90 Days: Job's Uncensored Heart

originally published on Reading the Bible in 90 Days   Wow - can I just say that I'm loving Job.  The raw humanity, the reverence for God yet the desire to have a relationship with Him.... this might be my favorite book so far.  A few quotes that stood out to me in tonight's reading:

19 Will You ever look away from me,

or leave me alone until I swallow my saliva?

20 [If] I have sinned, what have I done to You,

Watcher of mankind?

Why have You made me Your target,

so that I have become a burden to You?

21 Why not forgive my sin

and pardon my transgression?

For soon I will lie down in the grave.

You will eagerly seek me, but I will be gone.

Job 7:19-21 (HCSB) You will eagerly seek me, but I will be gone.  So God, instead, just love on me?  Please stop being so powerful and distant and terrifying... and just love on me. Job... I love your uncensored emotion and heart. Oh, come on!  That's beautiful.  Amazing.  Job is so passionately trying to get his head around the idea of God.  Job is trying to figure out this whole sin and forgiveness thing.  He's begging God to just give a little grace...

32 For He is not a man like me, that I can answer Him,

that we can take each other to court.

33 There is no one to judge between us,

to lay his hand on both of us.

34 Let Him take His rod away from me

so His terror will no longer frighten me.

35 Then I would speak and not fear Him.

But that is not the case; I am on my own.

Job 9:32-35 (HCSB) If that's not a man begging for the Messiah, I don't know what is.  I can't imagine living in a time when one didn't know how God was going to redeem His people.  I can't imagine being lost, trying to figure out why the world is set up this way, with failable humans, an infailable God, and sin and punishment and forgiveness and grace being all scattered about.  That might be one of my new favorite sets of verses. One more from tonight:

Only grant [these]  two things to me, [God] ,

so that I will not have to hide from Your presence:

21 remove Your hand from me,

and do not let Your terror frighten me.

22 Then call, and I will answer,

or I will speak, and You can respond to me.

23 How many iniquities and sins have I committed?

Reveal to me my transgression and sin.

24 Why do You hide Your face

and consider me Your enemy?

Job 13:20-24 (HCSB)
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90 Days: Judges

It's nights like these where it seems possible to read the Bible... and to truly enjoy it! I finished up Judges, read through Ruth, and stepped into 1 Samuel.  It was a great read; I had been growing weary of all the rules and regualtions.  However, I found that reading all the rules and geneolgy really helps out with the rest of the readings.  Knowing who the tribes are and how close they should love each other made it so much more tragic when Isreal goes to war against their very own brothers, Benjamin.  How far apart had these tribes grown!  Oh, they were supposed to be this beautiful nation, an example... but now they are fighting and slaughtering one another. Knowing the rules help with a taste of the life of the times; how Ruth knew that if she didn't take care of Naomi, Naomi would have no place in society. I really liked Judges, though.  After all the rules and regulation and such, Judges just comes at you with a bunch of different action movies.  Seriously - they could do a whole epic series of movies just based on the Judges.  (Hmmm....)  Even Ruth would fit in to the series, as her story is almost like a sidenote to the Judges [During the time of the judges...  Ruth 1:1 (HCSB)]. It's interesting reading these former Sunday School stories come to life with new understanding and different perspective.  As a child, I never questioned why Isreal was fighting these battles.  I think I always thought that Isreal was being attacked, and they were just trying to defend themselves.  It never dawned on me that they took the battle to Jericho.  I never wondered why Gideon had to take over a town. But now, with political concerns and such, it's almost a shock to be rooting on this little nation in decimating other people groups, taking over the land of their inheritance.  I have friends who are severly against gentrification... would they be against Isreal fighting other people groups to take over their lands of milk and honey? It seems this fighting has never stopped, with all the troubles and stories that come out of the Middle East even to this day.  Isreal is always defending itself from some foe; I simply don't think that those lands were meant for peace. Ah, and Samson.  Seriously... why did you tell Delilah your weakness?  Three times she sets you up, and you don't figure it out?  The Bible says: Because she nagged him day after day and pled with him until she wore him out...  [Judges 16:16 (HCSB)].   Oi; the power women have over us men.
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90 Days: The First Five Books

Well, yesterday I finished the first five books of the Bible.  The experience so far has been amazing and, surprisingly, emotional.  There are times where I'm sitting there, reading the very spoken words of God.. and I feel so disconnected to what He's talking about.  So far, a huge percentage of the words of God are so many rules, regulations, and architectural designs.  He loves a people who are polygamists, screw-ups, and courageous.  And this nation memorizes and memorizes and memorizes these words.  I think that reading the Bible almost expects you to have read it before.  There are several points in these first five books where I've felt like I should already know something.  Where it seems like it would make so much more sense if I already knew the ending.  Like if I was living with this nation day in and day out and I knew more, there would be so much more significance.  I think that's kind of how it's supposed to be, maybe?  Maybe we who are not a part of God's chosen nation weren't meant to be a part of this story UNTIL we could know the end.  It wouldn't make sense to us until we came in through the blood of Christ.  Because without Christ, without knowing what He did/is going to do to make us a part of this nation... then a lot of this just still doesn't fully resonate with me.  I don't connect with laws and ideas dealing with multiple wives... because I'm never going to have multiple wives.  I don't know much about pouring out blood from freshly killed animals... because I buy my meat from Kroger. It's emotional, because I just wish I had done this before.  I want to already have all this knowledge, I already want to understand the realtionship between Moses and God.  I want this.
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90 Days: The Architect God, the God of Fashion Designers

originally published on Reading the Bible in 90 Days

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Oi - so I, too, was tempted to skim the details of all this building and making clothes and getting everything JUST RIGHT.  However, this is the stuff I’ve never read before, never really heard before.  We hear the story part of Exodus, how the Isrealites get away from Pharoh… but so much of Exodus is really about constructing the Ark, the sacrifice tables, and how exactly God’s nation was to offer their sacrifices to Him.  We even get the formula for a perfume (that no one can wear except the priests… it’s amazing how tempting it is to try to make the perfume, just to see what smells so pleasing to God). So we have these long sections of scripture that isn’t just God-inspired, they are they very words of God.  This is God, the very one who created the Universe.  So His words should just resonate with our soul, right?  They should brin enlightenment and help us understand why we’re here, right?  All the questions we would love to ask God, and the unknowns… and we get paragraph after paragraph of how to build thing, what colors the robes should be, and how to burn meat. I mean… really? Where’s the mystery?  Where’s magic and wonder and “why did you even create us”?  Where’s the “why do you let bad things happen to good people”?  Where’s the “how do I know You’re real”?  We get… intricate directions on how to make stuff.  Which, I imagine, somehow makes sense.  God is the ultimate architect; He was picky and peculiar about how He made the laws of physics… I suppose he can be picky about a box He’s going to call His home.  He made the colors of the rainbow, so I guess he can be picky about what colors his priests wear.  He made all the smells; from the smell of dog to the smell of bleach to the smell of peppemint.  If he likes cinnamon, I think God can be picky and say He likes cinnamon. These are the sights and smells and texures God is going to recieve offerings around; He can be picky and choosy. Perhaps this is all part of the point… maybe our questions don’t really matter so much.  Maybe if we sat and listened, God would talk to us about the things He likes, instead of us telling Him what He should like.  Instead of us telling Him what we like, and thusly, He should like it too.  It’s strange to think that there are things that God just… likes.  I imagine when Christ returns he’ll be partial to some version Mariam’s “Horse and Rider” and reminisce of eating the fat from a calf.  He like jewels and gold and maybe even turbans.  It’s hard, because I want to think that God would like my own favorite bands, like OtR or William Shatner… but we have so little idea of what He likes. Unless we look at these long passages and find out that yes, God is partial to certain colors.  That yes, He likes things built by skilled craftsmen.  That yes, God does have opinions and likes and dislikes. These passages make Him more than just a God for architects or a God for fashion designers… these long passages are God showing He likes things a certain way; that He does care about the details.  Now to go find some cinnamon…
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90 Days: Genesis

originally published on Reading the Bible in 90 Days

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Well, I finished Genesis today.  I must say, it's rather enjoyable as one flow of a story.

I remember I used to always think that the geneologies were annoying and boring.  However, when read as a part of the meta-narrative, they are an incedible literary technique and a great critique on the people presented.  The geneologies serve as a very fluid way of travelling down time to the next major event.  I also love how they show importance to the stories... the major characters are not left out - their decendents are always told.  But sometimes, that's all that's told about a person... and that shows the storyteller's attitude toward that person. However, what most stood out to me in the stories of Genesis is the importance of sex and keeping the lineage alive.  God is opening and closing the wombs of the women all throughout the stories.  Rebekah, Rachel, Tamar... concubines of Pharoh... I love how in Genesis sex is treated with such high, powerful regard.  God is intimately involved in their sexual relations.  Even other nations understood the intimacy of sex, and begged for forgiveness when mistepping.  Whole cities were destroyed for the rape of a sister.  It seems almost that nothing was more sacred than a man's relations with a woman. I wish there was still that respect for other people in today's world.  Whenever someone wronged another, they would beg for forgiveness, on their knees, calling themselves "your servant."  Nowadays, far to often, when we wrong someone we seek to justify it.  Joseph accused his brothers of stealing his cup.  Though they knew they didn't actually do it, the proof was there, so they admitted to it.  They didn't understand what had happened, but they knew they had wronged this Egyptian ruler and they could only let him judge them.  They put themselves at his mercy, instead of trying to cast blame. All in all, I liked Genesis as a complete story.  Watching this family of generations ebb and flow and try to do things right, all the while stumbling along making mistakes is simply beautiful.  Getting these little vignettes of life from them... they are so raw and human.  They are so brave and yet so scared.  What I think I love the most about these stories is that there's nothing particularly special about them.  They're just a traveling people, holding fast to a promise that God made them - and slipping from that grip just a little here and there.
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90 Days: Why Haven’t I Done This Before?

originally published on Reading the Bible in 90 Days

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Today began the first day that I will be attempting to read the entire Bible in 90 Days.  In my brief life I’ve read bits and pieces here and there; I would assume that I’ve read at least half of it, if not more… I was a Religious Education major after all.  I know I’ve read all of the New Testament, but I’m not sure if I’ve ever actually gone through the whole of the Old Testament.  I guess in some ways this is some fabled rite of passage; to read the whole Bible, word for word.

It’s embarrassing, really, that I’ve never done this before.  I imagine Jesus’ boyhood friends would have made fun of me for not having the whole thing memorized when I was still a child.  Our society, unfortunately, doesn’t really encourage the process of reading through the whole Bible, of truly knowing it all.  Instead, when faced with the idea of reading this text that we proclaim as so important to my every day, thought and breath, most people I talk to say something along the lines of “good luck” or “wow”.  Why is actually reading the Bible marked with such wonder and amazement?

Why haven’t I done this before?  Why has it taken me so long to try and find the motivation… or time… or just plain desire to read it cover to cover?  Why haven’t my friends encouraged such an activity… or modeled it for me?

I’m blessed to be in community where several of our church members underwent this same task last summer.  Unfortunately, at that time, I was in class and teaching myself the fundamentals of programming.  I knew I wouldn’t be able to devote the proper time, attention and thought to such an intensive reading of the Bible.

Now, this time, myself and a few of my friends are doing this together.  I hope that we’ll be able to process through these stories together and bounce ideas around.  I hope that others will join the conversation.  I hope that I’ll be an encouragement to others.  I hope that I’ll do this again and again for the rest of my life.

So today I read through the first 16 chapters of Genesis.  I find it amazing how long the fathers of humanity lived; how many of their great-great-great grandchildren they were alive and blessed to see.  How many generations of this great family tree heard Adam’s version of Eve giving him the apple.  How many times was Eve the mid-wife for her own descendants, weeping over the pain of childbirth?  How many sons of sons cursed Adam for bringing upon them the curse of a toiled ground?  How many of them couldn’t understand why they never got to meet Abel… or Cain?

I want to run the numbers, and figure out how many of them were still alive when the flood came… how many of them mocked Noah for thinking he heard from the Lord?

I read today in the plane, on the way home from New Mexico.  I thought I was in the private, I thought I was reading and just enjoying it on my own.  But as we taxied to the gate, the elderly lady next to me learned over and gently told me in that whisper-voice of one who has seen so many years, “Keep up the good work.  Read it thoughtfully.”

My reading encouraged her; and she encouraged me.  Why haven’t I done this before?

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