Daily Reminder of God’s Love For You

God__s_love_and_glory_by_imruiFor the next couple of weeks I will be away on a retreat, followed by a family vacation. While I will not be writing new devotions until I return, I wanted to leave you with daily reminders, for the next ten days, of God’s unconditional love for you. Read on per day and meditate on the scriptures (New Living Translation) throughout the day. Let them be a reminder to you that you are God’s special Creation, that you are loved unconditionally, and that God is calling you to do the same.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

“Who is like You among the gods, O LORD—glorious in holiness, awesome in splendor, performing great wonders? With Your unfailing love You lead the people You have redeemed. In Your might, You guide them to Your sacred home.”(Exodus 15:11, 13)

ALWAYS

Read Mark 4:35-41

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Cast all your anxiety on [God], because [God] cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)

Jesus-calms-the-seaFor anyone who has been living in the Northeastern and Midwestern United States, you know what kind of a winter this has been. From Arctic Vortex temperatures to tons of snow, ice and sleet, this winter has not let up and it doesn’t look like it is going to anytime soon. Depending on who you are and weather or not you like winter will tell how exactly you are handling this; however, for those of us who have to brave the elements in order to go to work, or to go to conferences, or to go anywhere, all of this weather can be quite a bit stressful and intimidating.

And the stress isn’t just related to our own travels. My wife works an hour away from where I live. She is a registered nurse and has to go to work regardless of the weather. People’s lives depend on nurses showing up and performing their duties. I know that in winter storms, I get particularly stressed out when she is driving to or from work. There are a lot of unknowns and uncertainties. Will she make it to work okay? Will she make it home okay? What happens if she gets stranded somewhere on the road? What happens if she crashes and dies? How will I ever even begin to explain that to my children? What will my life be like if that were to happen?

The worries and the fears can certainly add up in such situations. Now, some might call me a worry wort, some might say that I’m making a big deal out of nothing; however, there are also a good many people who went out in storms, died and never came home. That reality exists, and the possibility of it happening to anyone of us is also a reality. So, for those of us who do get stressed out, know that you are not crazy for being worried. It is a natural reaction to stressful and unsettling stimuli, to get clinical about it.

With that said, what good does all of that fear do? Is it saving your’s or your spouse’s or your children’s or your parent’s lives? Is it ridding you of the situation? Is it helping you to remain focused and calm? Is it lifting you up and providing you with clear and rational thought? Of course, the answer to all of those questions would be no. When fear spirals out of control, it can paralyze us and leave us in an even worse state than the actual circumstances we find ourselves facing.

Jesus understood the meaning of fear and, without a shadow of a doubt, he certainly was stressed and fearful of the many circumstances befalling him. Yet, he also was a person of profound trust. He was a person that was able to give everything, including his fears, to God. Did that take away his fears? Did that take away his stress? Did that relieve him of his circumstances? Nope! But what it did do was give him the peace and the courage he needed to face his fears, to face his stress, and to face his circumstances.

God is asking you to place your faith in the power that God has to get you through your circumstances. Notice I did not say around or beneath them. But God can and WILL get you through them. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. For thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4, KJV). Remember, that God is ALWAYS with you. And since God is with you, what do you have to fear? So, fear not for God will see you through any and every storm that comes your way.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“Leave it there, leave it there, take your burden to the Lord and leave it there. If you trust and never doubt, he will surely bring you out; take your burden to the Lord and leave it there.” – the refrain from Charles Albert Tindley’s hymn, “Leave It There”.

PRAYER

Lord, I put my trust and my faith in you. I take my fears and anxieties and give them all to you. Give me strength. Amen.

It’s Go Time

Read 1 Timothy 4:7-11

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Athletes exercise self-control in all things; they do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable one. So I do not run aimlessly, nor do I box as though beating the air; but I punish my body and enslave it, so that after proclaiming to others I myself should not be disqualified.” (1 Corinthians 9:25-27)

173848134_640This past week I started a new exercise program that one of my parishioners let me called T25. It was developed by Shaun T of “insanity” fame, and each workout is only 25 minutes long. Just twenty-five minutes, five days a week, for ten weeks. Each day is a different workout and the order of those workouts alternate week to week. By the end of it all, Shaun T claims that you will shed weight and gain muscle, stamina and endurance. All in ten weeks time. Sounds easy, right? I mean, all you have to do is workout for twenty-five minutes, five days a week? That’s it? For real?

Well, if you are thinking, “Gee, that sounds too good to be true,” then you are both wrong and right. You see, you are wrong because it is true that the work out only lasts for 25 minutes, and that one is supposed to do those workouts five days a week and that the program lasts for ten weeks. It is true that if you follow Shaun T’s plan you will end up shedding weight and gaining muscle, stamina, and endurance. I have seen what his “Insanity” program has done to my friend, and I trust that Shaun’s newest program T25 delivers just well.

But you are right in thinking that this sounds to good, to easy, to be true. While these exercises last only twenty-five minutes, they are an intense and grueling twenty-five minutes of high impact, focused interval training (F.I.T.) that get you the same results as an hour long workout. The sweat starts pouring out within the first ten minutes and the workout is over in twenty-five, but those are the longest twenty-five minutes for someone who is not conditioned to it. In fact, I had to do the modified workout because I am not quite used to all of that hopping and jumping around, and it still owned me!

Shaun T. is famous for saying, “You don’t get results by resting, you get results by working hard.” And that is very true. If we truly want something, we have to be willing to put the effort into what it is we want. If we can easily understand this regarding a work out, if it makes sense in our careers, if it makes sense in the things we want to accomplish, why does it seem to be lacking in our spiritual lives? Why is it that we will give it our all in certain things; however, we slack off on stuff as important as our spirituality and our relationships with God and with our fellow human beings. And then we wonder why we feel out of sorts, lost and a profound emptiness in our lives.

Today’s challenge is for you to step up your game, as it were, when it comes to your spiritual well being. It’s time to become spiritually fit, as well as physically and emotionally fit. Join a faith community, read and actively study the Holy Scriptures, pray regularly, partake in the sacramental life of your faith community, observe as sacred day of rest, and invest yourself in works of charity or, as I like to put it, in works of hope, healing and wholeness. If you do this, if you begin to make these a part of your daily/weekly routine, you will find that the results are amazing! It’s go time!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“You don’t get results by resting, you get results by working hard.” – Shaun Thompson

PRAYER

Lord, build me up into a whole person who is spiritually fit. Give me a desire to work for a stronger and deeper relationship with you, one that seeks to do your work of hope, healing and wholeness in the world around me. Amen.

Expanding the Horizon

Read Mark 1:21-28

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone.” (Matthew 14:23)

YogiJesusA little over four years ago, I embarked on a cross-cultural trip to India. During my time there, I had zig-zagged across the large country starting in Bangalore, traveling to Kerala on the Western Coast, back to Madurai in Central Southern India, over to Chennai (aka Madras) in Tamil Nadu on the Eastern Coast of Southern India, and then finally up to New Delhi and Agra in Northern India. All of that packed with different cultural experiences, culture shocks, and all that packed in three weeks time.

It was both an exhausting and a rewarding trip. One of the most rewarding parts of the trip was that I got to see Jesus in a whole new light. Growing up America, I knew the Jesus of my childhood well. I knew the reverent, light-skinned, golden flowing hair, blue-eyed Jesus that taught us to love one another and died for our sins. I knew the resurrected Christ who promised would come again. Of course, the Jesus I grew up understanding was coming from my reading of Scripture through the lenses of Western art, film, church and cultural experiences.

And there is nothing wrong with those experiences, for they are very much a part of the foundation of my faith. With that said, in India I came across the meditating, guru Jesus. On the one hand the image was exotic, distinctly Indian, and seemingly foreign to me; however, as I began to look at that Jesus, sitting in the cross-legged position in a circle with his disciples, I began to realize that this, too, was the Jesus of Scripture. After all, to use the Indian term, Jesus was a guru, which simply means teacher (or Rabbi as it is called in Hebrew). Also, Jesus was very spiritually in tune with God and with himself, and he no doubt meditated on God, on the Scriptures and certainly prayed continually as a part of his spiritual discipline.

Some people might be pausing here and saying, “Hey, that sounds awfully like Eastern philosophy/religion to me! That can’t be Biblical!” But, with careful evaluation and study, one cannot help but notice that Judaism (and Jesus was a Jew), is a Middle-EASTERN religion…not originally a Western religion. The Scriptures are loaded with Middle-Eastern symbology, with an emphasis on meditation and communion with God, and with plenty of wise sages roaming the countryside with bands of followers. All of this truly corroborates the Indian image of Jesus that I saw in my travels through India.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not saying to abandon the way you have come to know Jesus. That would not be true to your relationship with him, nor would it be true to your personal faith experiences. What I am saying is that we should be willing to meet Jesus everywhere and anywhere we go, and we should be open to meeting him in the ways that others have gotten to know him too! After all Christianity is not about EAST or WEST, NORTH or SOUTH, HERE or THERE; rather, Christianity is about CHRIST!

Today’s challenge is for you to open yourself to Christ in ways you never thought possible. Can we ever know CHRIST fully enough? Is Christ as small as the limits of our own minds and theologies? Or is Christ transcendent of those limitations? I choose to believe the latter and, in my experience, I have not been disappointed in how, when, where and with who I meet my LORD and Savior! I pray the same becomes true for you as well!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“I commune with my heart in the night; I meditate and search my spirit” – Asaph (Psalm 77:6)

PRAYER

Lord, open my heart and my mind to meet you everywhere, anywhere and anyway you reveal yourself to me. Amen.

Oh No! It’s PepsiCo!

Read Psalm 146

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight.” Proverbs 3:5

o-NAKED-JUICE-CLASS-ACTION-LAWSUIT-facebookAs a vegan, I am someone who is ever mindful of what I need to be eating in order to maintain optimum health. I am also one who advocates supporting honest companies who promote healthy living. Just recently I came to a realization that caused my heart to sink. I have been supporting a brand of juices, supposedly all natural juices, called “Naked Juice.” I loved these juices because they were a quick fix if I was in a rush and wanted something “healthy” to drink. They assure everyone on their bottles that they do not use GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) in their juices and they put on the facade of being a part of the health food movement.

As it turns out, I discovered that “Naked Juice” is owned by Pepsico…as in the huge soda company that makes products such as Pepsi, Mountain Dew and other toxic drinks that have no nutritional value whatsoever. What’s more, Pepsico donated over $2,000,000 to fight against Prop 37, which was a measure to have honest labeling on food products, so that consumers can know exactly what they are buying. Even worse than that, Pepsico owns Tropicana Orange Juice and a whole host of other popular products. Yikes! Who knew, right?

Have you ever stopped and wondered, “who can I trust?” In the American and/or Western culture, we are bombarded by tons of companies, government agencies and/or people, all begging us to place our trust in them. Yet, time after time we are let down by the reality that most of these things we place our trust in are not trustworthy.

Many of us then come to the conclusion that if we are going to trust anyone it is going to be ourselves; yet, how many times have we let ourselves down. I know I have let myself down quite a few times. I put my trust in my ability to eat healthy and stay on track, and yet I find myself derailing every so often. This of course leads me to be doubtful of whether I can even trust myself and my own abilities.

And let us not even mention the church. Can the church be trusted? How many times have people been burned by the church? Unfortunately, this leads many people to come to the conclusion that God cannot be trusted, and if that is the case, who can be trusted? But the reality is that, while the church represents God, the church is still made up of people. And while people can sometimes be trusted, and most people try to be trustworthy, the fact is that people cannot ALWAYS be trusted.

But God CAN always be trusted. Placing our trust in God is not the same as placing our trust in the church. Rather than placing our trust in companies, in products, in ourselves or in institutions such as the church, God is pleading with us to put our trust in GOD and in GOD’s abilities! In fact, if the church would just place its trust in GOD, it would look much different than it often does.

So, today’s challenge is for you to start placing your complete trust in God! Whatever your concerns are, whatever your worries are, whatever your trials and challenges are, whatever your triumphs are, TRUST that God IS and WILL CONTINUE TO lead you from where you are to where God is calling you to be. If you do so, you will find that GOD NEVER FAILS and that your TRUST has finally been placed on the only ONE who is TRUSTWORTHY!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

Rather than stamping “In God We Trust” on our money, we should be stamping that on our hearts.

PRAYER

Lord, I put my trust in you to lead me to where it is that you would like me to be. Amen.

Reading the Signs

Read Matthew 16:1-4

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Once Jesus was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, and he answered, “The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There it is!’ For, in fact, the kingdom of God is among you.” (Luke 17:20-21)

bobcats-12Well, we are certainly in the midst of a cold and snowy winter. The temperatures have been in the single digits and, in some cases, the temperatures has been subzero. Certainly that was the case the other day, with wind chill making matters worse. Just a minute or two outdoors and my ears and nose were ready to fall right off!

As much as I do not enjoy extreme temperatures, and as much as I semi-jokingly carry on about my dislike for the winter months, I cannot say I was not prepared for this harsh winter. In fact, I pretty much knew in advance that this winter was going to be a rough one, not because I am a soothsayer or some kind of super psychic, but because I saw the signs that were right in front of me.

Well, at least the signs were right in front of me on my youngest daughter’s class trip to Lakota Wolf Preserve in Blairstown, NJ. It was at this preserve that I met a couple of elegant and graceful bobcats! Aside from them being absolutely adorable, they also had weather prediction built naturally into their fur.

As it turns out, when ever a cold and harsh winter is approaching, their fur turns from brown to silvery white. And when ever a mild winter is approaching, their fur doesn’t change colors at all! Well, when I met these furry rascals their fur was already turning silver. Once that was pointed out to me by the tour guide, my heart sunk. Nature is ALWAYS right. I knew we were going to have a rough winter ahead of us!

Jesus calls his disciples to be observant of the signs surrounding us. He told his disciples to observe the signs of the times in order to be prepared for the things that are to come. He didn’t tell his disciples when and where these things would happen, but that the signs would be there for us to observe. With that said, Jesus also said to not get too caught up in the signs or in looking for them.

Many Christians have not heeded Jesus’ instruction to be observant of the signs and, as a result, they have missed out on the very presence of Christ, and the opportunities to bear that presence, in those moments. On the other hand, other Christians are overly observant, finding signs, and the end of the world, in everything they see. Jesus warns us against both scenarios.

Today’s challenge is for us to be observant, to be present, and to keep it real. Let us not be among the complacent who are caught unaware by the presence of God. Let us not be complacent and miss the presence of the Lord in the faces of those we ignore and pass by.  Let us also not be overzealous in seeking out signs at every turn. No one needs another blowhard predicting the unpredictable. Remember that the signs will show themselves to us and, when they do, we will be prepared for what God is doing in the world!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“My choices, including those related to the day-to-day aspects of life, like the use of a modest car, are related to a spiritual discernment that responds to a need that arises from looking at things, at people and from reading the signs of the times. Discernment in the Lord guides me in my way of governing.” – Pope Francis I

PRAYER

Lord, open my eyes to the signs of the times and fill me with the urgency to act upon them. Amen.

Just Do It

Read Joshua 24:1-16

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves.” (James 1:22)

Just-Do-ItI am currently in the middle of another juice fast. Every quarter of a year or so, I go on a fast to reboot my body, to cleanse it of toxins, and to get myself back on track in terms of healthy eating and healthy living. The first couple of days of juicing are hard because the body is getting used to not eating, and all you can think of is eating. Also, the body is detoxing from the toxins that processed foods, caffeinated foods/beverages, and other food products deposit in it.  After the first two to three days, I start to feel golden, filled with energy and life. All is good.

Many people ask me how I can possibly do a juice fast, or how I can remain vegan. They usually will commend me on my iron will power and question I can possibly enjoy food anymore. After all, vegans don’t like eating right? I mean how could a vegan ever enjoy eating vegetables all the time? Aren’t veggies meant to be side dishes and not the main course?

Of course, I do not have iron will power. You can trust me on that. If I did I would not have gotten to 306 lbs to begin with. I just got to the point where my health became more important to me than any excuse I could possibly come up with. That’s what it came down to, I got fed up with making excuses and just started doing it.

People make excuses for a lot of things. When people find themselves facing a decision they know they should make but don’t want to, they will find reasons as to why they can’t do it.  I’m too tired…I’m just not skilled enough…I like this food or that food too much to switch now…I’m a nobody, so what difference can I make? These excuses and more are made as reasons for not making a decision to change and move forward.

As Joshua pointed out to the Israelites, we all find ourselves at some crossroad or another. We find ourselves facing down a decision to change. It’s time to choose now, this day, who we will serve. Will we serve our comfort zone and the status quo in order to avoid the changes we need to make? Will we serve our fears and make excuses as to why we CAN’T do things? Or will we serve God and make the necessary change because we’ve finally come to realize that the change needs to be made and God is calling us to make it. Whatever that change is, whatever God is calling you to do, stop excusing yourself, make the change, and see God’s iron will carry you through it.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else.” – Benjamin Franklin

PRAYER

Lord, I don’t want to make excuses anymore. I choose to make the decision to change from who I am to who you are calling me to be. Amen.

THE WAY, Part 2

Read Matthew 4:17-25

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. And you know the way to where I am going.” (John 14:3-4, NLT)

the-way-1Just the other night I watched a film that I had been meaning to watch for the past couple of years. Being a busy person, I kept forgetting about it until the other night. I was perusing Netfilx and I came across the movie, “The Way,” and remembered that I wanted to see it. The film was written and directed by Emilio Estevez and stars his father, Martin Sheen.

The film is about a father who discovers that his son died during a storm while backpacking on the Camino de Santiago (“The Way of St. James”), which is of various lengths depending on where you start. The father, who spontaneously decides to complete his son’s trek, started in France and traveled by foot approximately 800 km or 497 miles. Along the way, the father meets and, eventually befriends, several people along the way.

In a flashback scene, the father is remembering an argument he had with his son. He wasn’t happy with his son’s life choices, and he thought his 40 year old son’s passion for world travel was frivolous. In the argument his son questions him on why he doesn’t just go on the trip with him. He also questions why his dad insists on basing his life around work and other such things. His father replies, “You may not think much of my life, but it’s the one I choose.”

At that moment his son replies, “You don’t choose a life dad, you live one.” Wow, what words of wisdom. His father didn’t reply to him that day, which would be the last day he ever saw his son alive, but those words forever echoed in his head. “You don’t choose a life dad, you live one.” His son had hit upon something that would take him an 800 km trek to discover.

We often go about our daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly routines as if we have chosen the lives we have. But have we? Did you choose to be born? Did you choose what family you were born into? Did you choose what schools you were first educated in? Did you choose every last detail of your life? The fact is, while we do have and make choices that affect our lives, we do not choose our lives. They are a gift given to us by God through our parents. Life is a gift that is meant to be used, and used abundantly.

Along The Way, the father discovers that life is meant to be lived and he discovers that living life means living it in the company of others, even those who seem worlds apart from who you are. We do not get to choose our lives, but we do get to choose to live them and to be a presence of hope and faith, of love, support and encouragement for others along the way of our life’s journey.

Christ calls us, as his disciples, to live life through sharing in the journey with others. Jesus was not just one person out in the country side, choosing his life all by himself; rather, he chose to journey with and encourage others who rather different than him. Sometimes their differences were downright frustrating; yet, Jesus chose to love them. From that loving bond came an even larger community of people who chose to join in with them, a community that continues on to this day through the Church. Today’s challenge is for you to stop pretending you choose your life and start living it. Live it in the presence of the people around you and live it in, through and with love! That is THE WAY to the Kingdom of Heaven.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

Make Jesus the way you live your life.

PRAYER

Lord, I want to be more like you. Though I do not choose my life, I choose to live my life for you. Amen.

THE WAY

Read Deuteronomy 6:4-9; Leviticus 19:11-18

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

Abstract Circular Maze whit Glowing Solution PathThis past Sunday, I just celebrated the two-year anniversary of my starting a 60 day juice fast that would, ultimately, change my life.  Sixty days and sixty-six pounds later, I was on the road to a new me…a healthy me…and I wasn’t about to start looking back. From that point on, I stayed vegan. For most people, the word “Vegan” sounds like something from Mr. Spock would say in an old Star Trek episode. All it means is that I abstain from eating meat, dairy, eggs and anything that comes from an animal.

Many people don’t understand why anyone in the world would want to abstain from meats, butter, cheese, milk, ice cream, eggs and all of the things that come from those products. I often get many questions and, to be honest, some people balk at me as if I am a lunatic. While it is true that I may be a little nutty, as it turns out my being vegan has absolutely nothing to do with it! Just ask anyone of my friends and family members.

Of course, I can certainly understand why people are put off by the notion of being vegan. In our culture, it goes against everything we were taught about a well-rounded diet. We’ve been told that we need animal protein, that we need milk to make our bones strong, and who can ever imagine baking without butter and eggs? Seriously! The truth is that I, too, balked at vegans before becoming one. I swore that I was a carnivorous meat-eater through and through. I could eat a block of cheese in a single sitting! I loved cheese! And baked goods, cookies in particular, forget about it! I couldn’t get enough of them.

But in my quest to lose weight and regain my health, I discovered what life without them would be like. I discovered that I would have tons of energy, that I would get rid of all of the diseases plaguing me, and that I would actually LOVE food just as much…if not more so…than I did before! Anyone who knows me knows that I NEVER stop talking about food and I certainly never stop trying new recipes! Yet, the foods I eat are definitely different than the ones I used to consume, and as a result, I am a new and transformed person.

While I have been talking about my personal dietary lifestyle, I can truly tell you that the same principles apply to our spiritual lives. In our culture, we are told to seek fame, fortune, and bliss. We are taught to expect things automatically. We are told what is beautiful and what is ugly. We are told what is healthy and unhealthy; however, a majority of people in our world are plagued with spiritual dis-ease. Many are seeking answers in all of the wrong places and balk at people when they are told that there is a better way.

Yet, there IS a better way! There is a way that is healthy and wholesome! There is a way that leads to abundant life! There is a way that will transform you completely from the inside out! There is a way that will lift you out of dis-ease and into HOPE, HEALING and WHOLENESS. That way was embodied by Jesus the Christ. That way leads us into service of others. That way leads us to love our neighbors as ourselves. It leads us to seek justice and love mercy. It leads us to forsake everything, but the Gospel of UNCONDITIONAL LOVE, as rubbish and worthless. Jesus embodied THE WAY and is calling you to join him in doing the same.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“Transformation in the world happens when people are healed and start investing in other people.” – Michael W. Smith

PRAYER

Lord, transform me. Lead me on the way toward hope, healing and wholeness so that I may bear witness to it for the transformation of the world. Amen.

The New Year’s Challenge

Read Psalm 119:101-105

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

The American Bible Challenge hosted by Jeff FoxworthyIn the late summer of 2012, Jeff Foxworthy hosted a game show show called “The Great American Bible Challenge.” The premise of the show was to quiz people with questions centered on the Bible to see how Biblically literate they were. The contestants were not actually competing to win money for themselves, but would represent a specific charity and the winners would donate their winnings to that charity.

The show, which first premiered on the Game Show Network August 23, 2012, debuted as the network’s highest rated program of all time, bringing in 2.3 million total viewers on its first night. That was the largest amount of viewers in the network’s seventeen year history, proving that the Bible is still very much a marketable venture for entertainment companies to pursue.

Yet, when you look at Biblical literacy in America, the statistics are astounding. According to a Gallup Poll, 16 % of Americans say that they read the Bible daily, 21 % read the Bible on a weekly basis, 12% say they read at least once a month, and 41% say they rarely, if ever, pick up a Bible. Readership of the Bible has declined from 73% to 59% from the 1980’s to our present time. Those numbers are staggering.

I have often heard people say that they find that the Bible is boring, that they don’t understand it, that they don’t have time to read it, and a host of other excuses. Yet, people clearly have an hour to watch a Bible Quiz Show, or ten hours to watch a Bible miniseries. People don’t seem to find the Bible boring when they are Hollywood-ized versions of the Bible and they flock by the millions to soak it all up.

The problem is that Hollywood tells the stories usually from a very narrow perspective. By nature, they need to be told that way; however, the Bible is so much more exciting when read and studied, particularly in a group setting, then when it is being fed to us via a television show. If you like steamy, scandalous romance, check out Samson and Delilah (Judges 16) or David and Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11). If action and adventure suits you, check out the Exodus led by Moses (all of Exodus). God knows there is plenty of horror in the Bible (Judges 19, Daniel 5, Mark 1:23-26, Revelation 13, etc.). If you like drama, check out a book like Esther who rises up over her circumstances.

The challenge to you for this new year is to not become a statistic! Pick up your Bible and read it. Actually read it! There are plenty of things in there that will catch your fancy. If you come across something that doesn’t make sense or grab your interest, move on to something else; however, read your Bible. In fact, join a Bible Study. Join one that will look broadly at the Scriptures and encourage the kinds of open-ended questions that promote learning, understanding and growth. It is my prayer for you, in this new year, that you will find the depth and relevance that the Bible has to offer you in your life. It is my prayer that you will find it to be an life changing, and illuminating, resource in your life. It is my prayer that it will indeed become a lamp unto your feet and a light unto your path.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“A thorough knowledge of the Bible is worth more than a college education.” – President Theodore Roosevelt

PRAYER

Lord, I pray that you inspire and motivate me to engage scripture and that, through such engagement, I may grow from who I am to who you want me to be. Amen.

A biweekly devotional