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 95

“Wherever you go and whatever you do, you will be blessed.” (Deuteronomy 28:6)

A couple of things happened this week that I would like to share with you.

1) My sister (who is a good person) said that if we followed what was said in the Bible, we should stone to death all adulterers.

2) I went to visit my parents. I’ll come back to this.

My sister is right, and yet at the same time she is wrong. The Bible – especially the Old Testament – contains many laws and commandments for a “Holy life”. Moses, under instruction from God, has given the Israelites many rules which they must follow. And time and time again he urges them to do so. He frequently tells them what will happen if they don’t obey.

But in this verse, he is telling them what will happen if they DO obey. And doesn’t it sound good? Moses is so full of doom and gloom that it would be easy to slip into the habit of thinking that the Old Testament God is to be feared as full of anger. But here’s a glimpse of his kinder side too.

But for many people (and I would have included myself in this only a few weeks ago) the Bible is the equivalent of an impossible rule book. And if you should so much as break even one of the laws, well… fetch the stones!

This week, for the first time, I felt confident enough to speak out and defend the Bible! I believe that God allows us to make mistakes, as long as we are genuinely sorry for them. And God knows if we are sorry because he can see into our hearts and minds.

As Christians, we follow the teachings of Jesus. That goes without saying. But perhaps sometimes, it NEEDS saying? I told my sister that Jesus commanded us to “Love your neighbour.” Because it’s not up to us to pass judgement on others. We are all sinners to some degree. It’s our job to love everyone, whoever they are and whatever they’ve done.

Which brings me to my second thought. And this is very difficult for me to talk about.

I have, for many years, found my father a difficult person to get on with. I don’t want to go into it here. I have my reasons, and they are numerous. But recently, my relationship with my mother has also run into a bumpy patch.

It’s so easy to fill ones life with work and blogging and hobbies and gardening and church (you’d be amazed how much time “church” can take up) and before you know it, you don’t have time to visit.

So today, for the first time in weeks I went to see them. It was incredibly awkward. The damaged relationships will take a very long time to heal. Perhaps they never will…

But I did my “bit” and tried to follow what Jesus said.

Sometimes being a Christian is bloody hard work.

Day 52 and time for a change

So the number of people reading the blog has gone down.

Time for a change.

Instead of the fairly heavy going Bible notes, I’ll try going for the one verse which I feel jumps out at me. It’ll be quicker to blog, but I would have thought far less interesting? I mean, this is blogging not tweeting! But, let’s give it a go…

“People with integrity walk safely, but those who follow a crooked path will slip and fall.” Proverbs 10:9

Day 50 and a milestone of sorts?

I feel like today’s blog should be slightly different in tone. After 50 blogs (well, 51 if you count the pre-blog I did on December 31st!) I’d like to take a look back at some of the things we’ve discovered so far:

Meditate on the law of the Lord… wait for it… “day and night.” (Psalm 1:2)

God doesn’t mess about with false promises, he means business.

So that’s Satan well and truly face-slapped!

In Psalm 4 the message is that God will answer prayers.

It’s not easy to “do the right thing” and say the right thing.

“If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different to anyone else?”

You don’t need to pray publicly on the street corners.

Don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”

God tests US daily and there doesn’t seem to be any reason.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.”

“Fear the Lord and turn away from evil.”

“Healthy people don’t need a doctor, sick people do.”

‘The harvest is great, but the workers are few.’

“The Lord’s promises are pure, like silver refined in a furnace.”

“Wisdom is a tree of life to those who embrace her; happy are those who hold her tightly.”

Have you said sorry today, and meant it?

My child, don’t loose sight of common sense and discernment.

So be careful, just because your house is clean doesn’t mean you are safe.

Should we stop listening just because we don’t understand? No, not at all!

“Take my words to heart. Follow my commands and you will live.”

“[Wisdom] will place a lovely wreath on your head… and you will have a long, good life.”

Knowing that there’s someone who is always ready to listen is the key to solving any problem.

“The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship.”

“What do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?”

“May the name of the God of Jacob keep you safe from all harm.”

The Lord is not far away. You need to keep the faith.

Temptations are inevitable, but what sorrow awaits the person who does the tempting.

“An evil man is held captive by his own sins…”

“…The greatest now will be the least [when the world is made new]… The least important will be the greatest…”

All Christians will be treated equally on judgement day.

“You can pray for anything and if you have faith, you will receive it.”

“[The Lord hates] … a person who sows discord in a family.”

“The Lord is my light and my salvation…”

The theme would seem to be: follow what God says but remember to stay humble.

Tonight, I am 10% of the way through the Bible. Am I 10% more spiritual?

“You must not oppress foreigners in any way.”

“You have turned by mourning into joyful dancing.”

“Wisdom is far more valuable than rubies…”

“… I hate pride and arrogance, corruption and perverse speech.”

“Be strong and courageous, all you who put your hope in the Lord!”

Rejoice in the Lord and be glad!

“Let the godly sing for joy to the Lord.”

“The Lord watches over those who fear him…

“Don’t bother correcting mockers; they will only hate you. But correct the wise, and they will love you.”

“I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

“If you become wise, you will become the one to benefit…”

“How long, O Lord, will you look on and do nothing?”

“The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of the people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath!”

“If Satan is divided and fights against himself, how can he stand?”

– – – – – – – – – –

Today’s readings from Leviticus 7, 8 and 9 tell us of God’s words to Moses about gifts to the Lord. Then we find out about the Ordination of the priests, and the first Ordinations take place.

In Mark’s Gospel, the crowds grow larger and follow Jesus everywhere. His own mother and brothers can’t even see him, they can’t get into the house. Jesus replies with the seemingly cutting words: (3:33) “Who is my mother?”

Later, he gets into a boat to preach and tells the story of the seed sower. As in Matthew, the disciples are confused and need the meaning spelling out for them. Jesus says: (4:24) “Pay close attention to what you hear.”

Psalm 37 continues to tell of what will happen to the wicked, (37:20) “They will disappear like smoke.” However, the godly will (37:29) “…possess the land and live there forever.”

Day 39

After all the excitement and stress of the first few weeks, the year has now settled more or less into a routine. I’ve got my Bible reading and blogging down to around 40 minutes per day. That’s a bit tight sometimes, but do-able. I got some feedback and a few views. But the number of daily views has gone down. What has changed? Could be that you, dear readers, have not been reading as regularly as you were back in January? Stick with it, we’ll soon be into the glories that are Spring and galloping headlong into lighter evenings and warmer days.

Meanwhile…

In Exodus we are given details about what the priests are to wear. Especially Aaron, Moses’ brother. He is to be the chief priest and his clothing is described in incredible detail. It is a richly adorned robe and garments of fine tunic, decorated with gold thread and engraved gem stones. Not something you could buy from the Old Testament’s version of M&S!

In Matthew 25, Jesus says that when the Son of Man comes in glory, the people will be separated into sheep or goats. The sheep will be saved, the goats will not. How will they be judged? On how they treated the least of his brothers and sisters. Have you given a stranger food or a drink? Have you given a stranger a home, or clothing? Have you looked after the sick or prisoners? Think about it.

People often say “charity begins at home”, maybe it does. But I believe it’s more important to say “charity begins WITH home”. Home could be where you live, or doing something that can improve the homes and lives of others. Even if they are in another country.

Matthew 26 1-13 is such a well known reading, that I’ll only repeat one verse here. (26:11) “You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.” Which I take to mean that we can always help the least of our brothers and sisters. We can always do a little bit more that we are at the moment.

Psalm 31 continues with a phrase that means a lot to me. (31:12) “I am ignored as if I were dead, as if I were a broken pot.” We are all broken pots to some degree. Some are useless, and some only chipped. But we can all be fixed! Even the pots which have been dropped and smashed can be repaired. Who can repair a broken pot? (31:15) “[O Lord] My future is in your hands…”

Proverbs 8 continues with a two verse reading. (8:13) “… I hate pride and arrogance, corruption and perverse speech.”