Grace Habit; Part 4

Wikihow  even has a wiki on how to study the Bible - here's their image.

Wikihow even has a wiki on how to study the Bible - here's their image.

The question remains: "How did you learn to spend time with God?"

Did you have deovtions?  Did you sit down and have your quiet time?  Or did you follow a Bible reading plan?  Maybe you read  "My Utmost for His Highest"?  Maybe you used a Life Application study Bible?  Maybe you had an Inductive Study Bible?  Or maybe your church or denomination offered a class on how to study the Bible - or maybe you took a seminary class?

I remember when I first learned about Christian Book Distributors ... back in the day - with a phone call to a 1-800 number - they would put you on their mailing list - and send you their catalog - printed on newspaper type paper - all black and white - with hundreds and hundreds of horrible little grainy pictures of life-altering bargain priced books like "Mere Christianity" by C.S. Lewis.  I remember my mother handing me a check to "go buy something decent to wear to an interview" - cashing it - driving to Good Will and a garage sale or two - and coming home with something better than ripped out jeans and worn thin hoodie to wear to an interview - and mailing a check off to the catalog people - and buying my first study Bible: a hard-backed NAS Open Study Bible.  Then came the Thompson Chain Reference Bible ... then Bible software!  Ooooh!

There are also a plethora of prayer methods aren't there.  There's the "A.C.T.S." method (adoration, confession, thanksgiving, supplication).  I'm personally pretty fond of the "Hour That Changes the World" by Dick Eastman - an 11-kinds of prayer - that at 5 minutes each(ish) takes up an hour when you begin and end with praise.  I've always liked best that it includes both resting with and listening to God - which actually makes prayer seem like a conversation.

Maybe you remember missionaries coming to visit your church and telling you about people hearing the gospel for the first time, or receiving their first Bible.  The head of the campus ministry I attended as a student was invited at one time to teach a class to some Czechoslovakians back when Czechoslovakia was a country still.  He told stories about two brothers attending who every evening after the last class would plead with him to borrow his old, worn out Bible over-night and then hand deliver it to his hotel room the next morning "on their way" to work (but it was actually horribly out of their way).  Near the end of the class the brothers finally told him that they were taking turns hand-copying whole books from his Bible - because they'd never had one and didn't believe they ever would - and even though this Bible was in English - a language they struggled with - they were so eager to finally access to a Bible - they considered themselves extremely fortunate and were glad to give up sleep - and walk twice as far to work.  When my campus minister heard this - he instinctively gave them his Bible - right then and there.  They were so over-come with joy that this book was now theirs - that they burst into tears.  I believe that just about every single missionary serving near the U.S.S.R. or other closed countries has stories like this.

It's curious that today it's so ridiculously easy to have a completely free personal Scripture study reference library that would be the absolute envy of every seminary student not at all that long ago - and to carry it around with you everywhere you go - on your phone!  You can down-load a free app that will even READ the Bible out loud to you with a professionally produced recording - in the version of your choice - again - completely free and utterly portable.  Yet I don't think this proliferation of resources and ease of access to those resources has led to a significant uptick in Christians diving in.  Obviously, life is extremely complicated and despite the dawn of the internet age has failed to automatically become easier - so the answers to how this has come to be are varied and numerous.  Still - the excuse we all said before you could stuff an entire seminary library into your back pocket was "Well, I'd love to study the Bible more - but who can afford all those resources?"

So - what IS stopping us from diving in?  Busyness for sure - but busyness doesn't really mean busyness does it?  Or better put - what "gem of an idea" would unleash your inner scholar?

Grace Habit, Part 3

Do you know about "the voice"?

No, no, no.  Not this:

Rather ... the voice in your head.

Yeah.  

That.

Did you know that of all the biggest world religions there are three where adherents who suffer from obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and are intent in their practice of their faith - can often fall prey to a particularly pernicious form of OCD called scrupulosity.  Sufferers of scrupulosity have intense anxiety surrounding thoughts about having committed some moral infraction.  In other words: they're horrified at the idea of sinning - morally, ethically or in some other way. You can read an article on scrupulosity here.  The three world religions where scrupulosity is most likely to occur? Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. 

How interesting that Christians would face this issue.  Aren't Christians; like the bumper stickers used to all say "Christians aren't perfect.  just forgiven"? Really?  "Just"?  As if it were ... trite?

Hold that thought.

Did you also know - that those same three world religions seem to produce another similar result in another form of mental illness ... adherants of these same three global faiths who hear voices - hear judgy, condemning, and verbally abusive voices.  Whereas individuals from Africa and even India - hear friendly, playful voices. Hmm. Interesting.  

And again - I'm personally just a little curious - how it is that Christians, who's faith, at least in the Good Book, makes some amazing statements about forgiveness, redemption and grace - but that's not impacting people as much. 

Obviously - I'm just noticing - not making a judgment, not denying the real and awful burden that mental health is - especially in a country where it's far more likely to be penalized, criminalized than insured and treated.  I am noticing though - that there's something about the "It Is Finished" part of Jesus sanctifying work on the cross that's not sinking as deep into the Christian psyche as the sin part.  It's like - as a global faith community - we just don't get the "Neither do I condemn you" part of Jesus interaction with the woman caught in adultery in John 8 ... we are as a people fairly hung up it seems on the "Go and sin no more part".  It's as if - as soon as God's forgiveness washes us clean - we feel constrained to "humble ourselves" or "stay real" - and go right back to living as if we were still in the muck.  Sometimes we even try to make it "cool" to be "broken"

MudManMikeKIng

 

But here's the thing ... has anyone ever been able to actually go and sin no more?  Well, other than Jesus, of course?  Wasn't the whole point of Jesus - God's own beloved Son - needing come down and live among us precisely because no one has ever actually been able to go and sin no more?  Isn't at least part of what we glean from every single Bible story every kid learns in Sunday school is that they were all imperfect people?  Adam & Eve sinned. Cain killed Able. Noah got hammered.  Abraham lied about his wife.  Twice. David slew giants, but committed adultery with Bathsheba ... Simon Bar Jonah - so impacted Jesus that the Savior gave him the nick-name "Peter" - literally, "The Rock" - yet just before the crucifixion The Rock himself - gobsmacked by fright and stress - denied having ever known Jesus with colorful language and plenty of volume. Romans 3:23 says it best. 

"for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God," (NASB)

Of course - there's the other side of scripture ...

 because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”  1 Peter 1:16 (NASB)

And yet - just a couple chapters later Paul - the great New Testament theologian, reiterates that despite Romans 3:23, Here's our reason for hope:

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.  Romans 5:8 (NASB) 

But - can Christians really be stuck between either Jesus' work on the cross was essential to introduce a new paradigm - and yet still - as if it were still the day before Resurrection Sunday, 33 AD live as if there were no option but being trapped in a vicious cycle of breaking the law, and atoning, and then breaking the law again, and atoning again, and on and on ad infinitim, ad nauseum?  

I don't know about  you - but stuck in the muck is stuck in the muck - no matter how cool you might try to make it.  There HAS to be a way to live abundantly now, you know, when we're alive. There has to be a difference between our existence now - and the existence before Jesus.  That can NOT be right!  It's bad enough that I'm stuck there, cuz' you know, maybe that just "my problem" - but I've been asking around and have dragged an innumerable quantity of books back and forth from the Library/book store/my friend's house (shhhhh ... I'll put it back!) - and I haven't found in any book or teaching a practical and clear solution - easily implemented and simple to understand.  Well - I hadn't until just a couple of years ago that is.  And it seems to me that there's a huge connection between the voice that dominates our thinking - and our ability to really step out of the gloom and into forgiveness.  Are we afraid to live in the light of forgiveness?

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