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What-to-Do-When-the-Bible-Seems-Boring

What to Do When the Bible Seems Boring

In November 2015, I decided that it would be a good idea to read through the Bible again. The last time I had done it was a number of years ago, and since then, I mostly hung out in the Gospels and the letters of Paul, venturing forth occasionally to Genesis and Proverbs.

It was about time I caught up on my Bible reading. I figured three or four chapters a day could get me from Genesis to Revelation in about a year. That should be simple, right?

Well, apparently not. It is now January 2017, and I am not even halfway through. What went wrong?

I started off great. On the whole, Genesis made for some pretty interesting reading, with the Creation story, Abraham, and all that. Exodus started off pretty well, but quickly got bogged down by all the rules that God laid down for the nation of Israel. Then there were more rules, followed by long lists of family names (called genealogies). I knew that if I persevered and kept reading, I would have other complaints, as I’m sure many of us do. But I just couldn’t get over the genealogies.

After setting my Bible aside too many times, I finally reached out to my friends in frustration. But I got the same response over and over again. “Just read straight through,” they said. They told me that I did not need to do in-depth study on everything—the important thing was just to read it.

Which I did. And I quickly discovered that when I do sit down and read through the more “boring” parts of the Bible (usually aloud, since that helps me stay focused), I sometimes notice things that I didn’t before. For example, I’ve read the story of how David took Uriah’s wife and sent Uriah to be killed in battle a good number of times (2 Samuel 11). What I had never noticed before was that Uriah was listed among David’s 30 mighty men (2 Samuel 23:39). These were David’s best warriors; many of them had been following him since the days of Saul. This meant that David knew Uriah personally. Suddenly, David’s sin took on even greater proportions. And God’s mercy seemed ever richer.

Of course, I don’t always notice something new. For me, the lists are often a chore to work through, and I have to fight to keep my eyes from glazing over. Time and again, I remind myself of 2 Timothy 3:16: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

You’ll notice that Paul said “all Scripture,” not just the interesting parts. This includes the laws that God gave Israel. And all the lengthy family trees. And the obscure stories that I don’t quite know what to make of. God breathed out all of it, and all of it is useful.

Sure, there are many passages in the Bible that I still don’t get. But I’m going to take God at His word, and trust that if I keep reading and re-reading this entire book that He has given us—instead of just picking out my favorite verses or chapters—His Scripture will continue to teach, rebuke, correct, and train me in righteousness.

Think about it: during Jesus’ ministry on earth, He only had the Old Testament. And the books that He quoted from the most were Psalms and Deuteronomy. Deuteronomy! That makes me think twice about skipping it in my reading plan.

God reveals himself to us in both the Old and New testaments. He is revealed in every chapter, every paragraph, every smallest letter. Jesus told His followers, “For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” (Matthew 5:18). That makes the Bible worth reading.

I’m in the Psalms right now. I’ll be honest: I don’t love every moment of it. Unlike the psalmist, I do not always find God’s words “more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the honeycomb” (Psalm 19:10).

But I hope to one day. And in the meantime, I’ll keep on reading, trusting God to use every last letter of it to “[equip me] for every good work.”

If-Not-for-Him-Pain-Would-Have-Overcome-Me

If Not for Him, Pain Would Have Overcome Me

A little over a year ago, my husband and I found out that I was pregnant. We were naturally overjoyed, but also a little terrified of the actual birth process.

Giving birth is a painful, messy, and dangerous process. All my life, I’ve taken care to acquire no injury worse than a scraped knee, so I really had no idea what my pain tolerance was. And frankly, I did not look forward to finding out.

I kept telling myself that no matter how bad it got, the pain was finite. I did not know how long I would be in labor, which is the most painful part. In some cases, it could last up to a few days. But I knew that one way or another, it would come to an end. And that thought really helped.

Such comforting thoughts, however, were surprisingly unhelpful once labor started. The pain was all-consuming, and late one December evening, it started coming like waves. Each wave of pain increased in intensity, growing and growing until the pain peaked and subsided. Then, for short moments, I’d feel almost normal before the next wave of pain started building. During most of labor, there was little I could do but ride each wave as best as I could.

As I lay on the hospital bed writhing fruitlessly in search of a more comfortable position, the doctors finally gave the command to “push.” Finally, I could do something. As the pain peaked, I pushed with all my might, only to collapse panting as the pain faded.

Again, the pain rolled over me. I pushed. I collapsed.

Again.

“We’re almost there!” I heard the doctors tell me. “We can see the baby’s head. This is it! Push!”

Once more, I pushed with all my might, but still, the baby did not come. Each time they told me, “this is it,” I believed them less. I was growing more exhausted and discouraged. I didn’t know if I could keep pushing. It didn’t seem to be resulting in anything. There was so much pain, and I was so tired. How could I go on?

At this point, my husband leaned in to my ear and whispered, “God is strong.”

God is strong. God is victorious. God has already fought and won my battles for me.

Again, the pain grew, and I was told to push. I was near the end of my own strength, but like my husband reminded me, I was doing this on God’s strength. Though I, Christine, was drained, God sure wasn’t getting tired or discouraged anytime soon. By His strength, I pushed as the pain crested.

Still nothing. Collapse.

Once more. God’s strength. Push. Push. I could feel him. I could feel my baby slither out to greet the world.

Was it done? Can I collapse now?

I fell back onto the bed, exhausted. I couldn’t move, though I wanted to get up and see the baby. I could not describe how happy I felt. I was done. I didn’t need to push any more. The baby was born.

Suddenly I heard the baby cry—a loud, angry wail that filled my heart with joy. Before me was a fully formed, beautiful little human being whom God had lovingly created. And God had let me be a part of it. God had used my pain and sustained me through the worst of it so that I could be a part of His glorious work.

Giving birth was the most painful and exhausting thing I have ever experienced in my life. I was almost overcome by it all, until my husband turned my focus back to God. I was weak, but God is strong. Once God had my attention again, He sustained me and gave me more than what I needed.

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”—Isaiah 41:10

what-its-like-to-have-a-white-christmas

What It’s Like to have a “White Christmas”

Over the past four years, I have spent my Christmases in the snow-swept plains of northern United States. Having grown up in the subtropics, white Christmas was a new experience for me. In the beginning, the snowy landscapes are breathtakingly beautiful. But after a while, the long winter nights and the short, overcast days grow wearisome. The trees are bare. The grass is buried. There is no green, no birdsong, and hardly any sunlight. Winter where I live is cold, dreary, and tiring. I remember when spring came my first year and the snow started melting: the drip, drip, drip of melted snow was such an exciting sound. And the first patch of green grass! It was a beautiful sight.

But for now, that little patch of green hope is still very far away. I’m currently looking out on a lawn of yellowed grass, framed by naked tree branches and gray clouds. The only brightness comes from the Christmas decorations which frame windows and eaves. They all light up at night, and it all looks so very cheerful.

Over the years, biblical scholars among others, have enjoyed reminding me that our Savior Jesus was not born on December 25. Instead, if we consider that the shepherds were out in their fields guarding sheep when the angel visited (Luke 2:8), it is more likely that Jesus’ birth occurred in late summer or early autumn. This is all fine and well. They are probably right. I am not about to contend with that. But still, I love celebrating His birth in the middle of winter.

You see, winter is so very long and dreary. It has always been a hard time both financially and emotionally. Hunger and cold combined are hard to battle, especially when days are gray and nights are long. Sometimes we forget that eventually the snow will melt. In the winters of our own lives, sometimes we just can’t see any way out. Sometimes circumstances weigh us down and we really don’t know that things will get better.

We live in a broken world and the price of sin is death. It feels like there is no hope of spring. As the creatures exclaimed in the children’s book Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, it was “always winter, and never Christmas!”

But this is the world that Jesus came to. Some two thousand years ago, He took on flesh and came to our dead, hopeless world. That was the first Christmas, when the Messiah was born to save this broken world. He lived 33 years, doing God’s work, and in the end, He died for us, and rose again in victory over death. It didn’t matter what season Christmas was—summer, autumn, or even spring; before Jesus’ birth, our broken world was as hopeless as the coldest winter night.

I enjoy celebrating Jesus’ birth during these coldest days of the year. I remember that our world was dark as the coldest winter night until God intervened and brought forth unimaginable hope and light.

So this year, as the dreary winter rolls on with no sign of spring, I will hang up Christmas lights to brighten my home a little, and remember how Jesus brought light into this hopeless world by His birth, life, death, and resurrection.

It-Starts-with-being-content

It Starts with Being Content

Some of us have much to be thankful for. A good family. Food on the table. Nice clothing. Good schooling. Hopes for a solid job. I am one of those who really have almost everything I could ask for.

Yet another group of us may have fewer things to be grateful for. Some struggle in school, with teachers and classmates not caring. Others are caught in a job that is not fulfilling, or stuck with colleagues who are less than friendly. Some wonder daily where their next meal will come from. Some travel through the houses of relatives for lack of a place to call home; others end up settling at quieter corners of the streets. Even when all is going well with perhaps a good house, good grades and a good job, how can one be thankful when there is strife in the family?

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.”—Psalm 23:1 (NIV)

Notice that David the psalmist did not say “I desire nothing.” He said, “I lack nothing.” Can we make such a bold claim? Certainly, each of our lives can be improved in so many ways. If only our parents did not argue. If only I could do better in my class. If only my boss would try to understand! But no matter how great our lives ever get, there will always be something even better.

Apostle Paul wrote to the Philippian church, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through Him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:12-13). Paul claims that no matter what situation he is in, he is able to be content “through Him who gives me strength”. David, likewise, is able to make his bold claim of lacking nothing only by prefacing it with this acknowledgement: “The Lord is my shepherd.”

When we realize that the Lord—the almighty God, Creator of heaven and earth—is our shepherd, and that He stoops to take care of us (even me!), then surely we will be grateful. And gratefulness leads to contentment.

God never promised to make our lives easy. He never promised that He would take our problems away. But He did promise that He would be there, walking with us, every step of the way. What more can we ask?

Next time you are having a bad day, next time your parents argue, next time you go hungry, next time you lock yourself in the room and cry quiet tears that nobody can hear—remember, He is God, and He is with you. Know that God is counting your tears (Psalm 56:8) and take joy in that. Ultimately, the circumstances of our short lives don’t matter. God loves us, and He loves us so very much that He laid down His life for us. What more can we need?

“Even though I walk through the darkest valley,

I will fear no evil, for you are with me;

your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

Photo credit: James Theophane / Foter / CC BY