” in Mainz.

So you walk about everywhere, warm for the great jubilee year. And for visitors from near and far, the table is laid for you and they can – whether now in the theme year “Reformation – Image and Bible” or even in 2017 – following in the footsteps of Martin Luther across Germany!

The theme year “Reformation – Image and Bible” goes around …

After the nationwide opening on Reformation Day 2014 in Hamburg it was in January 2015 in Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia so far: representatives of the provincial and the local churches opened the theme year “Reformation – Image and Bible” While in. Zwickau (Saxony) significant for the   First National Special Exhibition in Torgau was advertised (from May 2015), was in Lutherstadt Wittenberg (Saxony-Anhalt) and Neustadt an der Orla (Thüringen) the work of the “two Cranach” in focus.

“Luther 2017″ at the ITB

From 4 to 8 March, “Luther 2017″ at this year’s International Tourism Exchange (ITB) to be represented “under the roof” of the German National Tourist Office in Berlin. Please have a look in Hall 12 at stand number 102 over. We look forward to you! – And also the common “Country Hall” of Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia (Hall 11.2) is worth a visit in terms of Luther.

News Ticker “Before and behind the scenes”

+++ At the Leipzig Book Fair is the subject Reformation addressed in several ways: with the motto “The Value of Values: Reformation – Image and Bible” discussed the podium on 12 March, the importance of the Reformation as a media event (reading religion Island, Hall 3, Booth 200, 12-13 clock) +++ The Evangelical Press Association has the creative Competition “World Religions” +++ started After extensive renovation work the end of April Miihlberger Museum opens its doors in Brandenburg +++ Since March 1, the branch of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) in Wittenberg is a dual leadership led +++ The website www.luther2017.de is currently undergoing a Frischkur. End of April to see more +++

And also …

… There are now also available as Martin Luther Playmobil figure. Not even ten inches tall, he wears in the hands of spring and the Bible. Who wants to buy a figure (probably end of April) has yet to wait for the second edition: Because within 72 hours, all characters were already sold out.

 

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The Death of Individualism

 

     I’m getting ready to plant another garden this year. I’ve started turning over the soil so all the leaves and compost can breakdown to add nutrients and texture to the soil. I bought some seeds—snap peas, green beans, okra, peppers, zucchini, tomatoes, and more. It’s a great time of year. When there’s no danger of frost, I’ll lay them to rest them in the earth.

 MustardSeed    Today, the seeds have a hard outer surface. It’s dry. It prevents the living seed that dwells within from bursting forth. That hard, outer covering separates the potential life within from the potential for producing fruits in the world.

     A hard outer covering is what makes a seed an individual seed. As an individual, it is unable to experience growth and produce good fruits. Only when the seed is buried, humbled, covered, and surrounded with the earth, will the verdant life within it stand a chance to be released.

     The hard covering must be softened and discarded before any life within it is going to germinate and grow.

     What is that hard covering that surrounds you and me that makes us think we are individuals, separate and different from everyone else? Pride? Ignorance? False information? Whatever it is, it prevents/blinds us from seeing ourselves as part of one body.

     If the Aramaic name for God (alaha) is true to its meaning, then God’s name is Unity or Oneness. It gives a whole new meaning to the phrase, the kingdom of Unity (God). God’s intent and desire for creation is for it to exist in Unity, in God.

     Clinging to individualism must die for all things to work together in unity. The barriers that prevent unity must be softened and discarded.

     No growth or life happens while the seeds sit in the paper packages on my shelf. Even if I place the seeds on top of the ground where all can see them for their individual natures, no growth will happen. There are too many external factors like sun, wind, and birds that will prevent them from germinating.

     It’s only when the seed is covered over with soil, earth, dirt—united with the dirt and moisture and warmth of the earth—that the hard covering can be softened, the individualism lost, and the life that waits within can be freed.

     When Jesus said, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life, lose (destroy, perish) it, and those who hate (indifferent) their life in this world will keep (guard, preserve) it unto (through/by/in) eternal life”( John 12:24-26).

     In biblical days, eternal life was the quality of life God intended for you and I to experience. Eternal life happens in this life. It’s a life lived in unity, in shared communion, with the people and environment around us. For it’s only when we recognize our oneness that we will begin in compassion to blend our lives and possessions with each other.

     Until a person dies to those things that encapsulate her or him as an individual seed, separate instead of one with his or her neighbor, he or she will sit in a package on the shelf or on the top of the ground waiting to be pecked at by life. And the potential for eternal life will remain dormant or be destroyed.

     The death of individualism brings unity and life.

 

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11 Ways to Receive Eternal Life

 

     Eternal life is one of my favorite topics. And it’s one of the most difficult to get across. I preached and taught about it for eleven years. And still, if you ask people in my congregation “what is eternal life?” many would probably tell you it’s heaven after you die.

     If you’ve been taught eternal life is “heaven” for sixty or seventy years, you won’t depart from that thinking. It’s the bedrock of your faith. And that’s okay if you don’t mind waiting until you die for eternal life.

     Many people have been taught the only way to get to heaven is to believe in Jesus. And this faith is a gift rather than something you do.

     On the other hand, there are many ways to receive eternal life…at least, according to the New Testament. Here’s a partial list I found for things you can do to receive eternal life.

(1) Those who believe in Jesus. This is the number one reason given by the Christian tradition. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life” (John 3:16). Believing is often taught as the ONLY thing necessary to receive eternal life. But that may not be completely accurate.

(2) Those who obey the commandments.  A certain ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him… You know the commandments: ‘You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; Honor your father and mother.’” (Luke 18:18-20). Contrary to those who don’t say you can’t do anything to receive eternal life, yes, it’s important to do something – or at least, “do no harm.” But don’t be foolish and claim that you’ve actually followed all the commandments, because it’s not possible to do it perfectly. You’ll see this in answer 3(b.)

(3) Those who leave everything and follow Jesus. We know St. Francis and St. Ignatius and Martin Luther literally left everything to follow him. Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age—houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields, with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life” (Mark 10:28-30).

     And another proof: He [a certain ruler from #2] replied, “I have kept all these [commandments] since my youth.” When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “There is still one thing lacking. Sell all that you own and distribute the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me” (Luke 18:18-22). See my brand new ebook about treasures in heaven – it’s 99 cents until Saturday.

(4) Those who love God and their neighbor. Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”  He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live” (Luke 10:25-28). But you have to love them a lot!

(5) Those to whom the Son wants to give it. “You have given [the Son] authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him” (John 17:2). We can assume Jesus will give eternal life to those who follow him, but he has the option to give it to anyone he chooses.

(6) Those who know the only true God, and Jesus. “And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3). To “know” God is to understand or even to experience God. Can anyone understand an inconceivable God? It’s a good thing this isn’t the only option. But it sounds like if you know God now, you don’t have to die to possess eternal life.

(7) Those who can hear/distinguish Jesus’s voice. “My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:27). There are many voices in the world. And many voices not saying the same things from church pulpits. Which one is the voice of Jesus?

(8) Those who follow Jesus’s teachings (i.e., words). “Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). Jesus’s words included things like “love your enemies,” “do not repay evil with evil,” and “don’t be angry with anyone.”

(9) Those who are destined or ordained to believe (the elect) will receive eternal life.

And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed” (Acts 13:48). We can’t leave out the Presbyterians, some are chosen.

(10) Those who participate in Holy Communion. “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life” (John 6:54). The sacramental denominations benefit by this option. Except that this is a metaphor for doing the things Jesus did with compassion and love rather than a religious ritual.

(11) Those who do good works. This one is swept under the rug by those who think works aren’t what help you receive eternal life. “Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life” (1 Tim. 6:18-19). You play a big role in securing eternal life for yourself.

     Well, there are more, but that’s enough for one blog. I didn’t even include the verses I found that referred to everlasting life—which is the same thing as eternal life.

     There are many ways to receive eternal life. And even with grace, you have a big part to play in receiving it.

     I’ve explained about eternal life several other times. The short version is that for the first century writers, the term eternal life meant “the quality of life God wants for you to have in this life.”

     Type “eternal life” in the search box at the top right corner of this blog and you’ll find the blogs I’ve already explained it. They’ll explain more what the New Testament means by “eternal life.”

     Go through the list again and insert the new meaning in place of eternal life and see if the passages open up and mean something more.

 

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Treasures in Heaven – New Ebook

 

FINAL COVER

     For the next ten days (until March 14) I’ll be pricing my new ebook, How To Store Up Treasures in Heaven and Enjoy Them in Your Life Today, on Amazon for 99ȼ. After that, I’ll be raising the price in order to jump through some Amazon hoops to get into one of their promotion venues. But let me tell you a little about this new book.

     For fifty years of my life, I was given the impression that working hard, following the rules faithfully, sacrificing some good times and self-indulgences (is that a bad word to use during Lent?) – this is what would make me feel more worthy or justified (and yes, I am steeped in the Lutheran and Augustinian theology of guilt and inborn shame) of spending eternity in a good place.

     Then I became a preacher. This gave me the ability to study the Bible (and meditate) and learn more than I was ever taught prior to that. In fact, my education and study didn’t stop when I finished four years of seminary. Seminary was in-depth variations of the same things I’d been taught for fifty years.

     But none of that satisfied some of the questions about things that didn’t have answers that made sense. Faith—was about trusting the church’s explanations (as determined by 4th century with a few [like 30,000 denominational] alterations)—when you don’t understand.

     So, is it true that God has a wonderful place waiting for everyone who believes what their current spiritual guru, i.e., preacher, says will get them there? Is there a city with streets of gold and mansions of precious gemstones – which are earthly treasures – are they in heaven waiting for all of us who are washed in the blood of Jesus?

     How the heck do I know? Fortunately, that’s not in most churches’ requirements (although in the Bible belt it might be) for getting through the pearly gates. I believe there’s a good place for us to go when we die but I don’t trust the materialistic images that appeal to human desires.

     Instead, what I’ve learned from my extracurricular studies and meditations is that we’re not supposed to be so focused on the afterlife. Jesus said “don’t worry about tomorrow” much less about your death which is probably years away. Jesus said [in fact they were his first words that began his preaching ministry in the Gospels of Matthew (4:17) and Mark (1:15)], “Repent (change your thinking), for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

     This message was so important that in Matthew and in Luke, Jesus was always leaving the unending job of healing the sick in order to teach about the kingdom of God/heaven…the kingdom that is at hand, not the one that is in the after-life.

     I think this is part of the problem of the church today. It’s always trying to help people to enter a good life once they’re dead rather than showing them how to participate in the life God has blessed them with today.

     One of the questions I always had that the church never answered was, “Okay, I understand that I shouldn’t be focused on storing up earthly treasures that can temporarily satisfy some earthly cravings, but how do I store up treasures in heaven?”

     What I’ve discovered is that God wants you and me to enjoy all the heavenly treasures today, in this life—without guilt (after all, Jesus took our guilt upon himself). We don’t have to wait until we die to enjoy heavenly treasures.

     In my book, as short as it is, you read about seventeen actions that will keep you from inheriting the kingdom of God. It’s true. They’re listed in the Bible. I don’t know how theologians and preachers can dance around them and say, “But, if you confess……then you don’t have to worry about these anymore.”

      I’m telling you, these seventeen actions will keep you out of the kingdom of God no matter what you confess with your mouth and believe in your heart on Sunday morning.

     Then I reveal nine heavenly treasures that are all around you. They are so abundant – the fields are ripe for the harvest, but there are so few workers. I explain how you can claim them and enjoy them as you’re working your way through this life. And there’s a thousand year old technique that will help you begin storing these treasures so you can be blessed by them immediately.

 Vikiana-Fivrr    So there’s a lot packed into the forty-two pages of this ebook. I hope you’ll take advantage of this new release in the next ten days so you can get How To Store Up Treasures in Heaven and Enjoy Them in Your Life Today on Amazon at the introductory price of 99ȼ.

     And if you do happen to like what you read, it would really be a blessing to me if you would write an honest review (NOT mentioning that you’re my best friend, of course – that never helps sell a book!) that suggests it might be a good read for others. Thanks!

 

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The Kingdom Comes with Power

 

     Jesus seems to have talked in circles. He said something in Mark 9:1 that has confounded people for a long time. It doesn’t seem to make sense.  The way it’s usually translated is like this: And [Jesus] said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power.”

     Most people, including myself until now, believe the kingdom of God isn’t going to come until after they die. How could Jesus say some of his disciples would see the kingdom BEFORE they died? And it will have come with power!

     There’s an easy answer. I won’t say it’s a mistranslation, however, it could have been translated another way for us to understand.

     First of all, you have to understand that the kingdom of God is not about “life-after-you-die.” The kingdom of God is a today thing. It took me 181 pages to explain it in this book. I’ll give you the last page cliff note here. When Jesus said the kingdom of God is at hand, he meant, The creative, driving force toward harmony and the working together of all things is at hand.” Once you understand this, a lot of things change in interpretation.

     What about “coming with power?” The Greek word for “power” is dunamis. The official definition from a Greek concordance is this—

natural capability, inherent power; capability of anything, ability to perform anything; then, absolutely, not merely power capable of action, but, power in action.

     Not power as in “strength” or “great force.” Power in action.

     There would be some disciples that would not taste death until they had seen the creative driving force toward harmony and unity come in, with, and through the actions of people laying down their lives for the benefit of others.

Now that I’ve become a hospice volunteer, I’m meeting other volunteers who’ve been giving up a few hours of their lives each week (and doing it for years!) to serve patients and families in a time of need. The volunteers keep saying, “I get more out of this than the people I’m trying to help.”

     If you look at the verses that preceded and set up his statement, Jesus had been telling them that they would gain their lives if they deny themselves and take up their crosses to follow him (his example). “For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.”

     You give up your life by serving others rather than serving yourself. God’s power put into action in/with/through your hands. And it brings the kingdom of God to others. Peace, hope, love, harmony to their body, mind, and spirit.

     Ultimately, you’ll reap what you sow. When you bring the kingdom to others, you will reap it yourself, bringing a greater quality of life to you than any amount of money or fame could ever do.

     The Kingdom of God comes in/with/through your actions.

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The Gospel According to Jesus

 

     The word “gospel” in Christian circles has developed a meaning of its own that goes beyond the original definition. This impacts the way people understand it.

     Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel… (I’m basing this post on the words of Mark 1:14-15)

     In this century, many Christians have been conditioned to believe that the “gospel” has something to do with Jesus dying on a cross as a sacrifice for sin. It might mean that elsewhere in Paul’s letters, but probably not here.

     I just like to keep things simple by applying a layperson’s definition that isn’t packed full of 4th through 21st century theology so I can try to understand what people in the first century might have heard.

     Translators converted the Greek word euangelion (Strong’s 2098) into “gospel.” The definition for it is “good tidings.” Jesus came preaching good tidings.

     Good tidings of what? There’s some debate about this.

     It depends upon which ancient Greek text you use.  You see, not all ancient texts agree with each other. Does it make a difference? No, not really. Because every translation from Greek is an interpretation of what Jesus said in Aramaic anyway…and that makes it very gray.

     So gray in fact that I so wanted to title this post – The Gospel of God in 50 Shades of Grey. But I resisted.

     As black and white as we want to think the words in the Bible are – without any areas of gray – the truth is that it’s all gray. It’s all gray because we don’t have the original texts from Greek (they are all copies of copies) and we don’t have it in the words of the original language in which much of it was spoken. I’ve come to find out that we don’t even understand the mindset of the Hebrew/Aramaic speaking people of that age.

     We simply have to do our best to interpret what we’ve been given in the light of what we trust about Jesus and God.

     Good tidings to me are things that bring delight. When I’m hungry, it’s good tidings to hear that dinner is ready. When I’m tired, it’s good tidings to hear that I have a warm, sheltered bed to sleep in. When I’m cold, it’s good tidings to hear someone say, “Wrap this blanket around you.”

     It’s good tidings to me to hear that God is good, all the time. I don’t have to worry about anything I do today because the Creator might stop allowing the rain and sunshine to fall on me. I simply have to be smart enough to worry about the natural consequences that come with disrupting harmony in the world.

     The translations that use the NU ancient Greek text tell us that Jesus preached “the good tidings of God.” Those translations who chose to use a different popular ancient text tell us that Jesus preached the good tidings of “the kingdom of” God. Does that make a difference? Not to me. Both are good tidings.

     The first words out of Jesus’s mouth in the first canonical Gospel written might be equated to “God is good — all the time.” Jesus preached the good tidings of God. That was quite a radical thing to declare. Jesus’s message was different from centuries of tradition that portrayed God as someone that needed to be feared for what might be done to you.

     The Aramaic speaking people of Jesus’s day did not fear that God would burn them forever if they were bad. That’s wasn’t part of their theology or mindset. The concept of “hell” developed when Christianity spread and started getting mixed with the ideas of Greeks and Roman mythology.

     Yet many Jews did fear a God who got angry and killed people when they were disobedient. It wasn’t perpetual torture after death they feared. But they did fear a God who could quickly snuff you out if you got out of line.

     Jesus came and preached good tidings of God.

     Then he said, “The opportunity has come. The kingdom of God is at hand.” (You know I can’t let this opportunity slide by  – you can read about it here.)

     The Aramaic word for God (alaha) means unity. The kingdom of unity (or the creative development of unity) is within your grasp.”

     “Repent, and believe in the good tidings.”

     I’ve said it lots of times, and it bears repeating because you’ve heard it so many more times as meaning “be sorry.” Repent (not the English word, but the Greek word – metanoia) means “change your mind” or “turn away” or “change the way you think.”

     Stop thinking God is ready, poised, and waiting to hurt you. (A spiritual law is already in place that covers this – you’ll reap what you sow.)

     Trust the good tidings about God. This is the gospel Jesus came and proclaimed.

 

 

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50 Shades of Hunger

 

The big news is that 50 Shades of Grey is packing the movie theaters of America today. Maybe that’s okay. I don’t know. It certainly titillates the sexual impulses of American culture. Our local theaters are charging $9.15 a pop for entry. It’s the talk of the town and nation.

Colminy School in Haiti     For a tad bit more money, $3.85 more to be exact, (a grand total of $13.00), you could feed fifty children who may not have received a meal in 24 hours a healthy, nourishing bowl of beans and rice.

If as many people who bought tickets to feed their physical desires by attending this movie on this Valentine’s Day weekend (some estimate $60 million from movie goers), decided to spend another $3.85 on top of a movie ticket, to help 50 children fill their aching stomachs, they could provide 230 million meals for children in Haitian schools.

I took these pictures of children in Colminy School in Haiti when I went there in 2011. My church sponsors this school and has fed the children there every school year since 2004. At the rate of 26 cents per meal, it’s a ministry that touches our hearts.0 - 50 shades 4

One of Haiti’s big problems is illiteracy. Children who are hungry cannot mentally absorb what they are being taught. When they are given at least one meal every day, they are able to learn and grow in their physical, mental, and spiritual capacities.

The population of Haiti is 10.3 million. 34% are under the age of 14. That makes 3.5 million children. 230 million meals would feed every child in Haiti a nutritious meal at school for 13 weeks.

That’s from the single opening weekend revenues of 50 Shades of Grey.

I don’t care if you go to see the movie. It may make for a pleasurable afternoon or evening for you.

But why not, in addition, consider helping fifty shades of hunger in children in Haiti by donating $13 (or more) through Trinity/HOPE Inc, a non-profit organization based in Lebanon, TN?

Ninety-eight percent of your money will go toward feeding children and helping an impoverished neighbor country to pull itself out of illiteracy and poverty.

It doesn’t have much sex appeal, but it might make your heart happy.

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The Word “God”

 

     How would you like to start a little controversy? Mention in passing in your Christian community that the name or word “God” (Theos) was taken from the heathen. I personally use the word “heathen” loosely because it merely refers to anyone who is trying to figure out the design of life in a way different from Christians, Jews, or Muslims, who each think the conclusions of their forefathers can be the only truth. Many believe it deeply enough that they’re still trying to eradicate each other.

     Theos comes from the Sanskrit root, DIU-S which means (1) fire, the sun (when masculine), (2) a ray of light, day (when feminine), or (3) the sky, heaven (when neuter). This definition comes from the Greek concordance (theos – Strong’s #2316) at the website, Great Treasures, where I research various words and phrases from the New Testament.

     The formal definition adds this: Wherever the Sun shines in the world he has been or is, worshipped as God, because he gives light to Heaven and life to earth; and heaven was in turn worshipped as the abode of the Sun, but the object of adoration was Light and Life, or heaven either as the abode of the Sun, or as personified. Then DIAUS was the procreating or generative power dwelling in heaven. The Father of light and life. Out of that came the Latin, DEUS.

photo by Stephanie Lynn

     “The object of adoration was Light and Life.”

     “The Father of light and life.”

     I was taught that heathen literally worship the ball of fire in the sky we call the sun. But that’s merely an image or personification like the word “Father” is an image to Christians. I don’t doubt that some primitive pagans think of the sun literally as the object they are worshipping. But that’s no different than many Christians who think they are worshipping a literal “father” that is male and subject to human emotion.

     People don’t need a book to tell them that something Much Greater and Wiser has designed this incredible creation. And that should give people a reason to take the time to think about it. Think about it – that’s what the brain is for – not just read and blindly accept what someone two thousand years ago thought about it.

     Unfortunately, there have been many throughout the centuries who found it convenient to destroy entire nations simply because a nation searched for the answers to Light and Life in ways different from the invaders’ forefathers—the closest to home being the American Indian.

     What people do in the name of God is, and has been, god-awful. “Father forgive them. They know not what they do.”

     Yet it’s rarely for Light and Life that people kill others. Usually it’s a righteous excuse to take their land and possessions. Darkness rules their hearts rather than Light.

     The Greek word for “father” (pater) means “the originator of life.” It was applied to the male parent because the people of antiquity believed only the male was responsible for life. The female was simply the incubator for the seed. Jesus prayed to the Originator of Life.

     Jesus also said he is the light of the world. He is like a ray of light, and if you follow his example and teaching, it will help generate new life for you in this world…today…not just when you’re dead.

     You know, if we started substituting the word “Light” or “Life” into the Bible in place of the word “God,” I think people might begin to develop a broader, more spiritually mature notion of God. Why don’t you give it a try? It might even help you form some conclusions that deviate from what your forefathers (I mean fore-originators-of-life) have taught you.

 

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Healing Illness or Casting Out Demons?

 

     Jesus was a great healer. He was capable of casting out demons. The wise men, through methods traditionally condemned by institutional religion, knew of his birth. They brought him expensive healings oils. Somehow they were convinced this would be part of his calling in life.

demon portrait     Jesus taught his disciples to cast out demons, too. He said they would do greater things than he had done. Few people today think they could even do the things Jesus did, much less greater things. Who could have more power than the Son of God?

     There are other possibilities that should be considered when hearing biblical stories about demons and devils so that they don’t prey on the emotions of readers and preachers.

     Demons are emotion generators. If you can stir the people’s emotions, you can control them. I sometimes wonder if some leaders in all the religious traditions think this is their calling—to control the sheep rather than to assist and develop them in their return to the image  in which they were first made.

     I dealt in greater detail about demons in my blog post about how to cast out demons and unclean spirits. Demons are the stuff of mythology and fear. We teach it to our children.

     The story of the serpent in the garden has a lot to do with that. Neil Douglas-Klotz says in Genesis, the Hebrew word is not the word for snake. Klotz interprets the word Nahash as having a deeper meaning. He says the word stands for and can be translated as “the aspect of a person’s mind that winds around itself, that becomes self-involved, that’s greedy or selfish.” (The Genesis Meditations, p. 202). That sounds a lot like human nature.

     But the garden is a visual story that teaches a deeper meaning—like an Aesop’s Fable uses animals to get its point across. Try to tell that to a Bible literalist. It’s more memorable to keep perpetuating an emotional image that offers a false impression of what the story in the garden represents if you want to gain power over people whose emotions are on alert.

   Unfortunately, many stories in the Bible perpetuate the fears and ignorance of the past. Ignorance isn’t a bad thing. It’s the absence of knowledge. Ignorance becomes a bad thing when you don’t correct the misunderstanding. Learning should drive out ignorance.

     In Mark 1:29-39, there are several passages that mention “devils.” The story concludes with, he preached in their synagogues throughout all Galilee, and cast out devils.

     To stop the text there leaves out the example Mark provides to show one of the “devils” he cast out. That’s a very common literary tactic of the gospels writers. One story leads into the next. In the next story, Jesus casts out the devil of leprosy (a skin disease).

     Jesus used what he had at his disposal. Sometimes he used healing oils like olive oil, Frankincense, myrrh, and golden balsam. Sometimes he may have used the healing properties of other kinds of plants, you know, like Echinacea or stinging nettle. Sometimes he calmed their upset spirits. He laid hands on people and used the unquantifiable energy of healing touch that many are using today.

     In another blog post I gave instructions on 4 easy ways to cast out demons based on some of this same information talking about many different kinds of powers that can overwhelm you. And I gave the Greek definitions for the word translated too often as demons and devils.

     To the people of the first century who had no explanations for this behavior, why wouldn’t they think someone was under the influence of a demon or evil spirit?

     To the people of the 21st century, who have discovered many of the causes for disease, perpetuating a first century (and maybe more like a fourth through tenth century), fear-based understanding of physical and mental illness is clinging to the ignorance of the past.

     Jesus demonstrated that healing is a significant part of the kingdom of heaven that I explained in chapter ten of my book, The Kingdom of Heaven is for Real and It’s Open to Everyone!

     I think it’s time to de-mythologize the Bible in this subject matter of demons so we can remove the emotion and fear from it. Jesus will still get the credit and honor for the exceptional work of healing he performed. And you might begin to believe he knew you too are capable of the same kinds of healing actions that restore people to health.

     What do you think?

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A New Path

 

   Okay, I’m going to head down a new path and do something new. I’ve gotten bored with trying to give insight into the weekly lectionary as an assist to any clergy that might be reading this blog. At this point, I don’t know if any are reading it since I don’t get any feedback.

     Therefore, I’m going to do some shorter messages based on what fascinates me — substituting new words into Gospel and NT texts that are viable alternatives to the traditionally sanctioned words. When I do this, it often broadens, deepens, and even changes the meaning of the text for me.

     I believe there is a possibility that the earliest translators of the Bible into English (God bless their efforts) were products of their tradition. They worked hard at repeating 4th century theologies in English. Merely converting Latin to English cost a couple of people their lives. To change the way the church interpreted the text would have been less acceptable.

     Every one of us was given a foundational theology that formed our initial beliefs. Those beliefs were not chosen by us, they were given to us to believe. How can a six year old argue with what he or she was told about God?

     “Don’t steal that cookie, God’s watching you!” (and will punish you if you do).

     God drowned all the bad people in the flood because they were disobedient.

     God figured out a way to satisfy God’s need for justice, so he sent the Son of God to be murdered.

     Every translator of the Bible who’s consumed these “truths” by the tradition will find a way to repeat that theology with words that fit his or her theological foundation…even though there are other options available.

      It’s good for children to start out with some foundation of teaching that prevents them from hurting themselves and others. But one day, after reaching the age of maturity, they are going to be expected to sort out the good information from the bad information as I explained here.

     As Martin Luther said in his sermon on John 10:1-11, the sheep must judge for themselves about that which is laid before them.  He reminded us that Jesus said the sheep know which is the right voice to follow. The sheep not only have the right to choose what beliefs they follow, but that makes them responsible for their own eternal life…so they’d better take it personally and seriously.

     Do people really think that the Judge is going to accept this excuse: “But Lord, that’s what the church told me I was supposed to believe…” Will the Judge listen to grown adults pleading with childish excuses for why they followed the wrong voice?

     The difficult part is trying to figure out what’s influenced more by mythology and tradition than by what the gospel writers intended. That’s all I’m trying to figure out.

     That’s why I’m going to pick out words in the gospels texts and offer supplementary options – then it will be your responsibility to sort through the net of information and choose what helps you live the quality of life God wants for you today.

     I suppose that’s what my next post on this new path will have to be about – “demons” which shows up in the Mark 1:29-39 text. I hope you’ll join me.

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