- Cush fathered Nimrod; he was the first on earth to be a mighty man.
- He was a mighty hunter before the LORD. Therefore it is said, “Like Nimrod a mighty hunter before the LORD.”
- The beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar.
- From that land he went into Assyria and built Nineveh, Rehoboth-Ir, Calah, and
- Resen between Nineveh and Calah; that is the great city.
Nimrod! I met him again in my reading-through-the-Bible chapters for yesterday. As I sit here in one of the largest and most confusing airports in the world, which shall remain nameless, I realize that the world is still and always has been looking for one more Nimrod. We, meaning the world at large, want this kind of hero. Lust may be the right word for this desire. A conqueror-builder suits our tastes, soothes our fears, and sometimes, when I’m in places like this, I can feel the magnetic pull toward all things Nimrod. Nimrod wouldn’t bother with an airport. He’d have his own plane, and right now that sounds pretty good. You can see where I’m going from here, I bet. That’s right. Everybody has their idolatrous temptations, that is everybody who is human and living on the earth. Yep. Pastor Nimrod. Hallelujah! Picture this dude. Feel the anointing, baby. Amen. “Like a mighty preacher before the Lord.” Well, who doesn’t want to be mighty?
But at what cost?
What’s interesting is that Nimrod’s résumé sounds like an echo of what the serpent offered Eve and Adam in the garden. We are all still looking for this. We all want an edge in this life, a way over the valley of all that is frustrating and pedestrian at best… or soul-destroying and tortuously painful at worst. What’s so great about Jesus is that he did not avoid the parts of life we wish we could avoid. I think some people were disappointed with Jesus when He came on the scene because He wasn’t more like Nimrod. A great prayer for those of us who need it…
“Lord, help me not want to be Nimrod. Help me not want You to be Nimrod for me. I don’t want to build Babel, but rather Your Kingdom with this life You’ve given me. Amen.”
Another surprising gift that ongoing Bible reading gives us is the power of single words from His Word. It happens when you read a verse in the Bible that you may have read many times before. Suddenly, a word stands out and it is the word you need for today. The first verse I learned from Scripture, Psalm 118:14, represents a series of these kinds of “a-ha” moments for me. “The Lord is my strength and my song, he has become my salvation.”
I remember one time feeling very panicky. I was wondering what my next move was in a situation. It looked like I was losing everything, no matter what move I made. I was trapped. I had nothing left to bring to my problem. I was under attack. I didn’t know that all I needed was the word “strength.” I thought I needed wisdom or the ability to see something I hadn’t before. In a second, thanks to the Holy Spirit, I realized that I simply needed to stand my ground in His Strength. The Lord was my ability to handle things. I didn’t have to figure anything else out. I didn’t have to come up with something. I just had to release my grip on the situation and sense His Grip on me. The Lord was my strength because He is my strength. As you make your way through the Bible, look for this gift of single words from God’s Word. Is there a single word in the verses you’ve read today that He means to help you with? Sometimes the answer to the most complicated situation can come in the form of one simple, single word from Him.
Peace, grace, strength, forgiveness, life, mercy, blessing, provision, salvation, favor, wisdom, healing, trust, patience, redemption, love…
To read the Bible everyday is to believe that God can transform your life and heart right now with even just one word from His Word.
Bible study is like digging for treasure. The prize we’re each after is new insight, or renewed insight. When you have an “a-ha” moment with a verse of Scripture, I believe it isn’t just intellectually interesting, it is food for your soul and health to your body. In my experience, there is nothing that’s as good for you as personally gleaning Scriptural insight from and about God. I’m convinced that this is the Holy Spirit’s favorite ministry.
I’m following my usual pattern of reading through the Bible in a year (with some variation, which I’ll describe later). So, I’m in the early parts of Genesis and Matthew. Some of my “a-ha” moments have been..
- Once again I see, through both the flood in Genesis and the ministry and preaching of John the Baptist, how serious God is about sin. Sin is cursed. God cannot and will not tolerate it. All sin will receive its due. What’s not accounted for in one way, must be accounted for in another. This is why the gift of Christ is so eternally profound. The sin He pays for on the Cross is paid for. Period. The believer is left, however, with the strong conviction that temptation is dangerous because sin is deadly. “Go and sin no more,” Jesus said to the newly saved and forgiven woman in John 8… and to every one of us. Amen.
- Even in the announcement of curses and wrath rightly resulting from the fall in Genesis 3, we hear the voice of a merciful and generous God. Why do we get another chance at all? We don’t deserve it. Only when we realize we don’t deserve anything from God can we begin to understand His love. It’s real love. Obviously, it is not conditional love. God loves us. This can’t be questioned.
- How God cares for and considers animals and all creatures besides us stands out for me this year. I’m surprised by the tenderness.
- We try to cover ourselves with fig leaves. They never work. God provides clothing that does work. It comes at a great cost. Sacrifice precedes provision. Because of our sin, lives of every kind begin to be lost… and this painful loss of life continues right up to today.
- The five women of Matthew 1 really stand out to me this year. Then I see Joseph and I get the sense that God is showing us a real man in him. I’m not sure this meets with present day societal standards, but I see that God wants His people (and especially His men) to serve and protect vulnerable, victimized women. He refuses to leave them (or any of us who turn to Him) trapped in an identity less than He had in mind in Genesis 1-2. Tamar, Rahab, Bathsheba, Ruth… and even Mary, as the world saw her… unmarried and pregnant… they were prostitutes, Gentiles… all kinds of “unfit,” yet Christ is the redeemer, even of His ancestors. Amazing. How does a toxic, condemning, religious spirit survive or even get started when we have Matthew 1? Don’t we see everywhere that “all have sinned?” How is it that one sinner can look down on another… ever?
- Jesus really did come to be one of us, except for the sinning part. He wasn’t making some kind of token visit, waving from a limousine as he passed by. He surrendered privileges. He showed up. / He’s been here. He’s done this.
Anyway, these are examples of thoughts, journal-notes, insights, the beginnings of insights that time in His Word has prompted me to record. What about you?
In a few days I’ll be running my 14th marathon. I’m an always-almost-in-shape runner (code for lazy) who invariably experiences certain urgent biological demands right in time for the starting gun to go off for each of these races. (They usually start early in the morning. Think a 4:00am wakeup time, black coffee, Berry Pomegrante Chia Clif bars, and bananas combined with adrenaline. I think you get the picture.) By now I’ve learn to shrug my shoulders, take care of my personal business in as timely and effective a manner as possible, and get going… joining the herds of plodders with whom I’ll be spending the next 4-5 hours of my life as we travel 26.2 miles by putting one sneaker in front of the other.
OK. So It’s January 2nd. You had big plans, you and God, big plans involving His Holy Word in 2017, but now your doing your equivalent of my standing in line for a porta-potty after the starting gun. The year is running on without you. You’re already behind. No worries! A year is a long time, just like a marathon is a long race. You have plenty of make-up time in front of you. And, let’s be honest, you’ll probably be there again, standing in your version of a porta-potty line, more than once in the coming year. I know I will. Just like in a marathon (and in life), however, it’s all about crossing that finish line.
But, let’s remember, it’s also about the miles, one at a time. We read (and run) because we’re alive and grateful. It’s not just a rush to the finish to say, “I did this.”
Two other things for the day…
- A superhero missionary friend of ours sent out her plans for Bible reading in 2017 and she’s using a pretty cool resource. Here it is. (It’s called The Bible Project.) She also sent a link to a very cool app. Here it is. (It’s called Read Scripture.) These look awesome. And, like I’m saying today, there’s still plenty of time to start well. Maybe one of these is the way to go.
- I mentioned in an earlier post about the pesky new ESV2016 text. An old favorite Bible site of mine, Blue Letter Bible, has a handy list of the verses that were changed from the ESV2011, the one most ESV people and churches have. Not that many verses have changed really, but the first one (Genesis 3:16) will get your attention; what a difference a word can make. Also, note that the ESV Study Bible site (here) has the ESV2016 text for you to read, but the audio is still ESV2011 at this point.
Thanks for all the responses, follows, comments, and encouragement! God bless you today! Enjoy His Word!
Maybe for 2017 you are embarking on a quest to read through all or part of the Bible in a year. Congratulations! Starting something this important and this personal is a very big deal. It is my honor to share the journey with you. With this in mind, here are two thoughts that may be helpful…
- First and foremost, do not view your commitment to read the Bible every day as a character test. You will undoubtedly run into snags. There are times when you may get days or even weeks behind. If you get frustrated enough to quit, you’ll have more than one problem on your hands. You don’t want to make access to God a function of your personal character. It’s not about whether or not you can keep a promise. Rather, it’s about being irresistibly drawn to find something. You are reading because you need to; you can’t keep wading through this life being so spiritually clueless. Or you must get to God, the real God, now in your life. No more waiting. Make sure that you don’t paint a picture of yourself as a good little Bible reader. Whenever someone compliments me on my Bible reading by saying something like, “It must be so great to be so disciplined,” then I know that he or she does not get it. It was more desperation than discipline that got me through the weeds of Leviticus my first year of reading the entire Bible. I had to know what it said. I had to know why it mattered. I had to stop relying on the testimony of others. Reading Scripture is a type of holy rebellion against societal norms. No longer will you tolerate holding a derived faith. You can’t live on the profession of others. When you face death, a few short seasons from now, you want to be sure that you are sure. You want to know that you didn’t miss something important. Eternity hangs in the balance.
- There are many different approaches to reading Scripture. You may have to search for a while to find one that works for you. We distribute Our Daily Bread at our church and it contains a plan for reading through the Bible in a year and this is what I follow and have been following for decades. We distribute printed copies, but the online version (linked above and here again) is very useful. Shannon, my wife, uses it. By the way, she just finished reading through the entire Bible in one year for 2016 and for 2017 will be reading just the New Testament using something called the 5x5x5 plan. I found this plan for her here. This neat Ligonier article offers a bunch of plans and a doorway to many, many great resources… including the big, hairy, heavy study Bible I told you about yesterday, which, by the way, I’m really tempted to use in 2017. Am I a glutton for punishment? It doesn’t mean you have to be. I run every day and haven’t missed one, single day since May 22, 2000, even with 9/11, deployments, cruises, and international travel to places like Nigeria, Ukraine, and Antarctica. For 40+ days in a row last summer I took the Cold Shower Therapy challenge (here’s a link to the app) and took 5-minute ice cold showers day after day. I’m not as disciplined as I would like to be, but these are what outsiders might see as extreme attempts at becoming so. Maybe, but I don’t think so. My daily habits help me accept my character flaws more than they obliterate them. They also test my family’s patience! The point is this: I am not your pace setter and you are not mine. Integrity and conscience are only genuine when they come from within. Your Bible reading plan is yours alone, and your Bible reading goals are all that matter. Leighton Ford is famous for saying something like this: “Jesus is the only way or path to God, but there are many, many paths to Jesus.” We all want to read the Bible more and we hope to have this reading influence every aspect of our lives and relationships. How we get there may differ greatly. I need boxes to check and lots of extrinsic reinforcement because my overly -creative, non-diagnosed ADHD mind is committed to flights of fancy that lead to endless idleness. My box-checking on personal items is personal and meaningful. For many other people it would not be; it would be constrictive and toxically religious. Maybe you don’t want to need to check a box. Then don’t. You’ll figure out what works for you and you’ll learn to be flexible… because everything changes. Don’t be frustrated by the process of discovery that you have undertaken. The Bible can sometimes feel like the hard floor we land on when we fall. This is because our approach to it will always expose our need for the redemption that it alone describes and offers.
Let me, again, congratulate you and offer you my utmost support in your Bible reading adventures! Be sure to write to me about your plans! Let’s pray for each other and for the year we are starting together!
PS – One more thing that may be helpful. On the ESV site as well as on Bible Gateway, you can have the Bible read to you while you follow along. (On an iPhone or equivalent devise, the most popular of these sites/apps is YouVersion.) I have done this for some of my years of reading through the Bible and have found it very helpful, especially when I needed the early morning support for my attention span. Sometimes you can even get a narrator with a cool British accent.