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Saturday, August 27, 2011

Reading More, Not Less

This week was really slow at work and while I was searching for something to keep my mind occupied, I came across's blog. I really like Bible Gateway because it has an easy to use search feature and I can compare verses in different versions. It's handy for those times when you want to look something up and you don't have a Bible at hand.

One of the blog entries really caught my eye and it's something I thought I'd re-post because I like the idea behind it. N. T. Wright's idea that we should read the Bible in a big sweep intrigues me because so often I have concentrated on a few verses, neglecting to step back and look at the big picture. We know the Bible is a reflection of Who God is, so what better way to see a more complete picture of Him than to attempt to embrace the entirety of His Words?

I tried it this week and quickly learned that it isn't as easy as it seems. I am an avid reader, have been ever since I was able to put letters together into intelligible words, but while it is easy for me to read a gripping autobiography, a Christian novel, or one of my old-time favourite childhood books, I seem to have a much shorter attention span when it comes to reading that requires more focus. I can read Patriarchs and Prophets for a chapter at a time (though I always count the pages first, to see how long it is so I know when I'll be done), but reading one single book in the Bible for more than ten minutes at a time? I wasn't sure it could be done! Perhaps it was because I grew up hearing all the Bible stories from cradle roll and felt like there wasn't anything new or interesting to learn.

Regardless, on Tuesday this week, the office was as quiet as it could be and I was alone with just my thoughts and my NASB black Bible. I decided to try it out and see what it was like. I found that it took me quite a while to get myself prepared to start reading. First I had to put my phone, the message book, and the schedule book with an extra pen on top of the counter so I could access it quickly if the phone rang. Then I decided I needed another drink of water. After that, I thought I'd better check my work email one more time in case anything had come in in the last 30 seconds that I hadn't been looking at the screen. I glanced at the fax machine, sitting silent in the corner, and finally decided that there was nothing else I could do to prepare (or distract!) myself.

I settled down on the comfortable couch, put my feet up, opened my Bible, and then realized I had to decide where to read. I absolutely love Paul's writings, and had flipped over to Romans, when I thought that it might be better to start with Acts, first because it was more of a story and might be easier to read for a longer period of time, and second because it would be helpful to get a picture of Paul's background and where he was coming from and where he was during the different books that he wrote. So I paged back a few pages and began to read.

As with the need to prepare myself with moving things about, I found myself needing to re-read the first few paragraphs in Acts 1 because my mind was wandering. I was thinking about what I needed to do later in the day, wondering if I should exercise when I got off work, planning a menu for the next day's lunch, and sorting through a million more balloon-ideas that insisted on crowding into my mind at all once. I have a hard time "turning off my mind" at times, and this was one of them! I decided to push forward, though, and keep on reading.

It was about an hour later that I emerged, at the end of chapter 13 of Acts, from a world of intrigue, murders, power, excitement, fear, and adventure. Even though I was tempted to stop and research things along the way, or to cross-reference Peter's sermon, or to ponder some of the gems a little longer, I just read steadily through. On Wednesday, another equally quiet day in the office, I read the next 12 chapters. I began to see a picture developing as little puzzle pieces started to fit together.

I am not a Bible scholar, but reading through a majority of Acts in two days I learned some things I didn't know before. For example, when Moses was born, God said he was lovely to look upon. Does that mean that God thought Moses was a really cute baby or was it something deeper? Peter and the others who spoke with him, such as Stephen and Paul, were mistreated the most when they shared their personal testimonies, attesting to Jesus' resurrection and pointing out the sins of those who had crucified Him. Yet they continued to speak out boldly, not caring about their own lives but rather following what they knew they had to do. God's Spirit has an amazing power to change people, as we all know Paul's story, and Acts is filled with stories of God's miracles as He opened up prison doors, foiled plans to kill Paul numerous times, and healed people who touched articles of clothing that His disciples had touched.

Sometimes it is easy to open up the Bible and see it through eyes that have become weary of reading the same thing over and over. One way to break out of that rut is to get a different version of the Bible (I'm going back and forth between the NASB and the ESV right now, as I have used the NIV for about six years). Another way is to spend significant chunks of time just reading, getting the big picture, and then later, going back and breaking down the picture into handle-able pieces. It can only be amazing!

Here's the video on Youtube.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

"Live to the point of tears." ~Albert Camus

Friday, August 12, 2011

My Command Is This:

I don't do too well with goodbyes. Growing up in the mission field, we had to learn quickly how to say goodbye to our best friends, childhood pets, favourite homes, and a myriad of family members on a regular basis. We moved from country to country, never returning to a stable home base, and while we were resilient, it did affect us. I remember reaching the point where I could wave goodbye to my granny as we drove off in the cold English fog on our way to the airport, and hardly a tear would fall. It wasn't that I was heartless; I'd just learned that tears wouldn't accomplish anything. We would still have to say goodbye and leave people behind.

Today, any kind of loss becomes akin to grieving a death for me. As we grow older, people die, friends move away, our siblings find their own places in life, and we have to learn how to hold on with open hands. As I have pondered how I process loss, especially each time someone dear to me passes away, I started to think about the emotions that we encounter in the midst of our grieving.  

We were made in God's image, and while often we think of that including our character, and perhaps our physical body, not much is mentioned about being made like Him in our emotions as well. I think that some of our emotions came after the fall, emotions such as fear, anger, shame, guilt, loneliness, depression, and others. I also think, though, that other emotions were there before the fall. Love, peace, joy, contentment, trust, and the list goes on.

How do you think God felt when He decided to let Jesus come to this earth? I've often heard the story, many sermons have been preached about Jesus' sacrifice, and some of them have also touched on God the Father's sacrifice in giving up His own son. But when I began to really think about it in context of my own losses in life, it became very much more real to me.

God looked down on the earth, and He saw you, He saw me. He saw me making choices that would lead to my death because I was unable to resist sin on my own. He had such compassion on me and He longed for me to be with Him in heaven, but He knew that it wasn't possible if it was left up to me to figure it out. So He did the only thing that could be done. He accepted Jesus' decision to come to earth, to a place that had been ruined by sin and Satan, to live the perfect life in my stead.

God must have known the risk. He must have known that Jesus would be faced with temptations greater than any that I have been faced with. He must have known that there was the possibility that if Jesus made one misstep, that would mean eternal death for me and that Jesus would never return to heaven. God must have known and yet He allowed Jesus to go forward.

The ability to sacrifice to that level, the necessity of having to take Jesus' life at the cross, and the miracle of giving His life back to Him at the resurrection, that is truly the mystery of Godliness. I cannot even begin to understand, but I am slowly seeing just a tiny part of the amazing depth of love and connection that God has for me. His desire to save me was stronger than His desire to save Himself.

"Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends." ~John 15:13, NIV