3 Things Jesus Did that Blew People’s Minds (B186)

When you grow up learning about Jesus, he seems like a normal guy. Perhaps nicer than the rest of us, but basically mainstream. This is because whatever you grow up with seems normal. But nothing could be further from the truth. Jesus shocked and awed people all the time. Jesus’ kindness was eye-popping and boundary shattering,

1. Jesus spoke with outcasts.

There was nobody that Jesus wouldn’t speak with. Earlier this week I wrote a bit about Jesus speaking with a Samaritan woman at a well around noon. (CLICK HERE for the full post: Avoid These 3 Mistakes When Reading the Bible (B183)) This woman was an outcast. She was at the well alone. really-02The well is usually a communal spot. She was alone because it was noon. This means she has chosen not to be around the other women of her town because water was usually drawn in the morning. A typical Jewish male would identify her as a Samaritan and a woman, which is two more strikes against her. Yet Jesus not only speaks with her but asks her to draw him some water. Jesus’ disciples returned near the end of Jesus’ conversation. The Bible tells us they were “surprised to find him talking with a woman.” (CLICK HERE to read the entire account as recorded in John 1:1-42)

Jesus spoke with a woman caught in adultery. (And where was the man??) Jesus spoke with a pharisee who snuck out to see him at night. Jesus spoke with demon-possessed people. Jesus was conversationally open. He drew no boundaries for “appropriate company.”

Jesus spoke with outcasts. Click To Tweet

2. Jesus used children as examples for adults.

I think most parents in most cultures throughout history have loved their children. But Jesus believed that adults can learn something from children.

[Jesus] called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. — Matthew 18:2-4 (NIV)

How many times have you shouted (or wanted to shout), “Grow up!” How many times have you suggested to someone that he become more like a child? If you sit with this for a while, you will find that what Jesus is doing with this little child really goes against the grain.

3. Jesus forgave people who did horrible things to him, even as they were doing them.

There are perhaps no words to come out of Jesus’ mouth more startling than the words he spoke regarding those crucifying him:

Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots. — Luke 23:34 (NIV)

How shocking is that? I have trouble forgiving people for cutting me off on the freeway!

Jesus forgave people who did horrible things to him, even as they were doing them. Click To TweetDon’t just write this off by saying, “Well, that was Jesus.” Jesus’ followers said the same thing:

While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he [died]. — Acts 7:59-60 (NIV)

This kind of forgiving heart doesn’t happen instantly. It happens through realizing and living in God’s love and forgiveness toward you. God’s love for you works on your heart to desire the best for others around you, even when they are not treating you well. You realize that people who are hurting you are acting out of ignorance or pain. Hurting people need the same love and redemption that you need. With practice — including things like prayer, confession and meditation — forgiveness can become your automatic response toward people who hurt you. (Forgiveness also leads to a longer, healthy life. CLICK HERE to read my blog post on the science of forgiveness.)

Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried. GKC Click To TweetJesus was a mind-blower, no doubt about it. He was a respected rabbi who spoke with outcasts, used children as examples, and forgave the people who were executing him even as they were doing it. Jesus calls his followers to be mind-blowers of the same order. Wow. I can’t help but close this post with a quote from G.K. Chesterton:

Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried. — Gilbert K. Chesterton

If you fancy yourself a follower of Jesus, here some questions you might reflect on:

  1. Who are you hesitant to talk to? Someone who dresses a certain way? Has piercings? Tattoos? Is older? Is younger? Looks shabby? Looks too nice?
  2. How can you grow more like a child? Do you need to treat others differently based on what Jesus said about children?
  3. What practice(s) in your life encourage you to grow toward greater forgiveness? Do you need to add a practice?

TBT: Let Psalm 23 Speak to You in this Short Contemplative Video (B184)

By the time we reach Thursday, many of us need a little break… a little moment of peace. Stop some time today and give yourself 2.5 minutes just for you. Sit quietly and let this contemplative video of Psalm 23 reorient your spirit.

Peace to you,

John

Avoid These 3 Mistakes When Reading the Bible (B183)

how-did-i-get-that-so-wrongThe Bible is the most widely read and influential book in history. Everyone should read it and be guided by its contents. I’ve been studying the Bible at a professional level all my adult life and I still regularly find my eyes being opened and my soul being filled by new understanding.

The Bible is not a simple book. It’s not really a book at all. The Bible is a small bound library. The Bible was written by over 40 different people over a period of 1,400 years. These people came from all walks of life, from shepherds to kings, from prophets to warriors. They lived in a variety of cultures from urban and sophisticated to rural or nomadic. Some were wealthy beyond belief. Some were hand-to-mouth poor.

This variety brings great depth and applicability to the Bible, but it also opens the door for misinterpretation. The reader often needs to make some effort to understand what has been written. Are you making one of these three common mistakes when trying to read and understand the Bible?

1. Reading an Incomprehensible Version

Thinking of her beloved, Juliet cried out, “Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?” Most people think that means, “Where are you, Romeo?” as though Juliet is peering off the balcony, looking for her lover. But they are wrong. Wiktionary explains succinctly :

In Romeo and Juliet, the meaning of “Wherefore art thou Romeo?” (Act 2, scene 2, line 33) is not “Where are you, Romeo?” but “Why are you Romeo?” (i.e. “Why did you have to be a Montague?”). (CLICK HERE for full article)

I will not disagree with you about the literary value of the King James Version of the Bible. The Psalms in KJV may be without peer in English. But if you don’t know what “wherefore” means off the top of your head, you should not read the King James Version as your basic reading Bible. if you don't know what 'wherefore' means, don't read the King James Version. Click To Tweet

Unless you are well versed in 17th century English (The KJV was completed in 1611), read a more modern version for the sake of your own understanding. There is a New King James version that is accurate and readable if staying in the King James tradition is important to you.

There are additional reasons to let your KJV look beautiful on the coffee table and read a modern translation. I detail some of them my post, “The Dangers of the King James Version.” (CLICK HERE to read it.)

2. Reading Without the Genre in Mind

From the wide variety of biblical writers comes a wide variety of genres. Some major genres you will find in the Bible are:

  • historical narrative
  • religious myth
  • poetry
  • parable
  • prophecy
  • wisdom literature
  • epistolary (personal letters)
  • apocalyptic

If you are reading one type of writing but interpreting it as another type, you can go far afield from what the text is supposed to convey. Usually, this is not a problem. Nobody reads a psalm and goes looking for mountains that clap their hands. But what about Genesis 1, which has a poetic structure? Why do some people take parts of the book of Revelation literally while reading other parts as symbolic? What is the psalmist communicating when he writes that God knit me together in my mother’s womb?

A foundational aspect of reading the Bible correctly is to understand what genre the writing belongs to and then interpret it accordingly. If you don’t take into account the type of writing you are reading, you will likely misinterpret it.

3. Reading Without Asking Questions

Written communication is difficult even between an author and a reader of the same culture, language and era. The gaping chasm of time and culture between the modern English reader and the 40+ original authors of the Bible assures that misunderstandings will occur.

Much of the Bible is quite straightforward. But there are cultural understandings and nuances that a modern reader will completely miss unless that reader develops the habit of probing everything for deeper meaning and asking what seems like the simplest of questions.

For example: 0ne time Jesus talked to a woman at a well around lunch time. Big deal, right? Well, it is. Most people in this time draw their water early in the morning before the heat of the day. She was alone at the well probably because she was something of an outcast. We discover further in her conversation with Jesus that, indeed, she had lived a life that probably alienated her from most of the people around her. She had been married to five different men and she was currently living with a man she was not married to. Hardly a model citizen. Oh, and by the way, the idea that Jesus, a male Jewish Rabbi, was even talking to a woman (leaving aside that she was a Samaritan!), would give the first century reader an instant jaw-drop. This tranquil scene at a well actually reveals Jesus to be a wild boundary-breaking teacher. But one never comes to that realization without asking questions about every little detail.

A good Bible dictionary and a Bible handbook can be invaluable for understanding what’s going on in the Bible at a deeper level. You can find a couple of recommendations on my recommended resources page. (CLICK HERE to take a look)

 

If you read an incomprehensible version, read without the genre in mind or read without asking a lot of probing questions of the text, you are likely to misread the Bible. Or, at least, you will miss the richness and depth of meaning available in the text. Don’t make these mistakes with the most read book in the history of the world.

Read a modern English translation. Keep the genre in mind. And ask a lot of seemingly simple questions.

(I’ll write a post soon about how to ask questions of the Bible text to further your understanding.)

Recommended Resources

Zondervan’s Compact Bible Dictionary

I do not personally own this Bible dictionary. But It has very good reviews on Amazon.com and Zondervan is a very reputable, mainstream publisher of Bible materials. It looks to be an easy to read lay-level Bible dictionary. Why don’t I buy this one? I have at least 5 Bible dictionaries already and I do all my Bible study using software.

What is a “Bible Dictionary”?

A Bible dictionary is a resource in which you can look up a specific thing from the Bible that you might like to understand more deeply. This could be a person (e.g. King David), a concept (e.g. the sacrificial system), or something else (e.g. Roman money). A good Bible dictionary is very valuable and easy-to-use resource for understanding the Bible.

[Click cover or title for Amazon.com link]

 

Holman Illustrated Bible Handbook

I own this Bible handbook as part of my electronic library. I haven’t seen the print version but I assume it is a quality piece of work (email me if I’m wrong!).

What is a “Bible Handbook”?

A Bible handbook follows the text and offers additional commentary for understanding the context and culture of whath you are reading. For instance, if you are reading in Luke 7, you would keep your Bible handbook open to Luke 7 to find additional information that might be helpful in understanding what is written.

[Click cover or title for Amazon.com link]

 

 

 

 

[Note: These are affiliate links. CLICK HERE to see disclosures page]

B182 Love During Arguments

umbrella-mad-caring

I love this meme.

Remember your love for the one you are mad at and don’t be afraid to show it.

If someone you are mad at takes the risk of offering loving words or actions, don’t rebuff them. Receive them as the gift that they are.

Have a good week, my friends!

— John

B181 An Unusual Case of Biker Love

motorcycle-1613022_640Hi all!

I am at a conference for half of this week and so am posting minimally.

I ran across this commercial for the lotto a while ago. I do not encourage playing the lotto. But I did find this commercial warmly amusing so I share it with you.

I also think this commercial says something about love as well as the lotto. What do you think? Leave a comment.

A Single Truth About Emotions That May Change Your Life (504 words)

tap(I am offering an observation based on my reading and my life. This blog post is not a substitute for therapy or medical treatment from licensed practitioners. This post is for information and reflection purposes only. I offer it because it has been helpful to me.)

“You only have one emotional spigot.”

That’s it. You cannot selectively turn some emotions off while being free to feel others. You can, to a certain extent, choose how much to feel. You cannot select which feelings to feel and which not to. If you choose to hide, run from, or otherwise turn off painful emotions, you will be turning off your ability to feel positive emotions as well. You cannot, for instance, refuse to feel your grief without diminishing your ability to experience joy.

Freud suggested that depression might be anger turned inward. By refusing to acknowledge their anger, a person may unwittingly disable their ability to feel joy as well.

Here is your $10 word for the day: Anhedonia. (My spell checker thinks it is not a word, but it is.) Anhedonia is a symptom of Major Depressive Disorder. It is the loss of interest in activities that one previously found enjoyable or rewarding. You only have one emotional spigot. Click To Tweet

I read a blog recently about a woman who described herself as “emotionally flat-lined.” Her treatment team told her that depression was anger turned inward and she would not get better if she didn’t get rid of her anger. She didn’t believe them because she wasn’t caring about anything at that point. But because she trusted them she took their advice. Her solution put on steel-toed boots, grab a metal baseball bat, and go to a nearby junkyard. With permission, she beat the crud out of a pickup truck. She surprised herself with the amount of anger pent up insider. Upon hearing about her personal “therapy” session, her treatment team suggested that such an approach carried with it emotional and physical dangers of its own. But she felt better. (CLICK HERE to read that post.)

I noticed myself tearing up as I read her blog post and thought of her madly bashing the junked truck, giving full vent to her rage. I may have some anger-turned-inward that I need to let out. We have a punching bag in our garage that I used to spend some quality time with. I noticed that it felt really good. I might have to de-clutter my garage enough to get back to that bag for some pugelistic therapy.

If you’ve noticed that you haven’t been feeling joy that you used to feel, it is worth considering that you might have turned off the emotional spigot to keep from feeling some negative emotion. If that’s the case, the solution is to in some way open yourself up to your full emotional range. You will have to experience the painful emotions you have been running from. But the reward is joy… and it’s worth it.

Next post: How understanding that anger is a secondary emotion can free you from its shackles.

 

4 Ways to Kill Your Marriage Personal Growth (646 words)

the-four-horsemanof-themarriageapocalypse

My observation is that the four horsemen of the marriage apocalypse from my previous four blog posts also apply to another important relationship: our relationship with ourselves.

These are the four horsemen from Dr. Gottman’s excellent book, “The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work” (titles are linked to a blog post on each):

  1. Criticism
  2. Contempt
  3. Defensiveness
  4. Stonewalling

As I reflected on the progression from one to the next, it seemed to me that this model might flag problems in my relationship with myself, as well. In order to grow personally, I need a healthy relationship with myself.

Nobody is perfect. That’s a given. But sometimes we can be quite unkind to ourselves. We say things to ourselves about ourselves that we would never say to a loved one. We say things to ourselves about ourselves that we would never say to a loved one. Click To TweetHave you ever called yourself an “idiot” under your breath when you’ve done something that you feel stupid about? But how do you react when a friend does something he or she feels stupid about? Do you call him or her an idiot? Likely not.  🙂

Harsh self-talk can hold us back from personal growth. The four horsemen can come galloping into our relationship with ourselves just like they appear in a marriage. Here’s how it might go:

I Criticize Myself

First, Let’s say I have done something over and over that I don’t like (or something really bad). Instead of patting myself on the back and telling myself, “Nobody’s perfect and neither are you. Let’s move on,” I start to criticize myself. My mistakes become, to me, indicators of my character and personality. I start to define myself as my weaknesses, deficiencies or mistakes. Rather than saying to myself, “That was a stupid thing to do,” I say, “I am so stupid. How can I be such an idiot?”

I Have Contempt for Myself

Second, when I have been critical of myself for a while, I might start to hold myself in contempt. This might surface as shame. Not only do I critically judge myself, but I begin to feel real shame about who I am. I look at myself in the mirror with contempt.

I Use Defensiveness to Blame Others

Third, I get defensive and start making excuses to myself. I blame this thing that causes me to look at myself with contempt on other people. My parents. My coworkers. My children. My spouse. The way I talk to myself is so painfully full of contempt for myself that my reaction is to blame others for something that is my responsibility. “If only so-and-so would do this or that, then I would be able to be the kind of person I want to be.” Defensiveness pushes personal responsibility onto someone or something else.

I Give Up

Finally, I stonewall myself. I look at something that I don’t like about myself and say, “Screw it. It’s not worth trying. I am the way I am.” There is a way of self-acceptance that is healthy. It is loving myself, faults and all. It is speaking kind and hopeful words to myself. This is not that. This is feeling despair, giving up on even interacting with myself about how I might be able to grow and change.

If any of these horsemen appear in my relationship with myself, I need to back my way down the list. I need to find where I criticize myself and judge myself. Then I need to learn to be kinder to myself. I need to speak to myself about my faults the way I would speak to my best friend about his faults. Rather than letting the horsemen into my self-talk about my faults, I need to speak to myself with truth and love. If I do that, over time I will grow. I need to speak to myself about my faults the way I would speak to my best friend about his… Click To Tweet

For my readers who look to the Bible for guidance, that’s how the Apostle Paul told us that we will grow spiritually:

…speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. (Ephesians 4:15, NIV)

What do you think? Does this seem true to you? I’d be interested in your comments.

 


seven-principles-for-making-marriage-work-revised-edition

If you the marriage posts about the four horsemen helpful, consider reading the entire book from which they are drawn. Click below to go to Amazon to take a look.

The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country’s Foremost Relationship Expert

(NOTE: Affiliate link. See disclosures.)

 

4 Ways to Kill Your Marriage, part 4 (423 words)

the-four-horsemanof-themarriageapocalypseIn this series, I have been introducing you to four dangerous habits or attitudes that can infect your marriage. Dr. John Gottman labels these “the four horsemen.” The first three are (click the title to read the blog post on that horseman):

  1. Criticism
  2. Contempt
  3. Defensiveness

The final horseman is…

4. Stonewalling

The long-term presence of the other three horsemen will bring the fourth horseman into the picture sooner or later. Eventually, one partner will tune out.

Stonewalling usually arrives later in a marriage, after three horseman have been galloping around the home for a while. It’s not hard to imagine. One partner feels free to criticize other’s personality or character. This eventually turns into contempt. The other partner maintains an increasingly defensive posture because continued criticism and contempt are painful to handle. Finally, one partner simply stonewalls. He or she doesn’t engage at all. Dr. Gottman writes:

During a typical conversation between two people, the listener gives all kinds of cues to the speaker that he’s paying attention. He may use eye contact, nod his head, say something like “Yeah” or “Uh-huh.” But a stonewaller doesn’t give you this sort of casual feedback. He tends to look away or down without uttering a sound. He sits like an impassive stone wall. The stonewaller acts as though he couldn’t care less about what you’re saying, if he even hears it.1

If the fourth horseman is present, it may need to be dealt with first because it is disengagement. Progress is impossible if one partner has checked out.

These four horsemen are one section in a chapter entitled, “How I Predict Divorce.” According to Dr. Gottman’s extensive research:

The presence of the four horsemen alone predicts divorce with… an 82 percent accuracy.2

82% is a scary number! The good news is that repair is possible. In Dr. Gottman’s research, 84% of couples who scored high in the four horsemen but repaired were happily married 6 years later.

In my next post, I will acquaint you with the repair and prevention of the damage the four horsemen can cause.

 

1Gottman, John; Nan Silver. The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work (pp. 33-34). Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

2Gottman, John; Nan Silver. The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work (p. 40). Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

 


seven-principles-for-making-marriage-work-revised-edition

If you are finding these posts helpful, consider reading the entire book from which they are drawn. Click below to go to Amazon to take a look.

The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country’s Foremost Relationship Expert

(NOTE: Affiliate link. See disclosures.)

 

4 Ways to Kill Your Marriage, part 3 (371 words)

the-four-horsemanof-themarriageapocalypseThe first of Dr. John Gottman’s horsemen is “criticism.” The difference between criticism and complaint is this: a complaint focuses on a specific action while criticism is more global, focusing on your mate’s personality and character. (CLICK HERE to read the post on horseman 1)

The second of Gottman’s horsemen is “contempt” and he considers it the most deadly. Contempt is the feeling that your mate is beneath consideration, worthless, or deserving scorn. (CLICK HERE to read the post on horseman 2)

The next horseman is…

3. Defensiveness

Defensiveness is the counter-disease to criticism and  contempt. Getting defensive when one is attacked is certainly understandable. However, according to Dr. Gottman,

[Defensiveness] rarely has the desired effect. The attacking spouse does not back down or apologize. This is because defensiveness is really a way of blaming your partner. You’re saying, in effect, “The problem isn’t me, it’s you.” Defensiveness just escalates the conflict, which is why it’s so deadly.1

Take note: defensiveness doesn’t arise only in response to the horsemen of criticism and contempt. Defensiveness can’t be blamed on your mate’s behavior. Defensiveness can stand on its own. The horseman of defensiveness can ride into an otherwise healthy disagreement or complaint.

Consider the example of taking out the trash again. He said he would take out the trash before he went to bed and he didn’t. The next morning, she legitimately complains that he did not keep his word about taking out the trash. She had not impugned his character or personality. He has a choice. He can get defensive and attack back. Or he can stay with the single issue at hand — taking out the trash — and apologize.

If a complaint is reasonable, getting defensive is just as unhealthy as any of the other horsemen.

As with criticism and contempt, one of the most important keys to overcoming defensiveness is to stay tightly focused on the exact issue, with each person taking responsibility for their words and actions. Don’t go global. Don’t attack the person or character. And don’t blame your partner for your own thoughts, words or actions. Stay focused, present and open.

Next post: Stonewalling.

1Gottman, John; Nan Silver. The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work (pp. 31-32). Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.


seven-principles-for-making-marriage-work-revised-edition

If you are finding these posts helpful, consider reading the entire book from which they are drawn. Click below to go to Amazon to take a look.

The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country’s Foremost Relationship Expert

(NOTE: Affiliate link. See disclosures.)