For the past few weeks, every time I've started thinking about any topic the same Bible verse keeps coming up:
"I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?" - John 3:12 (NIV), spoken by Jesus.I was vaguely aware of this verse for a long time; as I've mentioned, I first read through the entire Bible in my teens, a couple of decades ago, and have done so at least once a year since. However, this passage never quite made it to front-and-centre in my mind until now. Lately I keep finding myself in situations where that passage is relevant, even crucial. I take this as a sign that I'm supposed to learn something.
The worst part was that whenever it came up, I couldn't put my finger on its exact location. Knowing that a Biblical passage is "in there somewhere" is better than nothing, but for serious research or debate you need to be able to cite your source.
Worse, I only thought of the passage when I was in situations where I couldn't easily look it up. That is, when my Bible reference books and Internet connection (for Biblegateway.com) were unavailable - usually when I was at my office. I searched the non-exhaustive concordance in the study Bible I keep at work, and asked any co-workers who I thought might know, but no luck. I even spent my breaks one day skimming the Gospels looking for it. I got all the way though Matthew and Mark and about halfway through Luke, which obviously didn't turn it up.
That same day, my wife and son met me at the local library after I got off work. I asked her if she could remember the passage, or even anything about its context. She thought for a brief moment, then said, "I'm pretty sure it's in John. Jesus was talking to Nicodemus." I immediately went and checked, and with that info I had it in about thirty seconds.
I told this story to some friends at church. My wife was promptly dubbed "a walking concordance". I've heard people dubbed far worse.
In other Sunday-type (churchy / Bible-y / Christiany) news , I'm going to be leading our mid-week Bible study group for the next few months. That's a big part of why I haven't been writing much on here recently. I've been putting my writing energy into preparing the material for those sessions. I may put it up here as well, especially since I found while preparing the material for the first session that I don't need to prepare much material for the sessions.
Don't worry. That'll make sense if and when I get around to telling the story.
It looks like the group will be spending 12 to 17 weeks (depending on how deep the group wants to go) on the topic I'm leading. It's a topic I haven't directly addressed on this blog yet, and I'm not getting into it just now. Suffice it to say that it's rather controversial, even within the Church. I'll be outing myself as holding a specific position soon enough, assuming I decide to put the stuff up here.
Oh, and that verse I talked about earlier is one of the main verses that I'll be emphasizing.
And in our final story for tonight, this week I listened to Bob Dylan's three albums from his "born again" period for the first time. I'm surprised by how good they are. Despite being a child of the sixties (despite that decade having ended before I was born) I've never been a big Dylan fan. I became somewhat familiar with him in the eighties, by which time his singing was mostly parody fodder.
Two things in particular impress me about these albums. First, they're very good musically. The songs are solid, the musicianship top-notch, and while Dylan's vocals are... distinctive, he's certainly not incoherent. The singing is more than passable.
Second, I had expected that the Christian messages would be fairly subdued and sanitized. I had heard Gotta Serve Somebody before, and figured that would be the most explicit he got. I was drastically wrong. The Gospel is front and centre on all three of these albums, presented without compromise or apology.
The real shame is that he backed off. I recently heard a Larry Norman concert where Larry talked between songs about fans wanting mainstream artists who are professing Christians to sing the Gospel. Larry said, accurately, "Bob Dylan did it, and we didn't like it. We told him to stop."
I've read a lot of Dylan interviews and articles over the years (that Rolling Stone subscription again), and he seems to have softened his positions. I hope he's retained his personal faith, although that's not the impression I get. I may add one of the many Dylan biographies to my ever-expanding "to read" stack of books, to find out more about this period in his life.
Enough rambling. Here's a picture of something else that my wife, The Walking Concordance, made with woolly string and hooked sticks. It's much less yellow and more colourful in real life than it looks in this shot.