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!

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