Archive for November, 2009

Hand-written Road Trip Bible

Monday, November 30th, 2009 by JEL

You think it’s hard to read the Bible? Try writing it…by hand! Actually, not all by yourself. Find around 31,000 others and have them each write and submit a verse. Put it all together and voilà, in 9 months you’ll have a finished Bible.

Bible Across America, a special project commemorating the 30th anniversary of the New International Version, created the project and just sold one of the 2 copies on eBay for $15,000. Proceeds from the sale are going to Biblica. Read the full story here.

Declining Numbers = Good News

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009 by JEL

The most recent American Religious Identification Survey (March 2009) showed 15% of adults in America do not belong to any religion—and that percentage is on the rise.

Rather than wring his hands in woe and grief, however, House church leader Ken Eastburn thinks the decline is good news. Here’s his insightful perspective:

“American Christianity has long been characterized by all the wrong things: partisan politics, tips for better living, the so-called ‘prosperity gospel,’ hypocrisy, and condemnation—to name a few. When that kind of Christianity begins to decline, we have much to be thankful for. It means true Christianity—the kind characterized by loving one’s enemies, radical giving, integrity and compassion—has room to grow.”

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Walk, Live, and Eat as Jesus Did

Monday, November 23rd, 2009 by JEL

The Biblical Botanical Gardens Society in Florida is in the process of creating The Oasis, a 21-acre parcel populated with plants like hibiscus, bamboo, cacti, and a Jerusalem thorn. All the plants featured are species that Jesus lived among 2,000 years ago.

Tours and events will attempt to re-create first-century life, and donkeys, sheep, and camels will be sprinkled about to add further context and color. The cherry on top? “Sandals will even be provided to enhance the experience.”

Jesus and Freakonomics

Friday, November 20th, 2009 by PJM

I had reason recently to search for the word “gospels.” 5,420 hits were returned. What struck me the most was how many NYT reader comments refer to them. You can try it yourself and see.

Frequently, the story that the readers are commenting on are quite secular in nature. One in particular, caught my attention in the Freakonomics Blog. A tenet of Freakonomics is that human behavior is guided by selfish incentives. A reader asked what Jesus’ incentive was in getting crucified. The blog author, Stephen Dubner, doesn’t answer the question, but we will let you know when he does. In the meantime, maybe we could sell him a book.

Big Things Afoot Next Year

Thursday, November 19th, 2009 by JEL

Please note that this post is filed under the “Irreverant” category. Also note that the source of article being discussed is Weekly World News.

Now that that’s out of the way, Dr. Wayne Stanton, “a mathematician and leading expert on the four gospels,” has discovered some new meaning in Jesus’ words. According to the good doctor, Jesus was speaking on two levels. One, about the Kingdom of Heaven and two, about future events.

Taking the twelfth, seventh and third letters in Jesus’ words and then using them to create new words, Jesus was apparently sending us coded messages about some startling prophesies. Read the article to find out about a very exciting year in 2010.

Hinge Times

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009 by JEL

Editor and Christian writer Phyllis Tickle talks about 5 “hinge times” in Christianity:

  1. Great Transformation (dominance of the Roman empire)
  2. Great Fall (the Roman Senate dissolves; beginning of the Dark Ages)
  3. Great Schism (the Catholic Church splits between Rome and Constantinople)
  4. Great Reformation (14th and 15th century)
  5. Great Emergence (present day)

At each major phase, over-regulation of religion robbed faith of much of its meaning. The resulting reaction was a search for a new direction. This interesting article contains this quote:

“You’re here to serve the kingdom of God, not to save the church.”

Reading the Bible in 90 Days

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009 by JEL

A book club at Kirk in the Hills church in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan is setting out to read the Bible in 90 days. The story has some good quotes from participants that touch on our motivations for creating What He Said. For instance:

“As a Christian, I thought [reading the Bible] was a good thing to do. But it’s a little intimidating to just crack it open and go cover to cover on your own.”
— Amy Maple

The founder of the Bible in 90 days program, Ted Cooper, added this:

But even though “so many people start reading the Bible, hardly anyone finishes.”

We would love to start having some Bible study groups and book clubs make What He Said their next selection.

Another Take

Friday, November 13th, 2009 by JEL

Seems as if we were not the only ones crafting a book the last couple of years centered around the Four Gospels. I recently came across Mary Gordon’s Reading Jesus: A Writer’s Encounter with the Gospels. Her take is fascinating:

“In the introduction to this remarkable book, Mary Gordon is riding in a taxi as the driver listens to a religious broadcast, and she reflects that, though a lifelong Christian, she is at odds with many others who identify themselves as Christians. In an effort to understand whether or not she had ‘invented a Jesus to fulfill my own wishes,’ she determined to read the Gospels as literature and to study Jesus as a character.”

You can read Newsweek’s review of the book here.

A Wish for Peace

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009 by JEL

Too often war is viewed, usually by those far away from the front, as a glorious and heroic adventure. To those in the trenches, in the Humvees, and in the mountains of Afghanistan, it is anything but.

This past Sunday in church there was a special lay-service put together for Veterans Day. It featured World War I poetry written by those who fought and saw (and in some cases, experienced) the tragic waste of life first hand. The poems of Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon were particularly powerful.

At the end of the service, they played a version of Tom Waits’s “Day After Tomorrow.” You can read the lyrics here.

On this Veterans Day I am feeling the same way I have always felt: extremely grateful for our soldiers’ service and sacrifice. And unbelievably sorry.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.”


Tuesday, November 10th, 2009 by JEL

If you’ve watched the original Star Wars (1977) lately, you quickly notice how things can get dated when viewed through the lens of current day. In reading through the Four Gospels as many times as we did in creating What He Said, what struck me was how timeless the text seemed.

Except for the demons.

Demons are everywhere in the accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Jesus casts them out of people right and left. Sometimes they are even visible as they slink away. Other times, they speak (Matthew 8:31). Every time I come upon a demon passage, I “wake from the dream” for a bit, as I ponder how odd those narratives feel in a modern context.