Archive | March 2013

Read Any Good Books Lately? (October 13, 2009)

I have never really enjoyed reading, especially novels and other works of fiction. I rarely read any of the assigned books in my English literature classes or even my college courses. In fact, I would purchase the Cliff Notes and only read the two page summary. Needless to say, my grades suffered! It wasn’t until I started doing Bible studies that I realized that you can read something with the intent of understanding. Even more surprising is that I have gained an appreciation for the Bible as a phenomenal work of literature!

You may be scratching your head at this point, wondering why I would describe God’s Word as a piece of literature, but I assure you I mean no disrespect. The Bible is the inspired Word of God, and for that reason alone, we should study it and apply its truths to every aspect of our lives. I completely believe that! But, how many times do we look at the Bible as reference material, something to adorn our bookshelf, or as a stuffy super-spiritual manual that may leave us feeling like a failure? We all know we should be reading the Bible, but seriously, isn’t it easier to pick up a copy of Danielle Steele’s latest romance novel, or the latest fad diet promising to help us lose 30-pounds in 30-days? I know those struggles; I’ve had them all of my life – studying God’s Word was always a chore, something I had to do, not always something I wanted to do.

Over the past couple of years, I have gained a new appreciation for the Bible. Not only is it perfectly relevant in modern times, it contains an excellent mix of all literary genres. Biography, history, genealogy, law, poetry, parables, allegory, tragedy, comedy, sarcasm, speeches, monologues, controversy, love stories, words of wisdom, prayers, letters, etc. No matter what type of literature you prefer, I’m certain you can find it in the Bible. Let me briefly tell a couple of my favorite Bible stories to encourage you to look for more (and I assure you, there are tons of interesting things to read about).

I really love the story found in Acts 20:9-10 when Paul is preaching in Troas and is rather long-winded. Eutychus not only falls asleep on the windowsill, he falls out of the window and dies. Luckily, God allows Paul to bring him back to life, and the ending is a happy one, but hopefully Paul learns that long sermons can be deadly! Comedy, tragedy, and a miracle all rolled into two verses!

In Genesis 18:10-15, God tells Abraham that Sarah will become pregnant. Sarah overhears this and laughs, thinking to herself “After I am worn out and my master is old, will I now have this pleasure?” God questions Abraham, asking if anything is too difficult for the Lord. Of course, Sarah lies to God, out of shame, saying she never laughed. Isn’t that something we would do today – doubting that God can perform a miracle and then lying to Him when He questions us?

Some hysterical words of wisdom (tons of humor in the book of Proverbs):

“If only you would be altogether silent! For you, that would be wisdom.” Job 13:5

“Better to live in the desert than with a quarrelsome and ill-tempered wife.” Proverbs 21:19

“Give beer to those who are perishing, wine to those who are in anguish.” Proverbs 31:6

As I often tell people, what I enjoy most is that the Bible shows how God used real people to accomplish extraordinary feats. I love how the apostles were just regular people: fishermen, a tax collector, a doctor, a tentmaker. Better yet, they showed their humanness frequently by not understanding Jesus’ teachings, betraying Jesus, and being selfish. It’s awesome that God uses people, such as prostitutes and ego-maniacs, despite their sin to further His kingdom and bring others closer to Him. Reading how people even fell short despite their conversion from their terrible pasts inspires me that I, too, can make a difference and be a light in an otherwise dark world.

Again, I am not disregarding the sanctity of the Bible – I firmly believe in daily study of God’s Word to guide all of our lives. I just know that reading the Bible can sometimes be a formidable task, and if we can also appreciate the Bible in a light-hearted manner, it might make it easier to become immersed in the Word. The Bible is God-breathed, and I completely believe that God wanted it to be an enjoyable read for us. I know that once you start reading the Bible regularly, you’ll be hooked and will continue studying God’s Word. There is definitely something for everyone in the Bible!

The Unknown Staircase

I used to say that my life could be described by a sinusoidal wave. I would be doing well in life, and then get complacent at the top, and then slide back down to a low point. The pit wouldn’t be a comfortable place, so I would work my way out of it (with or without God’s help) and then head back up the curve, until I reached the apex once again. This cycle would continue over and over again. As I became a Christian, I noticed that the amplitude of the wave (sorry, I am a chemist) would decrease, but I still stuck with the sine wave concept.

Yesterday, I came up with a new analogy that I shared in Sunday school this morning. The concept started earlier this year while watching The Biggest Loser. The trainers talk to contestants about their self-sabotaging behavior, stating that they tend to resist success because they fear it. They are comfortable with failure, but afraid of the unknown – the life that would result from reaching their goals. I was able to identify with that, on some level, because while I have grown spiritually in my Christian walk, I am still not trusting God as much as I would like to be. I now relate my journey to a staircase (perhaps the Stairway to Heaven…Ha! Okay, bad joke).

Life is like a staircase, of an unknown length. I climb the stairs until I reach a point where I find myself completely outside of my comfort zone. I hang out there for a while, trying to decide whether to go higher or not. I previously believed I would grow complacent because I put my trust in myself, but I am not sure that’s completely the case. I think it’s more that I get afraid of heights, and I don’t know what the next steps of the staircase hold. I lose my balance and fall down a few steps. Eventually, I regain my composure and restart my ascent. I climb a little higher, because I’ve been on those steps before….until I reach a new level, and lose my balance and fall again, but not as far as before. This cycle continues, and while I am growing, I never get to see what’s at the top of the staircase. In fact, I still have no idea how high it extends…

The staircase can be equated to aspects of my life that I trust God with. I trust Him with more and more every day, but I am still holding onto some fears and insecurities. Ironically, they don’t seem to be what the average person would think when they look at me. I have no problem trusting God with events outside of my control, but I struggle with some of my day to day concerns. Luckily, every day, He reminds me of the things I need to give completely to Him. I feel I am slowly getting there, as I feel led to leave my comfort zone. That helps me get higher on the staircase before I lose my balance. Eventually, I pray that my balance improves, and I can climb higher and higher without fear.

Fear…what am I afraid of? It certainly isn’t falling down the stairs. I’m really accomplished at that; in fact, I have learned to do so with grace, almost like a dismount off of the balance beam. I can land softly on my feet, stick the landing, regroup, and climb back up. Falling doesn’t seem to hurt much these days because I’ve accepted God’s grace, so that can’t be my fear. I think I’m more afraid of what’s at the top of the stairs… Essentially, fear of the unknown; the things that God could accomplish through me if I let Him.

I’m trying to give it completely to God and continue climbing the staircase. I’ve looked back at my prayer journal from four years ago, and I see how far He’s brought me. I know He’s completely capable of bringing me higher. I just have to trust Him and keep stepping out of my comfort zone, even though Satan will continue to attack me by engaging my fear.

God loves me; He loves you too… He has only wonderful things in store for us. All we have to do is trust Him completely, every day, every hour, every minute. He has an amazing plan for our lives, if only we can step out of the way and let Him achieve it!

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you (1 Peter 5:6-7).