It’s Like the First Time Every Time

I tweeted the other day (sounds like a confession, doesn’t it?).

I tweeted this – “The more I read the Bible, the more I feel like I’m reading it for the first time.”

This is a blessing that comes with working one’s way through the Bible in large portions. I’ve come to like reading full chapters in the Old Testament and then smaller portions in the New Testament. Find what you will do and do it!
In doing so, though, I’m reading what I’ve read before, but it’s like reading it for the first time. And it’s making me look at my life and my ministry and go, “Okay, these things aren’t lining up.” And I’ll just assume I’m the one who has it wrong.
So for instance, just this morning I read Isaiah 2. Like most writing in the prophets, the chapter is about God’s judgment on his people and his calling them to return to him. So he says of them…
     Their land is filled with silver and gold,
     and there is no end to their treasures;
     their land is filled with horses,
     and there is no end to their chariots.
     Their land is filled with idols;
     they bow down to the work of their hands,
     to what their own fingers have made.
— We don’t make little images or figures and bow down. But let’s be real; we have idols. They just don’t look as dumb to us or everyone else. We call them careers, houses, multiple houses, cars, multiple cars, wardrobes, hobbies, sports, gaming, social media, blog traffic, twitter followers, church attendance, etc…
All of which become little idols when they usurp the rightful place of God on the throne of our hearts.
But because we don’t make little wooden, golden, or silver images, we ignore the rest. Which says…
     Enter into the rock
     and hide in the dust
     from before the terror of the LORD,
     and from the splendor of his majesty.
     The haughty looks of man shall be brought low,
     and the lofty pride of men shall be humbled,
     and the LORD alone will be exalted in that day.
     (Isaiah 2:7ish-12ish)
So before I piddle away at life in careless fashion or prepare a sermon from the vantage point of “What will make someone want to come back?” I’d better take into account what God says about God. Where are their idols in my life? Where is there pride or a lofty spirit? Where am I being haughty?
Nobody can read for you. Nobody can stand before God and give an account for your life either. So pick up the scriptures and read.

Passe or Priceless: Psalm 119 and the Worth of the Word

I have been reading through Psalm 119 again in an effort to rekindle a hunger and desire for the Scriptures in a life giving manner. I tend toward an academic kind of reading of the Word, which has its place–though I would provide numerous cautions in that endeavor. But the kind of reading I was taught doesn’t line up with the message of Psalm 119.

The psalmist speaks of the unsurpassed joy of keeping the laws of the Lord, of walking in his commandments, of meditating on his precepts. The more we read his words, the more faithful to them we should be. And the more faithful we are to him in that way, the more our appetite for the Scriptures increases. Our spiritual metabolism, so to speak, ramps up as we apply what we read and are faithful in the things we know for certain (rather than getting bogged down in the uknown).

In Psalm 119 I read Spirit-inspired words like:

  • I will fix my eyes on all your commandments (6)
  • I will delight in your statutes (16)
  • My soul is consumed with longing for your rules at all times (20)
  • Your testimonies are my delight; they are my counselors (24)
  • I will run in the way of your commandments (32)
  • Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain (36)
  • My hope is in your rules (43)
  • At midnight I rise to praise you, because of your righteous rules (62)
  • It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes (71)
  • The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces (72)

Okay, that last one…seriously? What would that be in dollars? The last I saw, a $20 gold piece was worth roughly $1400. So, carry the 1, divide the remainder into the square root…3,000 of those coins would be $4.2 million. Is the law of God’s mouth, in practice and lived out, better to me than $4,200,000? “Oh yes, absolutely! No doubt!” he exclaimed without flinching.

Then why do I not hesitate to push that law aside in order to justify my lack of action to care for the least of these? It takes me about $40 to sell out…let alone $4.2 million.

I’m pleading with the Lord to let me read his Word anew, with fresh eyes and an undivided mind. “Incline my heart to your testimonies, Lord.”

I want to desire the Word and long for it, more than a latte or new shoes. The video below is a reminder that what has become passe for us in America is still priceless to some:

The Ragamuffin Bible for the Ragamuffin Gospel

You don’t know what a ragamuffin is? I didn’t either. I’d just heard of Brennan Manning’s book for over a decade and never took the time to read it. Then I got the opportunity to review The Ragamuffin Bible thanks to Booksneeze.

I thought it would be wise to read The Ragamuffin Gospel before reading the companion Bible. While you don’t have to do the same, it might be wise to read. It will enrich your spiritual journey and encourage your heart. You will identify yourself with the beat-up and brokenhearted all around.

As for the Bible published by Zondervan, it contains numerous devotions and reflections from the life and work of the recently passed Manning (just died in 2013). The NIV translation makes the Bible accessible by a wide range of ages. The font size is reader friendly, and the frequency of Manning’s writing is balanced and timely, which may help you if you’re trying to read large chunks or even get through the Bible in a year (an endeavor that generally comes to a crashing halt somewhere in Leviticus!).

There is no pretense in Manning’s words. What makes him so endearing is his honesty and transparency.  Regardless of one’s translation preference, this Bible is a welcomed addition to anyone’s journey with God. ImageRetails for $34.99

What if These Verses weren’t in the Bible?

John 13:34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.

Matthew 25:35-36, 40 I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me…Truly, I say to you, as you did to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you did it to me.

Matthew 5:44 I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.

Deuteronomy 24:14 You shall not oppress a hired worker who is poor and needy, whether he is one of your brothers or one of the sojourners (aliens) who are in your land within your towns.

Ezekiel 16:49 Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy.

Acts 4:44-45 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.

What if these verses weren’t in the Bible? Would life look any different for you than it does now. Or, do you already live like they aren’t there? I’m guilty. How about you?

God’s Word or Fictional Thriller?

As part of my morning devotions I’ve been reading in 2 Peter, and this morning especially it got pretty crazy–as crazy as a “quiet time” reading can get anyways. 2 Peter 3.10 is where it went Sci-Fi for me: “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done will be exposed.”

I envision the planet earth literally melting into a blob of nothingness, which doesn’t bode well for anything on the earth! Sadly, even if unicorns did exist we’d never find them at that point. But anyone, spiritually super or not, has to admit that this just sound like it’s a scene in a James Cameron movie.

But the reality of what will happen in that day when God decides to play His hand is actually more comforting than scary. Yes, there will be judgment and all that we’ve done in word and deed will be exposed. But that leads to a new heaven and a new earth–the word for ‘new’ there carries a meaning like our word renovated. So it’ll be like a giant HGTV project! Or Extreme Makeover Home Edition. Only far better and with no annoying hosts.

This renovation paves the way for righteousness to dwell for eternity. No more injustice. In fact, all injustices of old will have been corrected. Pain will never be felt again. Sorrow will be banished. And the greatest reality of all is that sin will have no place to dwell…not in us, not in creation.

While it may seem Sci-Fi, the day is coming. This should give us a renewed sense of urgency in spreading the news of Christ and living lives worthy of the name of Jesus. The Lord is patient, not wanting any to perish. But the day is coming, and our mission is clear. Slow fade to black and dramatic conclusion music…..