Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Bible In A Year

Today is day 330 of the year 2013; my Bible-In-A-Year plan told me so. All I have left to read are the Minor Prophets, a couple chapters of Proverbs, a rehash of the last 30 Psalms (you read them all twice in this plan), and the last few books of the New Testament. Three hundred and thirty days down, thirty five to go.

I will admit that it has been harder than I thought it would be, for several reasons:
  • The experts tell us if we do something regularly, at the same time every day, for a certain number of days in a row it will become a habit. I don’t know why, but reading the Bible just doesn’t seem to want to fit that mold for me. I started off reading every morning, then I switched to every night, and then I swapped back and forth intermittently. It has never become a “habit.” Reading the Bible is/was/has been something that I have to make myself do each and every day. It is not that I don’t want to read it, I just frequently “find” easier or more interesting things to do. At this point, I am realizing that may just be how it was intended to be, something intentional as opposed to a mindless act.
  • It can be a very hard book to read. No, I’m not talking about the reading level, I’m talking about the content. 
    • Most people complain about books like Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, but I breezed through the Pentateuch without much problem. The books that bogged me down were the major prophets; Isaiah and Ezekiel were the toughest. They are looooonnnnnngggg and tend to get very repetitive. In addition, they really can twist your brain in a lot of different directions with difficult concepts, images, and content. Some of what’s in there is just “hard” to read in an “I want to poke my eyes out” kind of way.
    • There are many uncomfortable parts, especially in the Old Testament. It is a book (or many books) filled with stories of murder, rape, incest, violence, genocide, and expectations and/or laws that just seem unjust or oppressive. Those parts are uncomfortable because God is often represented as being the very opposite of the loving, white-bearded, golden-aura-shrouded, grandfatherly, geriatric, passive, forgiving, and almost senile God that so many of us in Western Christendom WANT our God to be.
I’ll be honest, if I hadn’t taken a course in Biblical Interpretation last spring…I might have given up back on day 39 or 40…most certainly by day 52. I would have quit for the same reason(s) that so many others who have tried to read the entire Bible give up; it IS hard, it makes me feel uncomfortable (often in a bad way), it is sometimes boring, and it really challenges me from a faith perspective to KNOW what this foundation my faith is built on is really about. In class I learned that I have to read the Bible through at least three main “lenses”:
  1. The world in behind the Bible: the historical context/understanding of the world that preceded the writing of whatever portion I may be reading.
  2. The world inside the Bible: the historical context/understanding of the world at the time of the writing of whatever portion I may be reading.
  3. The world in front of the Bible: the context/understanding of today.
Focusing on those first two lenses helped me get through some of the parts that were most difficult. They are passages written to/about a people with whom I have little to no historical context. I can study up on them and their time, but I can’t “know” it the way I know my own context today. This doesn’t mean those passage can’t/don’t hold meaning for me, just that I need to try to understand what it meant to them first.

In all this reading, there is one passage that has come up three times and, as such, stands out to me as a guide for “being a better Christian.” I first studied it in class as part of a lesson in exegesis, then Pastor Mark preached on it twice this past month (November 3 and November 10), and I read it yesterday as part of my plan. The passage is from 1 Peter 3:8-18, and I really feel like it sums up the message of what I’ve been reading for the past 330 days, how I really want to live the rest of my life, and how I hope other Christians want to live, too. Allow me to paraphrase (probably poorly):

As Christians we should be:
  • Agreeable
  • Sympathetic
  • Loving
  • Compassionate
  • Humble
This goes for ALL Christians! There are no exceptions.

There should be no room in our lives for retaliation.
There should be no room in our lives for sharp-tongued sarcasm.
Instead, we should bless others…that’s our job! To bless!
If we can practice living this way we’ll be a blessing and get a blessing!

You want to embrace life? You want to see your day fill up with good? Try doing these things:
  • Say nothing evil or hurtful.
  • Snub evil and cultivate good.
  • Seek peace with every ounce of your energy!
God approves this message!

God listens and responds when we talk to Him, but He also turns his back on those who do evil things!

If you practice living this way, do you really think people will ask you to stop?
Even if people respond to your kindness, goodness, and good living with hatred or persecution, you’ll be better off!
Stop worry about what non-Christians think about you or say about you! 
God will deal with them in his own time, so don’t worry about it or respond negatively or inappropriately!

Just keep your focus on Christ…no matter what!

If people do get curious about your life, or challenge you about the way you are living, make sure you understand your faith so you can respond correctly; however, make sure you respond respectfully!

If people want to mistreat you for doing good things, that’s their problem and God will deal with them. At some point they’ll realize they are in the wrong, even if it’s only at their final judgement. If you respond to their attacks with attacks of your own, your conscience won’t be clear.

If you’re truly suffering because of your faith and good living, if that’s the place where God has put you, just remember that you’re way better off than those who will be punished for ignoring and/or disobeying God.

Christ’s role in all this is definitive! He suffered because of other people’s (including your, my, and our) sins! He was righteous and suffered for our unrighteousness. Remember, Christ went through it all—suffering, death, and resurrection—to bring us closer to God!

Thursday, November 14, 2013


Pardon me, for just a moment, as I'm about to step on your toes.


I am one. It is a title I earned through marriage. It is a title I wear proudly. It comes with responsibility I take seriously. It is not just a word to describe my legal standing in a relationship with a woman; it is part of my identity. I am a husband. I long to hear my wife use that word both in public and in our quiet moments together at home. It describes a unique position in life. It carries significant meaning and weight, enough so that many non-heterosexual people are fighting in court to be able to use it.

That being the case, I'd like to politely ask the growing throngs of unmarried, but dating or engaged, young women to stop using it to describe the man you are currently with...especially if you call yourself a Christian.

When you use it, before it has been earned, you do a disservice to the title and more importantly to what it stands for in a truly Christian marriage.

Trust me, I get it.

You bought a house together or you're sharing an apartment. You both drink straight out of the milk container. You eat off each others plates when you go out. You might even share a toothbrush in an emergency. You may even have fur babies together that you call your "children." Sadly, you're  also sharing his bed. Those things don't make him your husband. However, calling him that helps the take the sting out of knowing you're living a life that should be reserved for marriage, doesn't it? It helps you justify your decisions to live against the belief system you were brought up with.

He is your boyfriend or fiancé.

He won't be your husband until you stand before God, family, and friends (or a justice of the peace, your choice) and make a commitment to marriage.

Every time you call the man you are not married to your "hubby" or "husband," you cheapen the word, you water it down, and you remove the responsibility and weight that comes along with it. Using it prematurely means that the "D" word will be all that much easier to use when you have finally gotten married and it doesn't met your Hollywood expectations, especially if you're using it during an on again/off again romance.

For someone like me, who has been through "for better or for worse, in sickness and in health", it makes me believe you don't truly have an understanding of what that word means and what comes with it when it has been earned.

Oh, and tell your fiancé, or boyfriend, that I think he's weak. He allows you to use the word husband and won't ask you stop. After all, he wouldn't want to make you mad, or upset you. He's allowing his genitals to lead the way in your relationship instead of waiting to earn the title that some of us actually respect and cherish. If he was really your husband, he'd respect himself and His God enough to wait for marriage to be called that.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Coffee With Jesus

If you pay any attention to my Facebook timeline, you’ll see me share the Coffee With Jesus comic strips, from Radio Free Babylon, on a pretty regular basis. The author, David Wilke, has published a Coffee With Jesus book, which will be available in paperback on December 1, 2013. However, you can buy it today in several different electronic formats. I bought a copy last night to read on my Kindle app and find myself having to put it down so that I can enjoy it over time rather than just gobbling the whole thing up all at once.

I am a Christian. I’m not ashamed of that; but, I also know I’m not always the best example or role model. I want to be, but my humanity sometimes gets in the way.

So why do I share those comic strips? Because they really do represent the Jesus I know today…the one I wish everyone knew.

I wish this was the Jesus I had known for the first four decades of my life. Regardless of how He may have been presented to me, I spent most of my life thinking I wasn’t good enough, couldn’t be good enough, and felt like there was no way He could love me. The burden of salvation rested on my shoulders and I was failing miserably at achieving Heaven. My spiritual life consisted of a bunch of “do’s” that I wasn’t doing enough, if at all, and a bunch of “do not’s” that I too often found myself doing. My vision of the final judgement was pretty bleak. It was me, standing in front of God, alone, and He was pretty angry about it all.

I’ve got a new perspective today. One that gives me hope.

The Jesus I know today doesn’t say, “you must.” He reaches out and says, “let me.”
The Jesus I know today doesn’t say, “do not.” He reaches out and says, “I have a better plan.”
The Jesus I know today doesn’t waggle His finger at me and shake His head from side to side with that “I told you so” look we all dread. No, He’s the Jesus who jumps up off the porch when He sees me off in the distance, trudging back home in my rags that smell of pig manure and other waste, a lost and hopeless look on my face, desperation in my plea, and He runs, as fast as He can, swooping me up in His arms, a smile on His face, with joy and love and compassion in His voice, giving orders for the preparation of a feast of celebration, all the while shouting, “this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” (Luke 15:11-32)

That’s the Jesus I know today. My vision of the final judgement looks a lot different. I’m still standing there in front of God, but Jesus is standing in front of me. That is all God sees, His blameless son, taking on my sin, advocating for His client, paying the price, absorbing the wrath that was supposed to be for me.

“As a Christian, I wanted to show people a practical savior, one who used humor, sarcasm and gentle ribbing to address their concerns. Through various social media, the comic took off, and I soon felt the need and obligation to portray Jesus as I know him. “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline” (Revelation 3: 19 NASB) is a verse that came to mind whenever I had Jesus speaking a stinging rebuke, but it was time to show that he is, above all, merciful. Does he care about your first-world problems while other believers are being martyred in the third world? Yes, but he might put your problems in perspective for you. He’s going to question your motives, examine your heart and reveal to you some ugly things you might be overlooking, all while loving you.” (Wilke, David (2013-02-19). Coffee with Jesus (Kindle Locations 98-105). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.)