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______________________ LIFE, FAITH, ETCETERA

The Year Of Living Biblically June 8, 2012



I have a friend who, concerning the word “biblical,” has stated “Oh my gosh, I hate that word!”
She’s a very astute young woman.
It’s a word that’s tossed about, misused, and frankly has come to mean little more than saying “God is on my side.  You loose.”
If, however, the word has ever been used correctly, A. J. Jacobs has done so in his book “The Year Of Living Biblically.  One man’s humble quest to follow the Bible as literally as possible.”

Here’s a blurb from Mr. Jacob’s website:

“The Year of Living Biblically answers the question: What if a modern-day American followed every single rule in the Bible as literally as possible. Not just the famous rules – the Ten Commandments and Love Thy Neighbor (though certainly those). But the hundreds of oft-ignored ones: don’t wear clothes of mixed fibers. Grow your beard. Stone adulterers. A.J. Jacobs’ experiment is surprising, informative, timely and funny. It is both irreverent and reverent. It seeks to discover what’s good in the Bible and what is maybe not so relevant to 21st century life. And it will make you see the Good Book with new eyes.
Thou shalt not put it down.”

This book was recommended to me.  Otherwise, I probably wouldn’t have read it.
Had I not, I would have missed out on an entertaining, fun, poignant, and quite strange journey.

Officially, Mr. Jacobs is Jewish.  He is, though, in his own words:
“Jewish like the Olive Garden is an Italian restaurant.  Which is to say, not very.”

Having never been a very religious man, A.J. wanted to explore religion and the Bible for himself.
There are many things he discovered that were not surprising.
For example, the fact that no one, absolutely no one, follows all of the Bible literally.
Everyone “picks and chooses.”
He finds, as expected, that, passage to passage, there are many contradictions within the pages of scripture.
He also marvels at how “these ethically advanced rules and these bizarre decrees  [can] be found in the same book.”
“It’s not like the Bible has a section called ‘And Now for some Crazy Laws.'”

There were also some results the author did not expect.

He began to enjoy prayer:
“Prayer can be a sacred ritual. There is something transcendent, beyond the everyday.”

He became a more thankful person:
“I’m actually muttering to myself, ‘Thank you. . .thank you. . . thank you.’ It’s an odd way to live. But also kind of great and powerful. I’ve never before been so aware of the thousands of little good things, the thousands of things that go right every day.”

And he experienced a new-found power in forgiveness:
“There’s a beauty to forgiveness, especially forgiveness that goes beyond rationality. Unconditional love is an illogical notion, but such a great & powerful one.”

A.J. spends his biblical year going through the Bible front to back.  Thus, he doesn’t get to “New Testament living” until the last 3rd or last quarter of the book (month 9 in his year).  When he makes the transition he faces a question many still find confusing.  “Should I continue to follow all the rules of the Hebrew Bible?”
Unfortunately, he didn’t ask me. 😉

In this portion, he looks at many brands of Christianity (There are reportedly almost forty-THOUSAND  Christian denominations), including “The Pat Robertson-Jerry Falwell- style,” of conservative fundamentalists, and the “Red Letter Christians” who focus on social justice, poverty, and the environment.  Both camps use the Bible, “but they come out with radically different agendas.”

Through the old and the new, A.J. Jacobs’ year-long adventure is anything but dull.  He lets his beard grow (which his wife is not terribly fond of), he wears all white. He visits and consults all manner of bible-based religious groups from the Jewish cultures to the Amish to the Catholic and many many others.
One of the best parts is when he actually “stones” an adulterer.

This is a fun and very different type of memoir.
Where ever you are in your journey of life, I think you’ll find great pleasure in letting Mr. Jacobs share his journey with you.

– df

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

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Some Quotes:

– More and more, I feel it’s important to look at the Bible with an open heart.

– I’ve rarely said the word “Lord,” unless it’s followed by “of the Rings.”

– The problem with a lot of religion…is that people have interpreted the Gospel so much, we’ve started to believe the interpretations instead of what Jesus said.

– Your behavior shapes your beliefs. If you act like a good person, you eventually become a better person. I wasn’t allowed to gossip, so eventually I started to have fewer petty thoughts to gossip about. I had to help the less fortunate, so I started to become less self-absorbed. I am not Gandhi or Angelina Jolie, but I made some progress.

– Falwell’s version of Christianity bears practically no relation to Jesus’s message.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

– The whole bible is the working out of the relationship between God and man. God is not a dictator barking out orders and demanding silent obedience. Were it so, there would be no relationship at all. No real relationship goes just one way. There are always two active parties. We must have reverence and awe for God, and honor for the chain of tradition. But that doesn’t mean we can’t use new information to help us read the holy texts in new ways.

– Polygamy was, if not the norm, completely accepted. The Bible doesn’t forbid polygamy.

– It comes back to the old question: How can the Bible be so wise in some places and so barbaric in others? And why should we put any faith in a book that includes such brutality?
[This is where, due to an unhealthy view of scripture, many Christians say something stupid like “It’s all about balance.”  Sorry.  Wrong answer.  Some things just can’t be balanced.]

– My reading list grows exponentially. Every time I read a book, it’ll mention three other books I feel I have to read. It’s like a particularly relentless series of pop-up ads.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

– The flood is such a tragic story — the drowning of millions of people and animals — and how strange it is that it’s always made into cute kids’ toys.

– Dr. Ralph Blair is a hardcore Christian evangelical. Ralph Blair is gay. And out-of-the-closet gay.

– Who are we to say that the Bible contained all the wisdom? You can commit idolatry on the Bible itself.

– Ancient Israelites didn’t have the clearly formed concept of immortality of the soul, as we do now.

– There is no scandal in supposing that Jesus married and had children. It is very doubtful historically, but not troubling theologically.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

– There are thousands of fundamentalists who want to set up a biblical government. They are the American Taliban.

– Never blame a text from the Bible for your behavior. It’s irresponsible.

– The idea that we can work with God to evolve the Bible’s meaning — it’s a thrilling idea.

– I need something specific…Beauty is a general thing. It’s abstract. I need to see a rose. When I see that Jesus embraced lepers, that’s a reason for me to embrace those with AIDS. If He embraced Samaritans, that’s a reason for me to fight racism.

– The year showed me beyond a doubt that everyone practices cafeteria religion. It’s not just the moderates. Fundamentalists do it to. But the more important lesson was this: There’s nothing wrong with choosing. Cafeterias aren’t bad per se. The key is choosing the right dishes.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.




 

“The Naked Gospel” February 9, 2010

“Conviction or Counsel?”

Convict means to find guilty.  The root convict only appears eight times in the Bible.  And not one of those appearances has anything to do with the daily life of the believer!  The gospel of John contains the only passage that joins “Holy Spirit” and “convict.”  [READ John 16:7-9]
Who’s being convicted here?  It’s the world, characterized as people who do not believe in Jesus.

[The Holy Spirit is] our Counselor, or Helper, our Comforter, our Advocate — and the one who guides us into all the truth (John 16:13).  He prays on our behalf (Romans 8:26).  And he testifies to us concerning our identity as children of God (Romans 8:16).  Rather than dredging up the past, the Holy Spirit trains us for the future.  When sinful behaviors occur in our lives, he reminds us of Jesus’ work on the cross.  We need to know that we’re pure and made for good deeds.  Too many Christians succumb to the Accuser while wrongly attributing these attacks to the conviction of the Holy Spirit.

Buy “The Naked Gospel” HERE.

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– My Review:

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Yet another great addition to my library. 
With all the ground that has been covered by previous readings, this book managed to cover new ground.  It really helps show how religion has added so much to the gospel that the true gospel is considered heresy by much of the “church.”  It’s amazing how far we’ve fallen from truth.
One of my favorite sections is called “Crossing The Line.”  It, alone is worth the price of the book.  It discussed how the dividing line of time, and covenants, was not Christ’s  birth, but his death and resurrection.  I, of course, knew this, but I hadn’t considered the full ramifications; especially concerning the teachings of Jesus under the Old Covenant.
There are some areas that are at opposition with my personal beliefs.  Andrew believes, like many, that Father-Son briefly lost fellowship at the cross. Despite what Jesus felt on the cross, the Father didn’t turn His back on Jesus.  God cannot turn God’s back on God’s self.  (For a great understanding of this, read “He Loves Me” by Wayne Jacobsen.)
But, reading a book like this, and disagreeing with one or two points is no big deal.  I will add this to the short  list of books that I will give away multiple copies of.

I can see why earlier versions of this type of material were banned and burned by organized religion, and why the promoters of said material were tortured and killed.  Of course, Jesus was tortured and killed for pretty much the same reasons.   Anyway, thank you, Andrew Farley.

— dave
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Here are more excerpts from “The Naked Gospel,” by Andrew Farley

Buy “The Naked Gospel” HERE.

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“Jesus spoke truth to every audience he encountered. [But]We often attempt to apply directly to our lives every word Jesus said, without considering his audience and purpose. Jesus was born under the law. His audience was under the law, and they needed deliverance from it. Jesus exposed the futility of life under the law.

He exclaimed, “Gouge out your eye” and “cut off your hand” if you truly want to keep the law (Matthew 5:29-30), so that his Jewish listeners would reach a crossroad. They would decide to try harder or to give up. Once they gave up, they could consider a radical new way.
Jesus’ impossible teachings of “sell everything, sever body parts if necessary, be perfect like God, and surpass the Pharisees with your righteousness” are not honestly compatible with salvation as a gift from God.
Couldn’t we resolve all of this by realizing the dividing line in human history? Peter, James, John, and Paul wrote epistles about life under the New Covenant. Years earlier, Jesus was teaching hopelessness under the Old. The audience wasn’t the same. The covenant wasn’t the same. And the teachings aren’t the same.

Jesus’ harsh teaching aimed at the religious kill you every time. One thing about distinguishing the Old from the New – it always liberates.
Jesus was born under the law. As Hebrews tells us, the Old wasn’t replaced by the New until Jesus’ death.
Trying to mix Jesus’ teachings directed to Pharisees and zealous Jews with the epistles will inevitably result in confusion.

Buy “The Naked Gospel” HERE.

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“There is no greater test as to whether a man is really preaching the New Testament gospel of salvation than this, that some people might misunderstand it and misinterpret it to mean that it really amounts to this, that because you are saved by grace alone it does not matter at all what you do; you can go on sinning as much as you like because it will redound all the more to the glory of grace.  If my preaching and presentation does not expose it to that misunderstanding, then it is not the gospel…There is this kind of dangerous element about the true presentation of the doctrine of salvation.” – D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. –
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One hindrance to understanding the real gospel as life restoration is an obsession with “book knowledge.”  The life of Jesus in us is what matters most.  We shouldn’t equate “Bible smarts” with spiritual maturity.  They’re certainly not one and the same.  As in Jesus’ day, it’s often those who are puffed up about their good handle on what the Scriptures say (not what they mean!) who resist the counsel of the Holy Spirit.
(Jonh 5:39-40).

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Buy “The Naked Gospel” HERE.
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Adam and Eve didn’t eat from a “tree of evil.”  They ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  They weren’t pursuing sin as we normally think of it.  They were pursuing a form of godliness.  God never intended for humanity to take upon itself the burden of developing and following a code of ethics.  Adam and Eve reconsidered their confidence in God’s way and opted for morality instead.
Today, we can be deceived by the same offer.  We may find ourselves pursuing the knowledge of good instead of listening to our heartfelt yearning for an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ.
Fulfilling the law is something that God did in Christ.  Its fulfillment isn’t an ongoing event in the lives of believers today.  God set us free from the law, so that we’re not under it or supervised by it (Galatians 3:25).
The Holy Spirit isn’t motivating us to keep the Mosaic law, nor do I think we should consult the law as our guide in daily living.  This is why we have the Holy Spirit in us instead:  “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law” (Galatians 5:18).  Furthermore, if God were motivating us to adhere to the law, it would be the entire law, not just part of it (James 2:10). [By the way, God did write His laws on our hearts, not the law of Moses.  God’s law, according to Jesus, is “love God, love people.”]
I believe it’s quite clear that believers should have no relationship with the law.  Romans 7 explains that we’ve died to the law, and we’re now married to Another.  God views a return to law-based living as spiritual adultery.  Living by rules is cheating on Jesus!
Christianity was never rooted in the Law, not even in the Ten Commandments.  The commandments aren’t intended to supervise Christians (Galatians 2:19).   In fact, the law causes more sinning (Romans 7:5,8).
Paul warns that if we add even a pinch of law to our life in Christ, He’ll be of no value to us (Galatians 5:2-3).  It’s preposterous for Christians to adopt portions of the law of Moses as our guide for living.  We’re presuming that God grades on a curve.  But the law is completely incompatible with our attempt to “do our best.”  Law is a pass-fail system.  And one strike means you’re out.  The law only breeds two things: defeat if you’re honest and hypocrisy if you’re not.

[I’ve always heard people say “I know we can’t keep the law, but we should try and do our best.”  WHAT?!?!?  Scripture never says “Try to keep the law.”  It never says “Do your best.”  It says “Keep it all.  Period.”  The very scriptures they quote completely negate their proposal.  Neither do the Scriptures teach that we do what we can and Jesus does the rest.  God didn’t say that to make us try harder, but to raise the bar so high, we can never do it.  Thank God, Jesus did it for us.]
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Buy “The Naked Gospel” HERE.
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Christ is the end of the law (Romans 10:4).
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Buy “The Naked Gospel” HERE.
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Sure, the flesh is delighted to coerce us toward obvious evil.  But the flesh is equally satisfied to initiate religious or moral living admired by others!
Don’t believe for a minute that the flesh is limited in its scope to producing ugly behavior.  The flesh will build any kind of identity, as long as it gains love, attention, and acceptance from someone.
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The Sabbath:  The reality is Christ, and a genuine Sabbath-rest is found in Him; ceasing from the dead works we thought would gain us favor with God.
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The Tithe:  The same law that mandates a tithe doesn’t allow the pastor to own a home, own property, or own possessions.
(Also read “Tithing and Clergy Salaries.”  Click HERE.)
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Buy “The Naked Gospel” HERE.

 

 
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