Thursday, September 30, 2010

Once Upon a Time…

Commentary on the Adult and Collegiate Sabbath School Lessons dated 10.2.2010

I have a confession to make…I love what most folks would call “kid stories.” I grew up listening to and reading fairy tales, Aesop’s Fables, and Dr. Seuss… I loved Christmas season TV with all the animated cartoon specials. Some of my favorite stories, though, are Old Testament Bible stories.
There are some folks who would tell you that Bible stories are fairy tales; I would disagree. I believe they really happened, and maybe that’s what sets them apart. All those other stories may have a lesson to teach, but no fairy tale ever change a life. Aesop always taught a lesson, but didn’t point anybody toward salvation. Dr. Seuss is great fun and, his books, I believe, have done more than almost any others to help kids enjoy reading…but they can’t lead anyone to the foot of the Cross.

Ya know, I can't remember a time when I didn't know the stories of Creation, the Flood, and the Exodus. Even when I was little though, I knew that the Bible stories were different. I knew I was learning about the lives of real people who lived real lives. These stories weren't like Cinderella or Pinocchio; Bible stories had a weight, and substance that, for me anyway, is undeniable. When I heard about Joseph and King David, Job and Jonathon, I knew they where real people who had lived real lives.

(If your experience is different, please let me know, because I'm interested to know how you came to the realization that the stories were true.)

Having said all that, why do you think some people resist taking Bible stories seriously? Why do so many people insist that they're nothing more than legends and fables long ago and far away? What is it about these stories that make so many people (even so called Christians) nervous? I just read parts of a book called, Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience, Superstition, and Other Confusions of Our Time, by Michael Shermer. Since I only read parts of the book, this is what Mary Ellen Curtain had to say about the book at Reviews:

“Few can talk with more personal authority about the range of human beliefs than Michael Shermer. At various times in the past, Shermer has believed in fundamentalist Christianity, alien abductions, Ayn Rand, megavitamin therapy, and deep-tissue massage. Now he believes in skepticism, and his motto is 'Cognite tute--think for yourself.' This updated edition of Why People Believe Weird Things covers Holocaust denial and creationism in considerable detail, and has chapters on abductions, Satanism, Afrocentrism, near-death experiences, Randian positivism, and psychics. Shermer has five basic answers to the implied question in his title: for consolation, for immediate gratification, for simplicity, for moral meaning, and because hope springs eternal. He shows the kinds of errors in thinking that lead people to believe weird (that is, unsubstantiated) things, especially the built-in human need to see patterns, even where there is no pattern to be seen. Throughout, Shermer emphasizes that skepticism (in his sense) does not need to be cynicism: 'Rationality tied to moral decency is the most powerful joint instrument for good that our planet has ever known.'”1

I think it's interesting that Creationism is linked with Holocaust denial. Wow. Not to mention being in the same list of weird things as alien abductions and psychics... hm. The only explanation that makes any sense to me at this point, is that Satan is working very, very hard to steer people away from those life and spirit changing stories in the Bible.
I know a man who will not allow his four-year-old to read a Bible story from a children's book or even color in a Bible character coloring book, but will readily read “The Three Little Pigs” to her. The battle, the controversy, rages on, even in the lives of our children.

Peter tells us exactly what what we can expect from Satan:
Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8 And sometimes, knowing what to expect is half the battle.

Craig Bryan Larson illustrates that point by relating an encounter that Craig Childs had with a mountain lion in Arizona's Blue Range Wilderness.

“In the United States, mountain lions are the animal regarded as the number one human predator. Author and naturalist Craig Childs was on foot doing research on the lions in Arizona's Blue Range Wilderness. As he approaches a water hole from downwind, he spots a mountain lion drinking water. The lion does not notice his presence. When it finishes drinking, it walks slowly away into a cluster of junipers.
“After a few minutes, Childs walks to the water hole to identify tracks in the mud and record notes. Just before he bends down to look closer, he scans the perimeter, and there among the shadows of the junipers, 30 feet away, he sees a pair of eyes. He expects the lion to run away, but it walks into the sunlight toward him. Childs pulls his knife and stares into the eyes of the lion. He knows what he must do. More importantly, he knows what he must not do. He writes:
'Mountain lions are known to take down animals six, seven, and eight times their size. Their method: attack from behind, clamp onto the spine at the base of the prey's skull, snap the spine. The top few vertebrae are the target, housing respiratory and motor skills that cease instantly when the cord is cut….Mountain lions have stalked people for miles. One woman survived an attack and escaped by foot on a road. The lion shortcut the road several miles farther and killed her from behind….
'I hold firm to my ground and do not even intimate that I will back off. If I run, it is certain. I will have a mountain lion all over me. If I give it my back, I will only briefly feel its weight on me against the ground. The canine teeth will open my vertebrae without breaking a single bone….
The mountain lion begins to move to my left, and I turn, keeping my face on it, my knife at my right side. It paces to my right, trying to get around on my other side, to get behind me. I turn right, staring at it….My stare is about the only defense I have.
“'Childs maintains that defense as the mountain lion continues to try to provoke him to run, turning left, then right, back and forth again and again, now just ten feet away. Finally, the standoff ends. The lion turns and walks away—defeated by a man who knew what never to do in its presence.'
“Paul the apostle had a similar knowledge of his greatest adversaries, Satan and his demons. Because he knew Satan's methods, he knew how to defend himself.”2

I would only disagree with Larson on one point. We can't defend ourselves, no matter how well we think we know Satan's methods. Only with our eyes and hearts fixed on Jesus can we survive any encounter with Satan. No amount of rational thinking will help us. There are no fairy god mothers to rescue us in the nick of time. Our only hope of salvation is Jesus.

2 Craig Brian Larson, editor of; source: Craig Childs, The Animal Dialogues (New York: Little, Brown and Co., 2007); as seen in The Week (2-8-08), pp. 40-41