As you read the Torah (the first 5 books of the Bible) between now and April 2, you may want to consider looking into some resources about the Torah. Here are some places to think about getting started:

The Association of Believers Observing, Understanding, and Teaching the Torah

First Fruits of Zion

This week you’ll be reading Genesis 1-42.

Here are some different sites you might want to check out for additional information as you read:

Genesis commentary

NIV Study Bible intro to Genesis

As always, converse with God as you read, read with your thinking caps on, and talk about things here as we process together.

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Here are a few things you can do as you launch into this journey.

1. PRAY. Always pray before you sit down to read. Ask God to illuminate His Scriptures, to show you what He wants to say to you through those passages, and to reveal to you how you can change your life to line up with His ways and His Word.

2. TAKE IT IN. Set aside enough time to take in the Scripture for that day. You don’t want to feel rushed.

3. REFLECT. Find a way to process through what you have read, even if it is just a very little. Journal–write down questions, write down thoughts, write down action items that you need to take in to account as you seek to obey God in what He is asking of you. Find someone you can talk to about your questions and someone who can journey alongside you in accountability.

Some helpful Web sites with different study tools:

Blue Letter Bible

LifeWay’s online Bible

Interlinear Study Bible

And for those who want to go really deep:

BibleArc.com

Codex Sinaiticus

The Israel Museum

originally published on threadsmedia.com 

On April 1st, I set out to read the Bible cover-to-cover in 90 days.  I started the experience with much vigor and excitement.  I’ve tried my hardest to take in the words on the page and comprehend what they mean and how they affect life.

I’ve discovered some awesome things… did you know God likes the smell of cinnamon?  He makes the smell apart of the anointing oil in Exodus 30:23.  The realization that God might prefer some smells to others is simply fascinating to me.  Knowing the rules put forth in the early books Old Testament adds such depth to the culture and stories in later books.  And, of course, there’s something special about reading God’s passionate conversation with Job.

So, at what point did this become hard for me?

It’s not hard for me like I don’t want to do it… or that I’m uninterested in what I’m reading… but it’s hard in the sense that some days I forget.  How can I forget after so many days of reading it?
Since I started reading I’ve gone out of town a couple of times… I go away fully expecting to catch up and read more than usual… but each time I’ve actually ended up reading less (if reading at all).
I think it might be an exhaustion thing.  When reading the Bible this intentionally – and actually trying to comprehend it – you need energy and attention.  It’s a different way of reading than when I would back in the days of high school or even college.  Trying to read it all and remember the details to apply them is a much more stretching experience than just reading piecemeal for a pick-me-up.
There have been some passages that have been a bear to read.  I found that I prefer the narrative portions of the scripture.  Reading through the narrative helps with the portions that are only prophesy.  Some of the dialogue is hard to push through due to its unique nature, so different from how American novelists write.

After I complete this reading and before I go for a round two (I hope to make this a regular thing… maybe twice a year?), I’d like to try and study more about the Jewish culture.  I only wish there were descriptions of the appearances of people… so I could put a better face to the name.  Of course, that doesn’t happen.  It leaves to much importance to the characters names – and the meaning thereof.
Learning to read the Jewish writing is really learning how to read in a new way.  The first time names and words appear hold a higher level of importance.  You can often tell the significance of a person by how much is written about them and how much is remembered about them.  It’s a very different writing style full of nuances and layers of meaning that are so hard to keep up with on this first pass.

So I’m a few (a lot) of days behind.  I’m still planning on completing the reading, even if I don’t make it in 90 days.  I’m hoping that on round two (or three, or four…) I’ll be able to better comprehend and remember all the wealth of details.  I’ve loved reading the Bible in this intensive way… I only wish I could be more intentional.

I don’t understand why I never did this before.  I don’t understand why I’ve waiting this many years to read all the words and try to really commit to it.  It seemed so intimidating to read this massive tome of wisdom and history… and even now, as I’m behind so many days, it’s still a touch intimidating to crack open the Bible and really sit down with the word of God.
Maybe reading the Bible should always be intimidating.

So what are your ways of reading the Bible?  What struggles do you have when trying to comprehend it all?  How can we read better?

Wow – can I just say that I’m loving Job.  The raw humanity, the reverence for God yet the desire to have a relationship with Him…. this might be my favorite book so far.  A few quotes that stood out to me in tonight’s reading:

19 Will You ever look away from me,

or leave me alone until I swallow my saliva?

20 [If] I have sinned, what have I done to You,

Watcher of mankind?

Why have You made me Your target,

so that I have become a burden to You?

21 Why not forgive my sin

and pardon my transgression?

For soon I will lie down in the grave.

You will eagerly seek me, but I will be gone.

Job 7:19-21 (HCSB)

You will eagerly seek me, but I will be gone.  So God, instead, just love on me?  Please stop being so powerful and distant and terrifying… and just love on me.

Job… I love your uncensored emotion and heart.

Oh, come on!  That’s beautiful.  Amazing.  Job is so passionately trying to get his head around the idea of God.  Job is trying to figure out this whole sin and forgiveness thing.  He’s begging God to just give a little grace…

32 For He is not a man like me, that I can answer Him,

that we can take each other to court.

33 There is no one to judge between us,

to lay his hand on both of us.

34 Let Him take His rod away from me

so His terror will no longer frighten me.

35 Then I would speak and not fear Him.

But that is not the case; I am on my own.

Job 9:32-35 (HCSB)

If that’s not a man begging for the Messiah, I don’t know what is.  I can’t imagine living in a time when one didn’t know how God was going to redeem His people.  I can’t imagine being lost, trying to figure out why the world is set up this way, with failable humans, an infailable God, and sin and punishment and forgiveness and grace being all scattered about.  That might be one of my new favorite sets of verses.

One more from tonight:

Only grant [these]  two things to me, [God] ,

so that I will not have to hide from Your presence:

21 remove Your hand from me,

and do not let Your terror frighten me.

22 Then call, and I will answer,

or I will speak, and You can respond to me.

23 How many iniquities and sins have I committed?

Reveal to me my transgression and sin.

24 Why do You hide Your face

and consider me Your enemy?

Job 13:20-24 (HCSB)

That phrase is used a lot in the OT.  I have found it multiple times.  There is something special about that phrase.  Its what God tells Joshua when Moses has died.  Its what multiple kings say to the people to bring about their reliance on God.  It is something that I have held onto when I am having struggles in my life.  So, thats what I wanted to mention here.  It has seemed to me that when, over the past month, I am having a rough time personally, that this phrase has come up.  Or if I am struggling through a passage of scripture, this phrase comes up.  I admit that learning how many of any tribe did something for the temple isn’t my idea of highly entertaining or motivating reading.  That learning who came from who can be a bit redundant.  However, God is there to urge us on, reminding us that we should remain “strong and of good courage”. 

I know that many times in my life I need that extra nudge.  I can be hesitant and question whether or not I will make it through something that God would want me to experience.  The thing that really drives home the point to me is that every time this phrase is used, its always with assurances that God will provide (paraphrased).  God will be there to allow you to make it through whatever is going to happen.  I can’t think of a time when they use this phrase and its not about conflict of some sort.  Its a reminder, to me at least, that when I think things are getting rough and that I don’t know if it will get any better, all I have to do is be strong and of good courage cause God will get me through anything.  I have to lean on Him, but He will make a way for me.  God is faithful to me, even when I am unfaithful to Him.  Praise His Holy Name for that!

I may be just spouting off strange and incoherent messages here, but I just was thinking about that the other day.  I hope that this phrase brings as much comfort to others as it does to me.  I keep thinking of a praise song, don’t know the name of it, but it says “Savior, He can move the mountains, Our God is mighty to save, He is mighty to save”.  I think about that whenever I think about this phrase, here recently at least.  I need to “be strong” and stand and allow God to save me, cause He can.

Aaron: Judges

April 19, 2007

It’s nights like these where it seems possible to read the Bible… and to truly enjoy it!

I finished up Judges, read through Ruth, and stepped into 1 Samuel.  It was a great read; I had been growing weary of all the rules and regualtions.  However, I found that reading all the rules and geneolgy really helps out with the rest of the readings.  Knowing who the tribes are and how close they should love each other made it so much more tragic when Isreal goes to war against their very own brothers, Benjamin.  How far apart had these tribes grown!  Oh, they were supposed to be this beautiful nation, an example… but now they are fighting and slaughtering one another.

Knowing the rules help with a taste of the life of the times; how Ruth knew that if she didn’t take care of Naomi, Naomi would have no place in society.

I really liked Judges, though.  After all the rules and regulation and such, Judges just comes at you with a bunch of different action movies.  Seriously – they could do a whole epic series of movies just based on the Judges.  (Hmmm….)  Even Ruth would fit in to the series, as her story is almost like a sidenote to the Judges [During the time of the judges…  Ruth 1:1 (HCSB)].

It’s interesting reading these former Sunday School stories come to life with new understanding and different perspective.  As a child, I never questioned why Isreal was fighting these battles.  I think I always thought that Isreal was being attacked, and they were just trying to defend themselves.  It never dawned on me that they took the battle to Jericho.  I never wondered why Gideon had to take over a town.

But now, with political concerns and such, it’s almost a shock to be rooting on this little nation in decimating other people groups, taking over the land of their inheritance.  I have friends who are severly against gentrification… would they be against Isreal fighting other people groups to take over their lands of milk and honey?

It seems this fighting has never stopped, with all the troubles and stories that come out of the Middle East even to this day.  Isreal is always defending itself from some foe; I simply don’t think that those lands were meant for peace.

Ah, and Samson.  Seriously… why did you tell Delilah your weakness?  Three times she sets you up, and you don’t figure it out?  The Bible says: Because she nagged him day after day and pled with him until she wore him out…  [Judges 16:16 (HCSB)].   Oi; the power women have over us men.

Well, yesterday I finished the first five books of the Bible.

 The experience so far has been amazing and, surprisingly, emotional.  There are times where I’m sitting there, reading the very spoken words of God.. and I feel so disconnected to what He’s talking about.  So far, a huge percentage of the words of God are so many rules, regulations, and architectural designs.  He loves a people who are polygamists, screw-ups, and courageous.  And this nation memorizes and memorizes and memorizes these words.

 I think that reading the Bible almost expects you to have read it before.  There are several points in these first five books where I’ve felt like I should already know something.  Where it seems like it would make so much more sense if I already knew the ending.  Like if I was living with this nation day in and day out and I knew more, there would be so much more significance.

 I think that’s kind of how it’s supposed to be, maybe?  Maybe we who are not a part of God’s chosen nation weren’t meant to be a part of this story UNTIL we could know the end.  It wouldn’t make sense to us until we came in through the blood of Christ.  Because without Christ, without knowing what He did/is going to do to make us a part of this nation… then a lot of this just still doesn’t fully resonate with me.  I don’t connect with laws and ideas dealing with multiple wives… because I’m never going to have multiple wives.  I don’t know much about pouring out blood from freshly killed animals… because I buy my meat from Kroger.

It’s emotional, because I just wish I had done this before.  I want to already have all this knowledge, I already want to understand the realtionship between Moses and God.  I want this.

James: God’s Word

April 14, 2007

I have been thinking about this whole task that we have set before ourselves.  The commitment to read God’s word from cover to cover for 90 days.  Why is it that when we think about reading The Bible that its some task that can be daunting?  Why is it when we decide to read that its usually one book or just a few chapters in a book?  If this was a novel, we would read it quickly and finish it quickly (or at least try to).  Do we see this as a task because its something we see as assigned to us?  I remember when I was in college or even high school, the books assigned to read, most of them, were much more difficult to make it through.  I just had to make myself trudge through them.  So, I have begun to rethink about this whole idea of the Bible.  This is a book about God.  I know that we have all heard about that or thought that, but this week it really hit me.  I am reading where the Lord is speaking and I was thinking, “These are God’s actual words”.

I know that all scripture is God inspired and was led by Him to make sure it was exactly what He wanted said.  Then God made sure that it was held intact.  However, there are direct quotes from God.  How many times are we questioning to ourselves, “I wish I knew what God is saying to me” or any variation of those thoughts?   Well, how can we ignore the greatness of reading a book that is full of just God’s words?

Like I was saying a while ago, if we think of the bible as a story or God, why don’t we treat it like other stories or novels that we read?  Going through it in 90 days should be simple and I am finding that when I am struggling to read all for that day and I acknowledge that, God gives me the attention that I need and the desire that I want to read it all.  I may just be sounding all this for myself, but I wanted to share these thoughts.  God is amazing and is wonderful and is loving.  I am thankful to be making my way through the novel of God.

Oi – so I, too, was tempted to skim the details of all this building and making clothes and getting everything JUST RIGHT. 

However, this is the stuff I’ve never read before, never really heard before.  We hear the story part of Exodus, how the Isrealites get away from Pharoh… but so much of Exodus is really about constructing the Ark, the sacrifice tables, and how exactly God’s nation was to offer their sacrifices to Him.  We even get the formula for a perfume (that no one can wear except the priests… it’s amazing how tempting it is to try to make the perfume, just to see what smells so pleasing to God).

So we have these long sections of scripture that isn’t just God-inspired, they are they very words of God.  This is God, the very one who created the Universe.  So His words should just resonate with our soul, right?  They should brin enlightenment and help us understand why we’re here, right?  All the questions we would love to ask God, and the unknowns… and we get paragraph after paragraph of how to build thing, what colors the robes should be, and how to burn meat.

I mean… really?

Where’s the mystery?  Where’s magic and wonder and “why did you even create us”?  Where’s the “why do you let bad things happen to good people”?  Where’s the “how do I know You’re real”?  We get… intricate directions on how to make stuff.

 Which, I imagine, somehow makes sense.  God is the ultimate architect; He was picky and peculiar about how He made the laws of physics… I suppose he can be picky about a box He’s going to call His home.  He made the colors of the rainbow, so I guess he can be picky about what colors his priests wear.  He made all the smells; from the smell of dog to the smell of bleach to the smell of peppemint.  If he likes cinnamon, I think God can be picky and say He likes cinnamon.

These are the sights and smells and texures God is going to recieve offerings around; He can be picky and choosy.

Perhaps this is all part of the point… maybe our questions don’t really matter so much.  Maybe if we sat and listened, God would talk to us about the things He likes, instead of us telling Him what He should like.  Instead of us telling Him what we like, and thusly, He should like it too.

 It’s strange to think that there are things that God just… likes.  I imagine when Christ returns he’ll be partial to some version Mariam’s “Horse and Rider” and reminisce of eating the fat from a calf.  He like jewels and gold and maybe even turbans.  It’s hard, because I want to think that God would like my own favorite bands, like OtR or William Shatner… but we have so little idea of what He likes.

Unless we look at these long passages and find out that yes, God is partial to certain colors.  That yes, He likes things built by skilled craftsmen.  That yes, God does have opinions and likes and dislikes.

These passages make Him more than just a God for architects or a God for fashion designers… these long passages are God showing He likes things a certain way; that He does care about the details.  Now to go find some cinnamon…

James: Worshiping God

April 7, 2007

I have to admit, as I was finishing up Exodus and they went over the details of the temple and the preparations for the priest to worship God and give the sacrifice for sins, I sort of skimmed it.  I realize I may not be the only one who did that, but I wanted to talk about it here.

First, the intricate details it goes into about how everything must be done speaks volumes about the grandeur that God is deserving of.  I know that many of us have been hit by this in the past, but though I may have heard this part before, I never really paid close attention to the details that God went into in trying to make it so that their sin offering would be something He could accept.  He wanted to have their offering, but in order to do that, all these steps must have been met.  Second, the details also speak about what a blessing we have now.  We don’t have to go before a priest with all the garb to confess our sins or seek atonement from those sins.  We go boldly before God Himself with Jesus as our priest to plead for our forgiveness.  We enjoy the grandeur of God because of Jesus.  Our cleansing happened once and it was a permanent cleansing.

I know that personally, I take church and the closeness we have with God for granted more times than I would like to admit.  However, reading the details of what God deserves and needed in order to get something that I so flippantly have now, it humbles me and makes me stand in awe of the God who loves me so much.  The God who desires my worship so much.  The God who I now eagerly hope to give at least some small measure of that honor back and I humbly acknowledge His worthiness of such lengths because of how amazing He is.