In the beginning…

How are your 2017 Bible reading plans coming? Most Bible reading plans that align with calendar years start the reader in Genesis. Besides being the beginning, this is an epic place to start for other reasons. Every year it is an emotional thing to read Genesis 1-3 on January 1st. There is so much here of consequence, almost too much for one day. For this reason, I started early this year. This means I finished my 2016 Bible read-through early, reading all the text, notes and articles of “The Apologetics Study Bible” featuring the older 2003/2004 Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) version. (The 2009 text is the better revision.) I usually finish reading through the Bible in a year early. It’s hard to read one chapter of Revelation a day, especially around Christmas. I prefer to face Armageddon in one long morning of intense reading, instead of dragging it out through the 12 days of Christmas.

And, before continuing, just so you know, for 2017 I’m planning on reading through the ESV (English Standard Version) 2016 “permanent edition” text which has since, after some controversy, been deemed “not permanent.” Regardless, this means that, yes, there is now an ESV 2016 text edition which makes the ESV 2011 text edition in our pulpits out of date. Ugh. Anyway, I have the new ESV “Journaling Bible” with Crossway’s famous, tiny, barely readable font, the one nearly all of their handheld Bibles feature. Perhaps it’s their ministry to persuade readers of their mortality via daily immersion in the reality of failing eyesight. Don’t be blind to the fact that you will soon face judgment! Whatever the reason, I have glasses… and lots of spares. Full disclosure: my plan B for 2017 is my new massive, intimidating copy of “The Reformation Study Bible,” which is officially the heaviest Bible I own… out of 50 or so. The heaviest. I may revert to it last minute if I succumb to some need to test my manhood and endure monumental challenge… because it would mean that I would have to read all the notes too, which is what I do on the years I choose study Bibles to read through. Anyway, back to Genesis…)

Here’s what I noticed this time through Genesis 1…

The act of creation may be at least as much about order as it is about production. God makes things, but this is not the only focus of the text. (If you say He doesn’t make them, of course, you lose the entire thread of the text and refute everything that follows. More on this later.) God’s making things, however, seems to be mentioned as if can be assumed by the faithful reader. It doesn’t seem to be the sole need the writer (Moses) perceives in the reader’s mind. God making things is great and perfectly necessary for the redemption account that follows, but we need to know something more about His making everything. The text wants us to pick up something more. It’s clear in how the verses are organized. We need to know that things come in a certain order. We need to know that everything has a place and that everything is in its place. Order is often the unopened gift of Genesis 1. Order is the first evidence that we not only have a God at work here, but that we have a GOOD God at work here. His good ordering of things is a harbinger of all future conversations about holiness in Scripture and it provides us the structure within which to worship Him. We call God Creator and, I think, can mistakenly assume that this title is satisfied by an image we have of Him making things. We miss everything if we don’t start here, but we miss what we need if we stop here. So what if He made everything, does everything He made make sense? Is there some order here? The enemy of Genesis 1 is not the idea that God didn’t make things, it’s the idea that God can’t keep things together and can’t put them where they belong. God presents His role in our universe and in our personal lives as the One who sorts things out. He brings order. Yes, He made all things, including us, but this alone does little for our troubled souls. We are desperate for the good news that, in God alone, things make sense. Because of God, there is order. Life rarely seems to make sense. Enter God, the Creator-Artist. He happened to make the paint and the canvas. Sure. That’s really neat. But now… watch what He does with it! Watch how He alone brings order to it all! See it in sunsets and hear it in conversations with children. Experience it in your own life. Order! Wow!

In Christ, may our Creator-Redeemer do amazing things in ordering your life and universe this next year!

 

23 and me…

If you’re thinking and praying about doing more Bible reading in 2017 or even reading through the whole thing, or maybe a big chunk of it, then let’s do this thing together.

I’ve converted this blog a few times already. I’m changing it again. I thank you for your patience and interest, and, lately, your generosity in supporting my charity running of the New York Marathon. I’m pretty blown away by so many of you. I’m haunted by the feeling that I just don’t say “thank you” enough. So… thank you… really.

Now I want to try to offer something that is directly helpful. I want to encourage all of us to read our Bibles more. I know this sounds very “pastorish” of me. I guess it is, but there’s more to this than my vocation. Scripture is the unique touchstone of human experience that both explains and gives meaning to our brief lives. Of course, I don’t know what I would do in my day-to-day life without having a Bible (many Bibles in my case) within reach. Strangely, I grew up holding the majority view that the Bible was archaic and irrelevant. Worse than this, I thought some of it was just plain retrograde. Bad stuff. But then I read the thing. And I read it again. The religious people I knew kind of got in the way of the Bible for me. They pushed it like it was ice cream. You gotta try it. When you’re dying of thirst however, you don’t want ice cream, you want water. Water is the stuff of our physical lives. The Bible is spiritual water. You drink it. You swish it around slowly in your mouth. You gulp it down sometimes. You tell yourself you should drink more at other times. Water.

My new Blog title, “23 and me,” is based on the DNA testing service that advertises on TV. Sounds neat, a good way to learn some things about yourself, not unlike reading Scripture. In my case, this is my 23rd time reading through the Bible in a year. Maybe it will be your first, or the first time you attempted any kind of planned reading of Scripture. You’ll enjoy it and, on so many levels, you’ll be glad you did. Whether you are a churchgoer or not, whether you will understand or appreciate everything you read or not, you’ll be engaged in an activity that is so soul-expanding that every other part of your life will be touched by it. We call it the Word of God for good reason. He’s the point of the book. I said something at the Christmas Eve services this year that I’ve said pretty regularly in church concerning the Bible. Here’s the quote right from the manuscript…

Remember, under the supervision of the Holy Spirit, the Bible is a book written by people who have a problem with God, for people who have a problem with God, to show how God Himself provides the solution to our problem with God. 

Amen. Use these last few days of 2016, if you haven’t already, to nail down your 2017 Bible reading plan. Decide what Bible you will use. Pray about what God wants you to learn about Him and yourself. God bless!