Monday, October 15, 2012

Mental Floss

Ugh!—Another sermon telling me that I was failing to set aside a “private time” each day to read the Bible and pray.  Yes, yes I know…I really should do that right along with the Dentist telling me I need to floss more.  Year after year ticked by with no real progress in this area (and flossing).  Somehow when something is made to seem so mandatory, boring, mundane—we innately resist doing it.  But that was a couple of years ago.  No one ever told me what I am about to tell you.  If they had, maybe I wouldn’t have wasted so much precious time.

Recently, I decided that I would read the Bible from start to finish without any previous expectations of what I would find in there.  It’s hard to shed decades of preconceived notions formed at Sunday School and from sermons at a variety of denominations.  After taking a mental inventory, I realized that I had attended all of these different denominations at one time or another:  Pentecostal, Charismatic, Evangelical, Lutheran, Baptist, Presbyterian, Congregationalist, and Catholic.  I even spent many years at a church in the now fastest growing trend of “non-denominational”.    

So—with an empty head (OK—I know I left an opening there for a huge zinger)—I began my journey.  While I most certainly do not claim to be a theologian or an expert on exegesis (a critical interpretation or explanation of a religious text), I can attest that I was freshly amazed by something at almost every reading.

Probably one of the most influential sermons I ever heard in my life was in a small Connecticut church where the Pastor preached about the “prismatic” nature of the Bible.  What is this?—you may ask.  Look at a crystal prism if you get a chance.  There is no real way to see the entire thing at once.  When you turn it over and over, it changes dramatically depending on the way the light hits it.  There are many facets and sides to it.  Just when you think you’ve figured out its intricate structure—you see something new.  Now—I’m not going to get all “New Age-y” here on you.  There is nothing special about a crystal or a prism—I’m just using this for explanation purposes.  From personal experience, this is how the Bible reads over time:

1)      History Stage #1:  At first reading—flatly.  You read it like any other book.  Stories, anecdotes, history and plot lines.  Good guys, bad guys, strange cultures and practices.  By the time you struggle to the end you mostly think:  “What a long, strange trip it’s been”. 

2)      History Stage #2:  Next you start to see analogies:  I remember watching horror movies and seeing the main character continue to do stupid stuff:  Why oh why would you go back into the basement when you hear that noise?  Don’t take the shortcut through the cemetery again for goodness sakes!  This is sort of the next reaction you get as you read story after story of foolish moves that the Bible characters seem to continually make.  Let’s call this the “connect the dots” moment.

3)      Present Stage #1:  Somewhere in your reading it slowly dawns on you that YOU are the foolish main character.  YOU are no different than the whiny Israelites in the desert, the faithless characters, the wimps and misfits.  YOU share the sorry fallen state of mankind in need of salvation.  Ouch.

4)      Present Stage #2:  Finally—the revelation comes that if you can accept God’s correction—this information can be REALLY, REALLY helpful.  You selfishly begin combing the Bible for WIIFM (what’s in it for me).  God will let you go on this selfish journey for only so long until you are ready for the next stage.

5)      Present Stage #3:  More revelation:  How can I apply this to benefit others?  This is a real growth stage.  I don’t think we ever get out of this stage if we continue in our God journey.  It just keeps getting more wild and exciting. Like the “Parable of the Talents”—Use it or Lose it.  If you use it—you will get more.  Just like the manna from heaven.  If you try to selfishly hoard it—it will get maggots and rot.    

6)      Future Stage #1:  You start to realize there are many astounding Prophecies that have already come true.  For instance the prophecies regarding the Messiah found in the Old Testament are truly amazing.  Forget what anyone has ever told you.  There is no one besides Yeshua Hamashiach (Jesus of Nazareth) that can fulfill these hundreds of prophecies.  You also will begin to notice historical Prophecy for nations, & peoples that have already come to pass. 

7)      Future Stage #2:  Prophecies that appear to be coming true right before your very eyes These include Israel becoming a nation in 1948—an earth-shattering prediction that seemed impossible.  Now we are watching Israel’s deserts become lush (Isaiah 51:3) and Damascus collapsing into ruins (Isaiah 17:1). 

8)      Future Stage #3:  Prophecies that you know will come true without a doubt—because, by now—you are a true believer in the power of this Book. This Book never fails. You realize you hold in your hands an amazing piece of God-inspired work that never ceases to reveal more Truth. 

This is by no means a complete picture.  I’m sure there are infinitely more “sides” to this Word that we will never comprehend this side of heaven.  I’ve even encountered another facet recently which, for lack of a better term, I will call “Patterns”.  Recognizing the amazing significance of numbers, colors, time, objects and on and on.  The more you read—the more they become apparent.  Barely a day goes by that I don’t get an awestruck “oh wow—never noticed that before” moment. 

For the easiest way to describe this, I use the analogy of a jewelry box.  Imagine having a jewelry box that you open every day.  Every day without fail you find a new gem tucked away in a compartment that you never noticed before.  Even though you are 100% sure when you close the box each night before you go to bed that you have scoured it completely—sure enough, the next day there is another jewel that was somehow overlooked in a compartment you have never opened.  After awhile, you stop trying to scour the box every day for completeness.  You simply “Go for the ride” and enjoy the mystical wonder and majesty and surprise that awaits you the next day when you open it up again.  You no longer try to completely figure it out—as this is simply not possible—it makes no “human” sense.  Instead you humbly accept the daily gold nuggets and jewels while never ceasing to be awed that such a treasure sits right on your night stand or desk.  Perhaps this is a treasure that you previously allowed to collect dust or be a showpiece instead of an alive, breathing wonderment.  You want to run in the street and tell everyone what you have found—that they too have this treasure at their fingertips!  When you try to express it to others who have not seen it, they think you are mad.  You begin to wonder if maybe you are mad!  It’s like walking around all day in another 3-D color dimension while others are in one dimensional black and white.  It’s like trying to explain the wonder of a vacation to the Grand Canyon while showing someone else a stack of flat, colorless photos.  It simply cannot be expressed or experienced unless they go on the journey for themselves.

If anyone had told me earlier that this is what the Bible is like—I wouldn’t have ever put it in the category of flossing.  I would have studied the original Greek and Hebrew manuscripts.  I would have run out and purchased it in every translation I could get my hands on. 

So…Open it up.  Ask for divine guidance…

Prepare to meet your God.

All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.
~2 Timothy 3:16
Let us then, unite in offering our most grateful acknowledgments for these blessings to the Divine Author of All Good."
~James Monroe in his 2nd Annual Message to Congress, November 16, 1818.
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1 comment:

  1. The Bible , truly is GOD. Its layers of understanding keeps getting deeper and deeper and higher and higher, till the children of God get lost in its DIVINE LIGHT, right here from earth till eternity. THE BIBLE, as a vehicle of the ubiquitous GOD , is ETERNITY MADE FLESH.