Thursday, August 1, 2013

Reading into a Right Relationship

I bit off a big mouthful when I said I was going to finish reading the Bible this year (see my highly official and hugely anal 2013 Bible Reading Plan).  Lately I've been questioning whether I'm really up to the task.  Spring and summer saw me wandering away from the Bible, into personal reading and travel and (tsk tsk) iPhone addiction. I've been better the past couple weeks.  Not great, just not completely negligent.  

So I was stunned when I updated my 2013 Bible Reading Plan Progress spreadsheet and saw this number on the completion chart.

And just as I was starting to feel jazzed about being more than halfway to my goal...

...the bigger question wormed into my conscience.  Is this about what little old me can accomplish when I set my mind to it?  Or is it about what God can do through me when I open the door and invite him in?

While I ponder that, let me entertain you with a Bible book report.

I've been reading Kings 1 & 2 and Chronicles 1 & 2 and Lamentations enough to know that ignoring my relationship with God will lead to destruction and exile and gnashing of teeth and regret and long-term residence in big-time Bummerville.  

Look at what happened to the Jews.  Not content with a heavenly King, they begged for earthly rulers.  David and Solomon did right by their God and their people (mostly).  But lots of other kings were epic failures.  God stayed loyal to his promises, but the Jews started flirting with other gods and neighboring religions.  Until they flirted their way into Babylonian exile.  

Seventy tough and trying years away from home can be a bit of a rude wake-up call.  

Bring-a-ling-a-ling.  Bring-a-ling-a-ling.

"Hello, Isrealites-who-are-no-longer-in-Israel.  This is God talking.  Are you ready to listen?  To really hear?"  

The Jews did listen and learn.  When they got back to Jerusalem they fixed up the busted temple walls and fixed up their lax worship habits.  They cleaned up the temple and cleaned up their act, acting out a faith in a God who is faithful.

I haven't read all the rest of the O.T., but we all know how the story ends.  

God forgives.  God fulfills his promise of an eternal king in the line of David. And in doing so he surpasses all human understanding, giving and giving up his only Son for our sin.  All because he wants to be in deep and loving relationship with us.

Back to the question.  Maybe my Bible reading plan is a bit about me and my pride.  That's part of what drives me through the dryer books of the Bible.  But I think God works through my flawed motivations to move me closer to him.  The more I read God's word, the more I understand how very much I need God's word.  I understand how God will always provide his guidance and grace, even when I have lapsed for a long time.  Just as he did with the Israelites, he will call me back out of my self-created exile, back to his will and his way.

from Mindy Strauss Photography

It doesn't happen by just running eyeballs over pages and comprehending chapter after chapter.  If I just check off book after book, it's an empty exercise. But if I pause and ponder and pray — if I listen to The Lord with my heart and my head — it brings me into a right relationship with my God. 

Sometimes I have to write a book report to figure that out. 

What do you have to do to stick with the word and listen to our lord?

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