Those Christians and Their Bible, so Stupid…Not so Much

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Faraday’s Experimental Coil

Faraday’s limited formal education, curiously enough, turned out to be a great advantage. This doesn’t happen often, because when a scientific subject reaches an advanced level, a lack of education usually makes it impossible for outsiders to get started. The doors are closed, the papers unreadable. But in these early days of understanding energy it was a different story. Most science students had been trained to show that any complicated motion could be broken down into a mix of pushes and pulls that worked in straight lines. It was natural for them, accordingly, to try to see if there were any straight-line pulls between magnets and electricity. But this approach didn’t show how the power of electricity might tunnel through space to affect magnetism.

Because Faraday did not have that bias of thinking in straight lines, he could turn to the Bible for inspiration. The Sandemanian religious group he belonged to believed in a different geometric pattern: the circle. Humans are holy, they said, and we all owe an obligation to one another based on our holy nature. I will help you, and you will help the next person, and that person will help another, and so on until the circle is complete. This circle wasn’t merely an abstract concept. Faraday had spent much of his free time for years either at the church talking about this circular relation, or engaged in charity and mutual helping to carry it out.

(on Michael Faraday’s discovery of the relationship between magnetic and electrical power in E=mc2: a biography of the world’s most famous equation by David Bodanis)

Who is Getting in the Way?

“One day as he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law, who had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem, were sitting there. And the power of the Lord was present for him to heal the sick. Some men came carrying a paralytic on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus.” (Luke 5:17-18)

Notice who is getting in the way of people with an urgent need to see Jesus…

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How to Steal Fire without Burning Your Fingers

“She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped.” (Luke 8:44)

Immediately.  Jesus did not choose to heal this woman.  He did not even know who she was, yet power went out from him.  There must be a way to touch God which elicits an outpouring of His power not because of the one who touches, but because of the nature of God.  (e.g. if you touch me with the sharp edge of a razor blood flows because of my nature) Many people touched Jesus as he walked.  It was a throng – it was like a Beijing subway (or Shanghai -that’s for you my Nicole) – but only one drew blood.  Only one held the razor.

hem-of-his-garmentWhy did the woman tremble when she couldn’t remain anonymous?  Picture the whole scene: A raucous crowd pressing and moving along with the Prophet.  It is noisy.  There is laughter and loud speculation about what this man will do next.  He himself is silent.  He walks in his way; eyes neither aloof nor downcast.  Some in the crowd feel touched by those eyes others wonder what he sees.  All is motion and sound and anticipation.  Then he stops.  A quiet descends.  What is going on?  He speaks, “Who touched my clothes?”  A deeper silence.  Many who have been near him are thinking ‘is it me?  I was so close…did I touch him?’  No one wants to admit it.  They shrug their shoulders and murmur one to another.  The quiet grows pregnant.  It is getting awkward.  Peter senses it.  He steps forward and says what others are thinking, “There is quite a crowd around you…How can you say one touched you?”  You can almost see Peter whispering this to Jesus.  He’s saying – you are embarrassing yourself here. Let’s keep moving.  Jesus doesn’t seem to hear Peter at all.  He raises his voice, “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.”

And he stands in the quiet crowd looking at their faces.  Now the woman is stuck.  No one is moving.  She can’t retreat without drawing attention to herself.  He will see her.  No way to go now but forward. She tried to steal Jesus’ power.  She wanted healing, not a face to face meeting with the Prophet.  And she knows the truth.  She knows there really was and is power in this man.  Touching him has done something she can’t account for.  It took all she had just to get close enough to touch him – all her courage.  He has called her out.  What will he do?  Will he take back his power?  Will he humiliate her?  In a voice barely above a whisper she tells her story.  She speaks to the ground.  Tears of fear and joy join as one streak down her face and into the dirt.  She cannot look up.  Her words end.  No one moves.  They collectively hold their breath.  An unclean person; a woman, has touched a Rabbi.  Jesus sees her.  He sees the tears.  He sees everything.  No one has seen her like he sees.  “Take heart daughter,” he says, and she does.  She breaths for everyone.  He continues, “your faith has healed you.  Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”

The Prophet moves away to his appointment with the elder’s daughter.  The woman sits while the crowd regains it’s momentum.  She has touched God.  She has stolen power from God like Prometheus stole fire from the gods – and instead of punishment she has been rewarded with healing and a benediction of peace.  She trembles again.  What kind of God is this?

What the World Needs Now

“Teacher, we know that you speak and teach what is right, and that you do not show partiality but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” He saw through their duplicity and said to them, “Show me a denarius. Whose image and inscription are on it?” “Caesar’s,” they replied. He said to them, “Then give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” They were unable to trap him in what he had said there in public. And astonished by his answer, they became silent. (Luke 20:21-26)

There is no shortage of geniuses these days.  We have so many people who are so smart about so much that we have to have 24/7 cable television to keep up with the flow of “expert” commentary.  And, no doubt, we need experts.  We need genius.  We need people dedicating their lives to knowing all about medicine, and economics, and ecology, and science.  Thank God for them.  What we are sorely in need of, however, is impartial opinion.  We need objective expertise.  We need unbiased genius.  And it is no easy task to find it.  Genius? Yes – coming out of our ears.  Objective truth?  Fearless expertise?  You won’t find it on cable, or in classrooms.

Jesus was so astonishing not because he was a genius; Solomon beat him to that title by a thousand years. Jesus astonished because he was an unbiased genius.  No one ever found a way to get leverage on him.  No one ever co-opted him for their political cause.  No one put the fear of God in him to make him shade an opinion.  He already had the fear of God in him.  Everything he said and did was because of his absolute awareness of God as the primary reference point in all matters.  That is what fear is: the thing that grasps our attention and bends our thoughts and actions around it.  The little exercise of the Roman coin and the taxes is an example of Jesus’s genius, not simply because he could out think a few lawyers, but because he had only one basis for answering any question.  He didn’t need to do political or economic or relational calculations in his head.  He stood on the unshakeable ground of knowing God fully and trusting Him utterly and spoke objective truth.  What the world needs now is more astonishing truth, not merely more shocking opinions.denarius of Tiberius

How to Dance a Different Two-Step

6a00d83451eaab69e200e54f4c16058833-800wi“You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” (John 5: 39-40)

If you want to learn things that can’t be found in books there are two steps. The first thing you have to do is believe there are such things.  The second is to stop looking for them in books.

Why Fear Success?

When Saul saw how successful (David) was, he was afraid of him.  1 Sam 18:15

A good indication of godlessness is the fear of someone else’s success.  In Saul’s case it is double blindness.  All of David’s accomplishments could have belonged to King Saul.  A hand clenched in pride is not open to received any honor.  Successful leadership makes room for others to succeed and allows the warmth and sunshine of individual accomplishment to heat and light the whole organization.images (5)