ZERO (Day 365 the last day of 2014, 100% complete)

All year I have been struggling with balancing my normal routine life with my commitment to read the entire Bible for the first time in my life. It has been a difficult challenge and I wish I could say that God spoke to me with his big booming “God” voice and made me feel all warm and squidgy.

But he didn’t. I need to look elsewhere.

So what have I learnt, in brief?

The Old Testament is not a series of chronological descriptions of prophets having conversations with the Almighty. It is a series of events in more or less chronological order, but then continuing with the Lord speaking to the prophets about what Israel is doing wrong.

It is hard NOT to draw parallels with modern-day Israel and the politics of the Middle East. Some people might say that Israel is still doing wrong and will be duly punished. But there are some in Israel itself who are struggling to make their voice of compassion and equality heard. Time will tell if they manage to succeed. Peace is still a long way off, but if everyone on all sides could agree on a compromise, then life would improve for all.

The New Testament contains some challenging words from Paul and the other epistle writers. It is difficult to follow their instructions sometimes. Many of the things they wrote about are directly opposite to our modern way of thinking.

As the Church of England chose its first female Bishop, one can only imagine the horror that Paul would feel. Or would he? If he were alive today, would he think more like us? In a way it is not even a question. We cannot change what’s in the Bible just because we don’t like it. Picking specific passages to support our arguments is very thin ice, theologically.

Much safer to say what I liked most. I have enjoyed Zachariah, which I didn’t quote because I’d already decided to just concentrate on Revelation in December. There were many connections with the Easter story. Life from death. Easter: a time of re-birth and renewal. A time of starting afresh. A sort of spiritual Happy New Year. And perhaps that’s God’s message to me? A Happy New Year!

Which brings me to the final quote. Thank you for reading, I hope you found some of it interesting. God bless you.

“He who is the faithful witness to all these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon!’ Amen! Come, Lord Jesus! May the grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s holy people.” [Revelation 22:20-21 NLT]

Day 195

“You may think you can condemn such people, but you are just as bad, and you have no excuse! When you say they are wicked and should be punished, you are condemning yourself, for you who judge others do these very same things.” (‭Romans‬ ‭2‬:‭1‬ NLT)

Only God truly knows what is in our hearts and minds. Only God, therefore, is in a position to dispense judgement on those who may or may not be guilty.

This week someone close to me offended me. I passionately believe that children should be taught about a wide range of topics. If such teaching is of a good quality and unbiased in its presentation, then the children will grow up into tolerant and understanding individuals.

Society as a whole would be a better one because the young men and women, as they enter the workplaces and cities of our countries, would have a wide range of experiences and knowledge.

But I was told that I could not talk to a class of children about the Bible. There are concerns that by doing so, there could be allegations that I am attempting to radicalise them. Three members of staff would have been present. The information that I could have told them would be based on the questions that the children themselves had come up with.

I am not condemning those who told me I could not talk to the children. That’s not my place. See above. But I feel morally compromised.

I think that my professionalism and integrity has been called into question.

Am I overreacting? Should I just let it go?

What would you do?

Day 181 (50% of the way through)

I can’t believe it! I have read half of the Bible. This has been a difficult few weeks and there is increasingly the feeling that I should just pack it in.

Who is reading this blog? The stats are telling me one thing, but I still have comments from people so I know that a few people are reading it!

So where are we now? I’ve found a few seeds of wisdom, especially through the Proverbs, which has always been a favourite book of mine. I have also enjoyed the brutal honesty of the Psalms.

The New Testament continues to give words of wisdom and interpretation into the lives of those early Christians. But the Old Testament has been very tough going at times. It is written in such an unfamiliar style that it is hard work to read and understand. I admit… sometimes it’s just a matter of reading it and hoping some sort of revelation will surface.

But meanwhile, the verse I chose for this monumental day is this one…

“Let them all praise the name of the LORD. For his name is very great; his glory towers over the earth and heaven!” (Psalms 148:13 NLT)

Amen.

Day 171

“Though the LORD is great, he cares for the humble, but he keeps his distance from the proud.” (Psalms 138:6 NLT)

Because pride is a sin.

What does humble mean anyway, in this day and age? I think it means to be level headed. Not to be boastful or arrogant. To be quietly resolute.

All good attributes, I would say.

Day 160

“Children are a gift from the LORD; they are a reward from him.” (Psalms 127:3 NLT)

With Father’s Day approaching, this seemed particularly appropriate.

Some fathers take their children for granted. All fathers need to remember this: a child is a gift and needs to be handled with care.

Day 151

“Standing near the cross were Jesus’ mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary (the wife of Clopas), and Mary Magdalene.” (John 19:25 NLT)

Who was there when Jesus was crucified?

It seems like each of the Gospel writers has a different account. Who were the witnesses?

In John’s Gospel, he lists four women and in the verse which follows he lists a male disciple, probably John himself. Who was Mary, the wife of Clopas? A significant person if she was allowed to stay for these emotional moments for his family.

It is hard to pretend that women do not have an important role to play in the early days of the church.

And as the Church of England moves towards the inevitable decision to approve women Bishops, it is wonderful to see that (not before time) women will be given equal rights to men.

I was puzzled this week to overhear someone call the church old fashioned. And then I read this and the thought struck me: how can we say it is not when we still treat women differently?

The one hundred and thirty ninth day of twenty fourteen

“The Lord protects those of childlike faith; I was facing death, and he saved me.” (Psalms 116:6)

Act your age!

Stop behaving like a baby!

How many times have you heard these things said? Maybe you’ve said them yourself? I know I have.

Usually said in frustration or anger and intended as an insult.

Being childish is seen as the ultimate put-down. But here the Psalmist is painting a different picture. To act like a child means to believe unquestioningly. To accept without a hint of sarcasm or negativity. Right?

Wrong!

Children are ALWAYS questioning!

“Why?” Because they need to learn more about the world around them. “Why?” Because they have not yet learned how the world works and how to act, etc.

“Why?” Because they are not old enough to understand. “Why?” Because they have not lived long enough yet.

“Why?” Because… because… Oh I don’t know!

God knows why, that’s why.