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.



Psalm 57

“God, be gracious to me; be gracious,
for I have made you my refuge.
I shall seek refuge in the shadow of
your wings
until the storms are past” (Psalm 57:1).

I chose to read through the Bible again in 2015, this time using the New English Bible translation. I’m currently in the middle of the Psalms and I ran across one that I had to re-read and then re-read again because it was perfectly timed for the weather we’ve been having.

To be fair, this part of the country has seen mostly rain and not much in the way of actual storms. But storms don’t always mean lots of rain, lightening, and hail. Sometimes storms come in the form of losing a job or losing a loved one. Sometimes storms are seasons of life that are difficult. Those storms don’t always come and go within 24 hours. Some can last for weeks and months and even years.

But the same Jesus that spoke peace to actual winds and waves so long ago is just as capable of speaking peace to your and my storms. Often I’ve noticed that He will allow the storm to rage, but He will calm the child within the storm (and I’m fairly certain that is not original with me).

For me, storms have been the place where I’ve found Jesus to be most faithful. Even when I can’t see the end of the storm clouds and wonder if the sun will ever shine again, I know even then that the promises of Jesus are just as true in the darkest storms as they are on the brightest days.

I’ve read through the Bible more than once and yes, I have read the last page. There are no storms or thunder or trials or pain or suffering there. Only victory. Only peace. Only the joy that comes in the morning after a night of weeping.




What I Read This Morning


I’ve been reading through the Bible this year in a different translation. It’s called The Voice, and I really like it. It’s not perfect, but I have yet to find a translation that was perfect. That’s why I tend to use more than one and go back and forth between different ones.

That being said, I was struck by reading a familiar passage in a different way. Here it is:

If you’re listening, here’s My message: Keep loving your enemies no matter what they do. Keep doing good to those who hate you. Keep speaking blessings on those who curse you. Keep praying for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, offer the other cheek too. If someone steals your coat, offer him your shirt too. If someone begs from you, give to him. If someone robs you of your valuables, don’t demand them back. Think of the kindness you wish others would show you; do the same for them.

Listen, what’s the big deal if you love people who already love you? Even scoundrels do that much! So what if you do good to those who do good to you? Even scoundrels do that much! So what if you lend to people who are likely to repay you? Even scoundrels lend to scoundrels if they think they’ll be fully repaid.

If you want to be extraordinary—love your enemies! Do good without restraint! Lend with abandon! Don’t expect anything in return! Then you’ll receive the truly great reward—you will be children of the Most High—for God is kind to the ungrateful and those who are wicked. So imitate God and be truly compassionate, the way your Father is.

If you don’t want to be judged, don’t judge. If you don’t want to be condemned, don’t condemn. If you want to be forgiven, forgive. Don’t hold back—give freely, and you’ll have plenty poured back into your lap—a good measure, pressed down, shaken together, brimming over. You’ll receive in the same measure you give” (Luke 6:27-38).

That’s a hard teaching. I know I could never do all that in my own strength. But that’s what t I’m aiming for. That’s what we’re all aiming for if we truly follow Jesus.

I had another thought. People want to paint Jesus in their own colors. Either they make Him into an ultra-rightwing conservative or a peace-loving liberal fanatical. I do think there’s some merit to both, but yet each side falls short in its vision of the Messiah. Jesus Himself prayed for Jerusalem that she might know His peace, but yet He also said that He didn’t come to bring peace but a sword.

To me, Jesus was so much more than either conservative or liberal. He was (and is) the Eternal God-Man and, just as God’s thoughts and ways are so much higher than ours, so in a way is Jesus. He’s beyond any of our categorization.

One thing I know. Jesus didn’t come to legitimize one side or the other. He didn’t come to justify a belief system or a political platform. He came to seek and save the lost, no matter where they came from.

He asks one thing of us. His command is, “Follow me.” More than an ideology or a systematic theology, Christianity is and has always been about following the person of Jesus. That’s it.

Why I Love the Psalms


Here’s my update on my Bible reading. I’m up to Psalm 127, which is probably ahead of the pace I need to get through the Bible in a year, but I’m okay with that.

I’m reminded of why I love the Psalms so much. Yes, there’s a lot of “praise the Lord” and “hallelujah” verses, but there’s also plenty of “Where are you, God” verses. There are stories of both victory and defeat, joy and sorrow, health and illness, strength and weaknesses. In other words, it runs the gamut of human experience.

I love the honesty. I used to feel like David, or whoever else happened to write the particular Psalm I was reading, was boasting about how perfect and obedient he was. Now I think I see it as a man who feels like he’s giving everything he’s got to do the right thing.

I see that life is hard, bad things happen, and sometimes the bad guys get the upperhand. Still, the last word is always how the loyal, steadfast love and faithful God (or the Eternal One, as my translation puts it) never ceases.

That’s a good reminder for anyone going through struggles and pain and loss. God’s faithfulness never runs out. His love never lets up. It always finds us and brings us back to His heart and one day will lead us home.

To paraphrase an old saying, victory is never final and failure is never fatal. It is trust in the strong arms of God that wins out in the end.

Things I Love 41: The Beat Goes On

island hammock

“When service is unto people, the bones can grow weary, the frustration deep. Because, agrees Dorothy Sayers, “whenever man is made the center of things, he becomes the storm-center of trouble. The moment you think of serving people, you begin to have a notion that other people owe you something for your pains…You will begin to bargain for reward, to angle for applause… When the eyes of the heart focus on God, and the hands on always washing the feet of Jesus alone – the bones, they sing joy and the work returns to it’s purest state: eucharisteo. The work becomes worship, a liturgy of thankfulness. “The work we do is only our love for Jesus in action” writes Mother Theresa. “If we pray the work…if we do it to Jesus, if we do it for Jesus, if we do it with Jesus… that’s what makes us content.” Deep joy is always in the touching of Christ – in whatever skin He comes to us in” (Ann VoskampOne Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are).

I saw a friend from high school today that I hadn’t seen since my 20 year reunion. She and her husband and kids live just outside of Chicago, so it’s not like I can just hop in the car and run across town to see her anymore. But that makes days like today all the more precious, because it’s like we picked up where we left off, like no time at all had passed. That’s how it is with good friends. So, on that note, I pick up at #1,241.

1,241) Spending time with a good friend from high school and catching up on everything.

1,242) Finally walking away (literally at swing dancing tonight) from a relationship that wasn’t any good for me.

1,243) Walking to my car in the rain after swing dancing tonight at Centennial Park.

1,244) My bike that I’ve been intending to ride all summer but haven’t gotten around to yet (but I will).

1,245) Not being in a hurry all the time.

1,246) Knowing that there will be no more cancer or Alzheimer’s or dementia or sickness of any kind in heaven.

1,247) Collecting little ceramic churches (kinda like the Thomas Kinkade churches but not as nice or expensive).

1,248) Starting my job a week from Monday.

1,249) The moment when I surrender my plans and say to God, Your will be done.”

1,250) Clean underwear.

1,251) Not having paparazzi following me all the time. Or ever.

1,252) Having 30 more views on my blog  today.

1,253) Finding loose change in my pockets.

1,254) Keeping my eyes on the prize instead of on my obstacles.

1,255) Quoting lines from movies at opportune moments.

1,256) That tramps like us, baby we were born to run (according to Mr. Springsteen).

1,257) The Message translation.

1,258) Going to bed after I finish this particular blog.

1,259) Looking forward to Things I Love 42, whenever that may be.

1,260) Keeping a $2 bill in my wallet for luck.

1,261) Realizing how much I’ve grown up and in grace in the last few years.

1,262) 10,000 reasons to worship.

1,263) Lots of good music coming out and me finally having a job to buy these albums.

1,264) Being reminded yet again that the best things in life really are free.

1,265) My collection of Muppet finger puppets.

1,266) Checking the “This post is super-awesome” box every time after I finish a post. And not really taking it too seriously.

1,267) Reading about a former porn star who’s now a believer.

1,268) I Am Second.

1.269) God is first.

1,270) Old rotary phones.