Why read the Bible in a year?

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Why read the Bible in a year?

Are you keeping up your New Year’s resolutions still? Many of us have given up by now… after all, it has been a whole 2 weeks. I’m reading through the Bible in a year as a plan put together with some daily devotions by Nicky and Pipa Gumbel. I made it about 5 days in a row before getting behind in the reading and having to catch up. I’m listening to Nicky read the reading for today right now. I also found out that this particular plan does not go through every single verse of the Bible, but only gives an overview. I haven’t checked and I’m not going to… That would take as much work as just reading through the entire Bible, so I’m going to plunge ahead and read through another day’s scriptures.

Mine is a fairly common story. We start off with the familiar wonder of Genesis 1,2, and 3. Day 4 and 5 the blood starts pouring and by the end of the week, the rain is falling and flooding the earth with Noah on a boat trying to save some samples of the gene pool. By the beginning of next week though, moving on to the stories of Abraham, things begin to get weird, and repetitive, and weird. Abraham travels a lot and when he finds himself in a large city, he tells the rulers that his wife Sarai is not his wife at all, but only his sister. It is not long before the king attempts to seduce Sarai, at which God sends a curse upon that kingdom until Abraham’s scheme is found out. The king, glad things did not go any further with Sarai, sends them both out and tells them they were wrong for lying to him. Lesson learned… well almost. A few days later, I could swear I’m reading the same story, only the name of the king has changed. Apparently not lesson learn. This week comes to an end, and Isaac, Abraham’s son is caught doing the exact same thing that his father Abraham did twice. Now I know where the HBO nighttime drama writers got all their material.

At this point we are barely halfway through the first book of the Bible. At this point it does not look like it is going to get better. These Old Testament readings are paired with passages of Hebrew poetry which sometimes sound like goth-emo wailings against some unnamed enemy interspersed with some brief glittering gems of God’s majesty revealed in creation. (Please note, I don’t have anything against Hebrew poetry, I’m just trying to emphasize the spectrum that exists in these biblical examples.) There is also New Testament readings from the Gospels, which starts off with the familiar stories of the birth of Jesus and the beginnings of His ministry. By the time, the violence and family drama starts in Genesis though, the Pharisees come onto the scene in the Gospels, and the war with words begins between Jesus and the Jewish leaders of His day.

Point being: the Bible is one messy book.

Why would you want to read it in a year? I’ve never heard anyone say they had a plan to read all of Shakespeare in a year, or all of the Harry Potter books (although I’m sure the latter has been attempted by many). What is it about the Bible and the span of one year that encourages these kinds of reading plans?

The Lectionary

First of all, there have been collections of Bible readings used by churches for weekly and daily use. Weekly Lectionaries that take you through the whole Bible in the course of about 3 or 4 years and Daily Lectionaries that take you through them in a year. Most Lectionaries include readings from the Old Testament, the Psalms, the Gospels + Acts, and The New Testament Letters. This all came from the Roman Catholic Church originally, so it is nothing new. It was based on their work at having the whole Bible preached and taught regularly and in ways that continued to relate to the seasons of the Christian year (Christmas, Easter, etc.).
Does reading through the Bible in a year make you a better Christian or help you grow more? I don’t know – I’ve never done it. I do know that reading the Bible on a regular basis helps you stay rooted in your faith and closer to God. I also know that it helps if you don’t just read John 3:16 on the way out the door to work every day, but branch out to other passages in the Bible as well. The more of it you read and the more times you read it, the more you will begin to see how one God worked through 66 books, thousands of lives and ten thousand stories that bring us to where we are today. If nothing supernatural happens in your Bible reading, it will at least be like hearing stories about your favorite grandparent and the adventures they had before you were even born. You begin to recognize the God you know and love in the lives of others, and then it begins to open your eyes to see more of God in and around you. Yes, the reading gets weird and messy sometimes, but so do we. So read your Bible and stretch yourself a little more this year than you did last year.

  • What is your favorite part of the Bible to read?
  • How often do you choose to read your Bible?
  • What pulls you away from spending time reading or listening to the Bible?

Fun Friday: What does the Bible say about having pets?

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Just a few weeks ago, after reflecting on the antics of one crazy cat Gizmo:

along with her adopted sister Carrie:

I asked myself a question that had never crossed my mind in over three decades of having pets. What does the Bible say about having pets? Does God allow us to have pets or does the Bible contain passages that are against it? How are we supposed to treat our pets? How are we supposed to treat animals in general?

Genesis 1 contains some of the earliest descriptions of the relationship between humans and animals. It says:

“Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.””

‭‭It continues in Genesis 2:

“Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals. But for Adam no suitable helper was found. So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the manʼs ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.”

‭‭‬‬These two chapters of the Bible, which probably deal with the relationship between humans and animals more than any other, have two specific things for us to consider.

  1. We have a specific relationship with animals – we are to rule over them. What does that mean? It means we are agents of order who care for animals and the rest of creation. (See here for a more specific discussion of the phrase used) The harshness of the word used comes from the harshness of living in nature. How kind and beautiful would you consider nature to be without electricity, motor vehicles, running water, and insulated houses. We pour boiling tar over nature every day just to make our drive from home to work smoother.
  2. Animals are not a substitute for family relationships. That is the implication of Genesis 2. It is not good for man to be alone, but there is no animal companion that can create true community the way another human being can. I suspect that the power struggle is such that an animal would only be able to love the human as a Lord and Master, not as a coequal. We need coequals to challenge our innate bent to make ourselves into little gods for all of creation.

This is by no means an exhaustive look at the biblical perspective on pets, but I think there is enough here to show that it is not only ok to have pets, God created us to care for the animal life around us. It also makes it clear that we are to be in charge of them, and not the other way around. I am quite certain I have been guilty on both counts from time to time (see pictures above).

How do the animals in your life affect your relationship with God?

What should I be reading in 2017?

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If you’ve stumbled across this blog than chances are you have at least a passing interest in reading so I’d like to put in my two cents on how you should spend the limited time you have this year. I successfully finished reading 25 books in 2016, more than half of which were work-related. Several of these I actually read with my ears instead of my eyes. I know what it means to have a limited amount of time to read and the importance of being choosy.

We may have differing interests when it comes to reading, so rather than go into specific topics, let me instead divide up all literature into a few broad categories.

  1. The Classics: Whatever subject you are interested in, there is someone who wrote the first book of its kind. There will also be other books of the category that were game changers, or perhaps discussion changers along the way. These books, referred to as evergreen by publishers, are, or will be considered classics, and it is important to be conversant in this literature… so whatever your topic (sports, history, science fiction, poetry, romance, etc.) be sure to make room in your schedule for reading some of the classics.
  2. Contemporaries: Once you start to get some of the classics under your belt, you will begin to make the discovery that today’s bestsellers are essentially just the next statements in a multigenerational conversation that started with the classics. Some people argue that there is less value in reading these books and sometimes cite Ecclesiastes which says: That which has been is what will be, That which is done is what will be done, And there is nothing new under the sun. The problem I have with this is that conversations do change over time as one piece of timeless truth interacts with other pieces of timeless truth in new contexts revealing new inspiration. (The Sadducees may have used this same reasoning for only reading and teaching the first five books of the Bible, neglecting the prophets, and disbelieving in the resurrection.) Indeed, if we want to be super-critical, we could say that everything that happened after the third chapter of Genesis is simply a continuation of the original conversation!
  3. As a third category, which may contain books from both the above categories, it is important to be sure to read from one or two books or kinds of books that you may not agree with. One of the best classes I took was on John Calvin, where we read through his own writing. It was not a required class – on the contrary, Calvin’s theology was not looked upon well in my particular professional circles… but I had decided, if he really was that wrong, I wanted to know why and why he wrote what he did. It was eye opening to gain insight into the motivations of someone who was a part of the overall theological discussion, just listening to understand rather than to get to or prove my position as being right. It challenged me and helped me understand more what, and why I believe the way I do. That said, it is important to be careful in reading these kinds of books so that you are not led astray easily. Take everything with a grain of salt and recognize that there is a larger conversation taking place of which each author is only playing a small part.
  4. Finally, I encourage you to read the Bible. So much of literature finds its base of conversation in the stories and writings found there. There are many “Read the Bible in a year plans”, bible apps for your phone, and many different translations and paraphrases to choose from (with or without study notes). I’ve got my own favorites, but I encourage you to pick one that you can get into yoruself. Whether you read a book a day or a verse a week, I think the important thing is that you get into that conversation because, through the Bible, you will begin and continue to have a conversation, not with distant and dead authors, but with the Living God. This reading will open your eyes and ears to new and old ideas that keep popping up in all the other conversations around you.

So, read a book, take your time, choose wisely, and be sure to include the Bible as part of your mental conversation with the saints and sages of the world.

What are you reading this year?

Keeping Your Priorities Straight While Changing the World – The Fourth Priority- Leave Each Place Better Than You Found It

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“And immediately he left the synagogue and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon’s mother-in-law lay ill with a fever, and immediately they told him about her. And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her, and she began to serve them. That evening at sundown they brought to him all who were sick or oppressed by demons. And the whole city was gathered together at the door. And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons. And he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.

And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. And Simon and those who were with him searched for him, and they found him and said to him, “Everyone is looking for you.” And he said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.”

And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons. And a leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. And Jesus sternly charged him and sent him away at once, and said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to them.” But he went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in desolate places, and people were coming to him from every quarter.”

Mark‬ ‭1:29-45‬ ‭ESV‬‬

There was a lot that Jesus did during the course of His ministry that may not have fit right into His mission of delivering us from the spiritual bondage we were held under. For example, Mark tells us that the second challenge He faced in His ministry, after facing down the evil spirits that approached Him, was helping relieve the physical sickness and injury that the people faced.

Physical brokenness often seemed to go hand in hand with spiritual brokenness, and many people believed that they were intrinsically linked. If you were sick, it was because you were a sinner. If you got hurt, it was because you were not good enough for the blessing of God. This has been a perennial belief that keeps coming back like a bad patch of weeds. Jesus had healing for the asking and He rarely gave any behavioral stipulations to those He healed. On and individualistic level, it may seem perplexing and contradictory to say that spiritual problems and physical problems are closely related, but one does not necessarily cause the other. If they do not share a causal relationship, how are they related?

The truth is, they do share a causal relationship, but not on and individualistic level. We live in a world full of billions of other people and their spiritual problems reach out and touch us causing us problems as well, both spiritual and physical. Likewise, our own sins have consequences for more than just us. They touch everyone. We all live in the same mess, no matter who or where we are in this world. So, when you look at the big picture, across the entire world, and across all of time, then yes, there is a causal relationship between sin and physical brokenness – but it’s all wound up like a wad of string the size of our world that we will never be able to fully unravel.

Jesus didn’t try to unravel it all. He started at the heart of that mess, dealing with the spiritual malady we all are affected by, and then He began to untangle one small piece at a time. Jesus did not finish the job, nor did He intend to. Instead, He showed us how we too, once we find the origin of our own sin problem, can begin unraveling the consequences around us, in the lives of those whose own lives connect with ours. Like the old Boy Scout motto, Jesus taught us to leave each place a little better than we found it.

We rarely can find the root sin cause of suffering in the lives of those around us, but we can be a witness to our own, when we find those links… But even then, our own sin is the the root cause of our suffering. The root cause originated in the Garden of Eden and had multiplied and compounded over time, long before it ever reached us. Again, it is not our job to unravel the whole thing. Jesus has dealt with the root cause and as we receive healing in our lives from the consequences of sin (whether or not that sin was of our own doing or not) we can pass that healing along to those around us. Jesus didn’t heal everyone and neither does He expect us to, but I think He will hold us responsible for those He brings into our lives. Our fourth priority is to work to clean up this collateral damage that sin has caused in our world, wherever we find it, and leave this world better than we found it.

Remember

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facing the wilderness

waves underfoot

calling out beauty

whose name is remember

from the sea

and starlight

shining in darkness

 

here there are great giants

in these hills

and shadows that roam in the flesh

but greater still

are the fruits of faith

 

to which avails

the fisherman

who steps in

with both feet planted

upon the rock

unseen beneath

the trembling water