Saturday, March 9, 2013

(Stating the obvious, preaching to the choir and all that...)

"Talk about a preachy book!"
Back in the old days as a brand new Christian, I once came out to my Bible study… as a non-Bible reader. I don’t know how long I had belong to the Chapel Hill BIBLE Church – a year, maybe? I soaked up every Bible-expository sermon proclaimed in the “pulpit,” listened to tapes of them over and over, and attended Bible studies and classes like a good beer on a Friday night at the end of a long week, but I had no inclination to actually READ the thing!

About a year later, I announced to the same group that I had finished reading the Bible! That was when this fantastic woman named Patience Teeny (her real name) told me that after my first declaration, she had begun praying that I would be seized by the desire to read it. Weird, huh? I guess not.

The Top 100 Guitarists 
of All Time? THAT's a 
fun list! This is #1, 
by the way.
Anyway, I can’t say enough how lovely the Bible is. Confusing, yes. Violent, yes. Dated. Yes. But also clear, sweet, and eternally relevant. It has entertainment value – a warrior getting nailed to the ground with a tent peg through the head, a fat dead guy whose servants don’t check on him because they’re sure he’s on the crapper, a talking donkey, whole armies being wiped out by a dude wielding the jawbone of an ass… to name a few! It has history, poetry, erotica, doctrine, good advice…

Sure some parts are easier to read than others. It once occurred to me that reading the parts about wandering in the desert were a bit like… well, wandering in the desert!  And I remember the first time I read the book of Chronicles. That book does have some history parts, but also, it’s A BUNCH OF LISTS!!! And not fun ones, either… like the Top 100 Guitarists of All Time or Top Ten Facts about Raging Bull. No, these are genealogies and military rolls, lists of temple furnishings and stuff like that… And Leviticus. That’s full of handy instructions like what to do if there’s mildew in your house. Or if you have an infectious skin disease. The first time I read that book I thought I would never make it through. But then the second time… I’m not sure why, but I thought it was utterly fascinating!

Because I was familiar
with the Bible, I saw God
in this movie about Scottish

heroin addicts...
It’s my feeling that if you continue to read the Bible throughout your life, it will continue to show you new things about yourself, about life, and about God. You may be reading the same words, but new things will stand out to you. For instance, I was reading Deuteronomy during the fall, and that book is so chock full of stuff about social justice and fair treatment of the disenfranchised that it really affected how I viewed the election.

My own repeated readings have revealed to me a book that is at once sweetly familiar and continually baffling… Because most of all, the Bible is our best look into the mind of God – who is at once sweetly familiar and continually baffling. I mean there’s really no way for us to KNOW God completely here on earth, but this is our best chance… after all, John says that Jesus is the Word made flesh. (John 1:14)

and this movie about an 
art thief and a hired killer...
And what I see when I read the Word is a God who loves sinners. I love this quote from renowned theologian Homer Simpson: “Look at this Bible I just got. 15 bucks! And talk about a preachy book! Everybody's a sinner! Except for this guy.” I’m not going to say the Bible isn’t preachy – it’s full of sermons, right? And you can’t argue that it’s full of sinners. It absolutely is. Except for this guy. I’m assuming Homer is referring to Jesus. Because he “knew no sin.” And that’s my point. As Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Because GOD LOVES SINNERS!!!! Even when Israel was at its worst, God pursued “her” like … well, like my persistent husband pursued me. And let me tell the guy was DETERMINED! But that's a story for another day.

and even in this!
I love the Bible and all its sinners simply because then I know God loves me too.  Every word of this book is a breath of fresh air to my moldy old cobweb-filled brain. Lots of things crowd my life and brain, but I like to think that knowing God is my heart’s desire, and His book gets me closer every time I plunge its puzzling depths. Sitting down before it every day (or nearly) at least declares my intentions!

And it's not just about those few minutes in front of the book – once it's in your brain, you will more easily recognize Him when you see Him. I could never see Him in movies and music without the foundation the Bible has given me. I mean, normally when I’m watching a film, it’s Bible verses that pop into my mind to direct me to Jesus. (This happened in reverse with Joy Davidman, the wife of C.S. Lewis – in a moment of despair God came into her room to comfort her. Later as she read about Jesus in the gospels, she recognized that Presence in her room.) 

My statement of intention.
(Coffee is not essential,
but preferred.)
Other ways to know God – the Holy Spirit, for instance, can’t be nailed down (John 3: 8). The Bible you can consult again and again. One time, before I was familiar with the sacred text, I was struggling with doubt, having very specific questions... and (what I believe was) the actual Holy Spirit gave me a verse! I looked it up in a concordance, and Bob's your uncle! The answer to my nagging question! Thank God for concordances, am I right?! So anyway, I’m thinking everything’s working together here… 

And I am not saying that I am some super Bible reader/studier, if that’s what you were thinking. In fact I’m pretty haphazard at it these days. When I was single, I had all kinds of time for such things, but life comes in phases and this phase, for me, does not lend itself to intensive study. On good days, I read one chapter. Then I read the notes at the bottom the pages of my NIV Bible. Those little blurbs really help give you a good idea of context and language peculiarities. At this rate, I should get through the Bible in three+ years... Yeah, I'm taking it at a leisurely pace... but as I said, I'm declaring my intentions.

This post is really not turning out how I had planned... I mean, I can’t begin to cover the importance of the Bible with one little blog post, and I am sure I am pretty much stating the obvious, preaching to the choir and all that... I’m just telling you. It’s a beautiful book full of beautiful things. It means a lot to me. God's in it. We're in it. If your aim is to get to know God – and He wants you to know Him – this is a good way. 

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