In the Beginning

“When all things began, the Word already was. The Word dwelt with God, and what God was, the Word was. The Word, then, was with God at the beginning, and through him all things came to be; no single thing was created without him. All that came to be was alive with his life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines on in the dark, and the darkness has never mastered it” (John 1:1-5).

To me, John 1 has to be among the greatest literary masterpieces of all time. I may be a bit biased, but I do think that the way John opens his gospel is perfect. Matthew and Mark start with the birth narrative, but John goes back further than that. Much further.

We see Jesus as the Word with God from the beginning. Jesus, the Word, was (and is) God.

Sometimes, you need a different translation to see a verse or a group of verses in a new light. Reading the same verses in the same translations can be like singing the same old hymns in the same old style for years and years. Eventually, you fall into rote memory and stop paying attention to the words.

That’s one of the reasons I chose the New English Bible as my translation of choice to read through the Bible for 2015. It’s different enough so that the words seem fresh again.

It’s not a perfect rendering, but that’s not the point. The point is to keep letting the Word of God speak to me and (hopefully) to never let it get stale for me.

The best way to keep the Bible from getting stale is to do what it says. Don’t just read it and praise it for being clever and witty, but actually put it into practice. That’s something that’s easy to tell someone else to do, but much harder to do yourself. I should know.

As of this time, my plan is to read the Holman Christian Standard Bible (otherwise known as the Hard Core Southern Baptist Bible) in 2016 and the New Jerusalem Bible in 2017. Of course, these plans are always subject to change.



Love in General

“This is how we’ve come to understand and experience love: Christ sacrificed his life for us. This is why we ought to live sacrificially for our fellow believers, and not just be out for ourselves. If you see some brother or sister in need and have the means to do something about it but turn a cold shoulder and do nothing, what happens to God’s love? It disappears. And you made it disappear.

My dear children, let’s not just talk about love; let’s practice real love. This is the only way we’ll know we’re living truly, living in God’s reality. It’s also the way to shut down debilitating self-criticism, even when there is something to it. For God is greater than our worried hearts and knows more about us than we do ourselves” (1 John 3:16-20).

I heard something today in a sermon that struck home. The pastor, Aaron Bryant, basically said that many of us are so concerned about loving people that we neglect to love the person in front of us at any given moment. We can get so caught up in the theoretical idea of love in a general sense that we fail to love our neighbor in a very practical sense.

It’s one thing to talk of loving people, but quite another to love that difficult co-worker or that annoying neighbor. Maybe it’s a brother or sister that you don’t get along with and haven’t spoken to for weeks or months.

God does have a sense of humor. When you ask God for patience, He will send you to a situation or a person who will try what little patience you have. When you pray for someone to love, often He confronts you with someone who while not completely unlovable is far from easy to love.

Remember in those times that you were once that unlovable person. In loving you, God made you lovable. Maybe when you love someone else with that kind of love, they will become lovable as well. The most effective testimony is loving people well, especially those of the faith. The calling card of the early Church was how well they loved each other.

How can you love not just in general but specifically and practically? It starts with making time for that person. Making a phone call, sending a text, paying a visit, meeting that person for coffee, or making them feel welcome when they move into your neighborhood.

There’s a word for people who claim to love God but don’t love His people– hypocrites. If you say one thing and live another, you automatically invalidate your message.

As the Apostle John said, let’s love not just in word or speech or in theory but in deed and truth.