One item on my wishlist is to have read the WHOLE Bible.
I got my very first Bible when I was 8, or somewhere around there; and I remember spending lazy Sunday mornings reading it like a storybook.
I liked stories, and I read just about every story I could find in the Bible. Sunday School teachers couldn't faze me; I knew my Bible well--or so I thought.
But I had to confess I never really touched the Minor Old Testament prophets, unless there was a sermon preached on them;and even then it was just the verse or chapter being preached on.
OT prophets were tough! OT prophets seemed to rant and rave about the same old topic all the time! And--let's face it--OT prophets were kind of boring.
But as Pastor Stewart Olyott said, "Ecclesiastes [or any other book in the Bible we're tempted to dismiss or discount] was written for us, and we cannot ignore it without impoverishing ourselves." (A Life Worth Living and a Lord Worth Loving: Exposition of Ecclesiastes and the Song of Solomon)
And thank God, I have found this to be true as I start my foray into the Minor OT Prophets.
Search the Scriptures have been immensely helpful in understanding the tough passages, and giving insights I wouldn't have found on my own.
But sometimes the words of the Bible, on their own, are so clear, so powerful, that they leave me wondering--breathlessly--why I never, how could I never have, come across this before.
I have learnt so much already from just these first few steps into the books of the Minor OT Prophets. Yes, they're tough. What on earth does "[Ephraim] is an unwise son, for he should not stay long where children are born" mean? (Hosea 13:13)
And I feel for the prophets; men and creatures like myself, yet understanding the anguish and weight of God's message, and in agony how to preach it--how to make these people understand when their hearts were so hard and the message itself so deep.
Yes, they do 'rant and rave'--but why? Because they watch their people fall away from God, again and again, beyond gratitude, beyond understanding.
O God, I see the anguish I cost You when I fall away, when my love for You is cold--repeatedly! As if I haven't learnt from the last time!
"O my soul, my soul, my soul! I am pained in my very heart!" (Jeremiah 4:19)
And finally, yes, the OT prophets can be boring--if we only see it as the prophets warning the Israelites; something which happened centuries ago, something which we can shake our heads wisely and knowingly at.
But what of us?
Are we any better, any stronger, than the Israelites? Do we make any more sense when we keep, keep, keep falling into sin, drifting from God, serving our own idols rather than Him
--even when we know better?
The first chapter of Amos may tempt us to do just that--shake our heads knowingly and feel 'holy' horror at the terrible sins of the nations God was judging. Oh, dear, how awful! How could anyone be so cruel? They deserve God's punishment, don't they? I'm afraid I did just that.
And then, suddenly, chapter 2:4 hits me in the face. God's own people. Being judged with the same severity--not, this time, for 'obvious' crimes of cruelty and wickedness, but for faithlessness and disobedience to God.
How many of us can dare to say we haven't been disobedient, haven't rebelled against or disrespected God at one time or other--or all--of our lives?
Ouch. I don't like being classed with people who 'ripped open women with child".
We're more like the Israelites than we'd like to realize. Maybe we don't bow down before our idols or offer burnt sacrifices to them, but we certainly give them our time, our energy, our emotions. Don't we cause just as much pain, anguish, to our pastors or the Christians who care for us--the shepherds according to God's heart, whom He gave to us? (Jeremiah 3:15)
God is speaking to us through these oft-forgotten, oft-neglected books of the Bible, as urgently and poignantly as He is through the New Testament or the Gospels.
The prophets of the Old Testament are part of the Bible too.
Observe the cool drawings of electrical appliances to the left (deftly appropriated from Shutterstock Images.)
Go ahead, choose one.
Just pick whichever one appeals instantly to you, there's no need to reason out an explanation why you picked that one.
I would probably take a hairdryer as it's something very familiar:P (though unfortunately there isn't any picture of one here)
I have a reputation for being dense enough to bring a hairdryer to every camp.
I justify that by making everyone use it, and coming up with as many uses for a hairdryer as I possibly can think of:
drying damp clothes/shoes,
bonking bad guys on the head,
blowing away unwanted insects...
...no, I still haven't found a way to boil water with a hairdryer yet, as one of my dear church sisters suggested.
Kind of like last year's youth camp, where we were split into groups to come up with a skit based on one prop which could be anything but what it actually was.
My group got a multi-plug. Usually a multi-plug is one of the most useful things around (my room actually has three of them) but once it couldn't be used as what it was originally meant to be, ie. plugged into an electric socket, it became a rather bulky, useless object.
Someone suggested fastening the powerhead to one of the sockets and using it as a handbag. Or a lasso. Or a machine gun (you can probably tell we didn't have a very serious suggestion about this.) In the end we used it as a machine gun--not an outstanding success. (If you're ever in this situation you should try the lasso option.)
We're all like this multi-plug--or my hairdryer--or whatever electrical appliance you chose just now. Each one of us was made by God for different purposes--to blow dry hair, to heat up food, to iron clothes, to light the dark, to help power other electrical appliances--but all of us have the same requirement before we can do that.
We all need to be plugged into the electric socket of God. We need Him in our lives before we can do what we were intended to do, what we do best, what we are most fulfilled when we do.
Without God, we can still be useful, of course. As a hairdryer I could bonk bad guys on the head or possibly even boil water (actually no, that requires electricity too!) But I can never truly be 'turned on', never fully reach my full and true potential, without my power source; God.
Are you trying to find ways to boil water with a hairdryer? (that would definitely be a 'Hard' thing!;)
Or have you realised that the most important thing is to first be plugged in?
Everyone talks about how busy they are--me included. Sure, I may not be the type of person forever griping about how sleep-deprived I am; but I catch myself dropping plenty of 'subtle' hints and references to how busy I am; how packed my schedule is; how many boxes I've ticked. I know, disgusting right?
We may act and talk as if our busyness is something forced upon us, something we'd be all too happy to get rid of; and maybe that's really true in your case. But just as possibly, maybe we don't realize that actually our busyness has unconsciously become something else--something we actually cling to, unconsciously; something much more than the necessary evil we tend to generalize it as.
If being busy is something we can immediately relate to, if it's on our list of top ten most commonly used words (try counting how many times you use that word in a week!), perhaps we need to think about the role busyness is playing in our lives.
Am I busy with worthwhile things? There's a reason why 'busy' and 'fruitful' are two different words. Personally, I have a deep fear that when I stand before God I'll realize that so many of the things I invested my life in actually didn't matter at all. As if a doctor were to spend all his time polishing and arranging his tools and bottles, instead of seeing his patients. Look, Lord, see my perfectly aligned bottles with all the labels on the left side. Don't bother about the people dying outside.
Is busyness becoming an issue of self-esteem? Is being or admitting I'm not as busy as other people making me feel inferior? Am I clinging to my busyness out of pride, or guilt?
I don't know about you, but personally I did struggle with this, as a homeschooler. I found myself feeling guilty that I didn't have a crammed schedule like my friends who were in school. People will think that homeschoolers are slackers! Wait--does that mean I'm actually a slacker? Horrors! I've got to fill this schedule up so other people (and most importantly, myself) won't think I'm a slacker!
Definitely the wrong reason for being busy.
The reverse applies too, and I experienced it after having successfully 'filled up' my schedule. Man, I'm a useful/efficient person; I don't have ten minutes to spare and that's what proves it.
Is the way I am busy different from how an unbeliever is busy? Christians are called to be like Christ (and so, unlike the world) in all aspects of their life. Maybe we need to stop complaining so much about our work, even if all our colleagues are. Maybe we need to work willingly, cheerfully. Maybe we need to work better, without cutting corners. Maybe we need to imagine Christ in our shoes, doing our work.
And the last question which sums it all up:
Is my busyness distracting me from growing in my relationship with God, or is it helping me to? Maybe my busyness has become my reason for neglecting God. I've no time to pray today. Five minutes of Bible reading is going to have to do. God can't expect me to come to prayer meeting when I've got this on tomorrow. I'm too sleep-deprived to stay awake in church but it can't be helped, that assignment had to be finished. I'd better not serve in church, I'm already doing plenty outside. In that case, it's encouraging me in sinful self-dependency/sufficiency, which alienates me from God. It's encouraging me to see God as one compartment in my life, unrelated and in competition to the rest of my life--rather than God as the definition, guideline, and motivation for everything I do.
Or my busyness becomes another reason for me to seek God, because I realize how imperfect I am, how much I need Him, or how weak my love for Him is, and how easily distracted I am from Him. In that case it's teaching me how much I need God in all I do-- drawing me closer to Him, helping me to understand, love, and even serve Him, better.
God calls us to be fruitful people. But He also calls us to be happy people. He calls us to have a heart of peace and joy in our work.
And most importantly, He calls us to be His.
O Lord, You have searched me and known me.
You know my sitting down and my rising up;
You understand my thoughts from afar off.
You comprehend my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways.
For there is not a word on my tongue, but behold, O Lord, You know it altogether.
I don't know how many times I had read this psalm before I suddenly realised for the first time the full impact of verse 4.
'For there is not a word on my tongue, but behold, O Lord, You know it altogether.'
I talk. Alot. Not always wittily or wisely or well. Funnily enough, most of the time this isn't because I always have something to say, but rather the opposite. Often, desperate to keep a conversation going, or put a shy someone at ease, I blurt out whatever comes to my mind. Random statements, lame jokes, far-fetched anecdotes and other nonsense--even though they usually *work*, they're definitely nothing I want people to remember me for saying, or am proud of saying. Definitely not gravestone-epitaph material. If anyone were to remind me of something I'd said in those situations, I'd be cringing with embarrassment.
And God knows every single lame, nonsensical, foolish, or aimless word I utter--'altogether'.
'Altogether'--my motives for saying them, the response I hope to elicit, why they even came into my head in the first place--everything, things I could never know myself about the words I say.
Realising that was overwhelming. God knows me well--to this depth of well--a depth not humanly possible, and not fully comprehensible even.
And I felt shame for the millions of foolish and empty words I had said; but mostly awe. Awe that my God loves me this much, knows me this well. Not knowing just the happy, pleasant parts of me, or the painful, ugly parts of me; but even the silly, careless parts that aren't even worth knowing.
He is a deeply, intensely personal God. He is deeply interested in me, down to the tiniest, most insignificant detail--in the way we all long for someone to know us, love us, be interested in us. (Don't we all find it at least a little flattering when we notice someone has been stalking our Facebook account and liking/commenting on everything we've said or done?;)
He is deeply interested, not just in my soul and my spiritual life--which is how we sometimes make the mistake of thinking, as if God isn't interested or involved in all of our lives--but in my joys, sorrows, delights, loves, tears, failures. Because they are the story He has written for me.
As a young aspiring writer, I used to dream of seeing one of my books or scripts made into a movie, and how fascinated I would be to see my character 'incarnated', come to life on screen with all the small details and characteristics I had created him/her with. No one, not the protagonist's love interest, parents, or friends, could be as deeply fascinated and interested as I was in him/her.
This is just a shadow of the interest God feels towards each one of us, His creatures. Something we can never experience in our human (and flawed/limited) relationships.
Thank You for being such personal God. It is such an honour and gift to be created, known, and loved by You to this amazing, overwhelmingly personal degree. No other relationship we could have can even come close to the one You have with us.
a small voice
Ci thinks some of God's greatest blessings to mankind are