Sunday, March 18, 2012

What's with the Bible?

I'm taking a class right now and it's very difficult. The difficulty isn't the content or the subject - but how it's presented. The textbook is in glorified outline style - and it's just plain boring. Not only is it boring - it's a thousand pages long! There are sections, and subsections, and subsections to the subsections. And there's laws and explanations and figures, etc. It's maybe one step above reading a dictionary or a phonebook.

There are books in the bible like this too. I remember the first time I read the books of Leviticus, Deuteronomy, and Numbers. First off - those titles - not the most exciting names one could come up with. Second - after reading the first couple chapters of each - huh? It was a combination of "what the heck are they talking about", "what's with these names?", and zzzzzzzzzz.

Context: I didn't grow up religious at all. I didn't go to any church until I was a senior in High School, and the first actual book of the bible I read was after high school (book of James). When I sat down and actually tried reading the entire bible - I set out to read it chronologically. Start at Genesis - end at Revelation. (I was inspired to read the bible from the book "Screwtape Letters" - C.S. Lewis)

Truth be told - I started at Genesis - made it through Exodus - then would hit the wall of Leviticus. I probably did this 4 or 5 times. I'd get a little farther each time - but would always stop. Finally - one of the times - I just skipped those books and went straight to Joshua (the Braveheart book of the bible - lots of battles).

All of these books made me confused. None of these books really showed me a picture of the God I knew in Jesus. And a lot of it was boring. Genesis was great. Even Exodus had wonderful moments - Moses kicked butt! But the three books after - wow. Talk about confusion. And God seemed to do strange things in the rest of the old testament - such as - ordering Joshua to destroy whole communities (men, women, and children) - and many other crazy things. The obvious questions that popped in my head at the time were "If God is good and love - how could He destroy so and so a people" - etc.

I wonder how many other people start out reading the bible like this? The bible is the most amazing book ever written - but a lot of it is written like it's Calculus when most of us are struggling with multiplication.

What is this book?

I've heard a lot of people say things like, "The bible is the roadmap of life" or "the bible tells us how to live" or "the bible is the story of how God saved us" - something like that.

I've also heard people say that the bible is the living word - it's alive - and it's holy - etc.

Maybe it is - in some way - maybe it isn't. Over the years, what I've come to find is that the bible is God's written word that reveals His Living Word: Jesus Christ. The written word is NOT the Living Word - but reveals the Living Word to people like you and me.

In the old testament - God revealed Himself to a tribe. But this was a partial revelation - with the promise of full revelation once the messiah appeared. In the gospels - the full revelation of God was seen/heard/experienced - in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. In the post gospel writings - the writers reflected on the partial and the full revelation of God to humanity. The door was opened up for the entire world to know and experience God.

If the bible is a book of revelation (revealing) - then starting with God's incarnation (God becoming human - Jesus) is probably the best place to start. What was God like? What did He do? How did He interact with people? What did He care about? How did He see people? etc.

I've met a lot of Christians that don't know a lot about Jesus. They know about the reflection writings in the bible, and even the foreshadow books in the Old Testament - but they don't seem to know Jesus as a person. I always walk away scratching my head.

I honestly believe it's how we've been taught. We're asked to read the bible - but most people don't know where to start or what to look for. So, we start chronologically (like I did) and read the bible looking for how we are supposed to live our life. Often, we look for ourselves in the bible rather than for Jesus (God). But - again - that's how many of us are taught.

What if we just looked for God?

Maybe we should just camp at the gospels for a while - really get to know God through the person of Jesus. I think many of us would be surprised at what we find. Jesus Christ is the walking definition of love - and He is known as a friend of sinners. And there's no God hiding behind Jesus. That means - God (the Father, Son, Spirit) is a friend of sinners. That's not controversial, it's just plain true. I like how Paul puts it:

"We're speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he's already a friend with you." (2 Cor 5:20)

I have a lot more to say on this - but I'll end here. May God guide you as you seek Him.


Sunday, March 11, 2012

Where am I going?

"As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector's booth. "Follow me," he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him." (Mt. 9:9)

One of the struggles I've recently discovered about my life is that instead of responding to the call of Jesus, I turn the question on Him and ask Him to follow me. I might set out upon a task and ask for God's blessing (Come follow me, Jesus). I might want something out of a relationship (come follow me Jesus). Even as a missionary - I tend to go into my daily tasks telling Jesus - "Come on - catch up!" The truth is, most days I rarely listen to His call to simply follow Him.

How many of us do that, actually? We want what we want, and then say to God - "Come follow me" in whatever endeavor we're marching towards. How many of us actually just listen and follow where Jesus might be leading, as opposed to telling Him where we really want to go and asking Him to bless us.

I love how Jesus deals with Matthew in this subject. Matthew was minding his own business in the middle of his job collecting taxes - and Jesus walks by - Jesus says, "Follow me", so Matthew gets up and begins to follow. At this point, Matthew had no idea where Jesus was leading Him. He could have been going to the next town, or some random place, but - as he followed - he recognized the streets he was passing. In fact, Jesus led him straight back to his own house! He led him straight to a normal and familiar place - not some outlandish romantic town far, far away - or some scary building with people that are wearing their nicest clothes to look good. I think that's pretty interesting.

Jesus must have told Matthew to tell all his friends to hang out because the next scene in the story is a feast at Matthew's house with a ton of tax collectors and "sinners". We don't see in this story Jesus telling Matthew, "Go to random places and invite random people to Church." haha! He tells Matthew to invite his friends to his home and have a feast. Jesus loves sinners - that's such good news!

Some of us want to be martyrs for our causes - even for Jesus. I think it's because we want to feel important. Jesus already thinks you're important - valuable. You don't have to "do" anything for that to be the truth.

And maybe He just wants to lead you to the familiar - your home. Consider putting aside your own agenda and seeking Him. Don't seek His blessing (you already have it - through the cross) - or how He can make life better for you. Learn to go where He goes. Learn to accept His invitation to follow - and keep it simple - just follow. Don't lead.

Yes - I know - easier said than done. But - He's the creator of life - He knows what's good and best for us. Maybe we should trust Him.

What I've learned in life is that when I lead, I fall. I end up hurting myself and others more often than I'd like to admit. So, I speak to myself as much as anyone else in this post. May we hear our good Savior's call - and may we be blessed for hearing His sweet voice and following wherever He leads - even if it's to our own home.